By Godwin Otang
Experts and stakeholders in the economic and budget sectors have x-rayed and interrogated the Cross River State 2024 budget.
The experts gave their divergent views during a virtual engagement organized by The Cross River Movement (TCRM), moderated by its founder – Iso Bassey.
The discussion is geared to get the policy direction of the budget.
Addressing stakeholders at the event, the Special Adviser (SA) to Governor Bassey Otu on Budget Monitoring and Evaluation, Mr. Out Otu-Ita, explained that there was an upward review in the budget to accommodate some critical sectors.
He said: “The 2024 appropriation law is online. It is being hosted currently by the Cross River State Internal Revenue website. The full details of the 2024 budget will be uploaded on or before the 31 of January 2024. The reason is that the budget undergoes several reviews from the World Bank, the Nigerian Governors Forum, and development partners.
“So, it takes us a window of about 28 days to get through the review. The budget went to the Assembly at N250 billion and came out from the Assembly at 296 billion. So, those adjustments need to be posted on the template.”
The SA said the upward review of the budget was to cover people living with disabilities, nutrition activities, gender, social protection, and climate change. He said the review made room for the 46 billion Naira variance in the budget.
On his part, the Chairman of the Organized Private Sector Forum who doubles as the president of the Calabar Chambers Of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Mr. Davide Etim expressed worries about the capacity of the public sector in driving the budget to fulfillment.
According to Etim: “Looking at the budget, this administration has shown some degree of intent to be able to move the State forward. That intent is also predicated on capacities that exist.
“The entire public sector of Cross River State has suffered significant degradation in terms of capacity. Even the Governor mentioned it in the budget address when he talked about a huge proportion of the service retiring this year.
“So, by the first quarter, a significant amount of the public servants are going to be retiring. So, I see a big challenge in the area of capacity. The budget, however well intended, depends on the capacity of the public sector to deliver, regardless of whether there is enough money or not. So, there’s a significant change in Cross River State, with the implementation of the 2024 budget because of the capacity of the public sector to deliver on the budget.”
One of the participants, Evelyn Okpata, posited that the health budget wasn’t clear enough to be sufficient.
“Cross River is very backward in health so we need to understand the budgetary plans for the health sector.”