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Imoke : Keeping faith with the mandate

By Etowa Okoi

ON February 1, 2010, the Governor of Cross River State, His Excellency, Senator Liyel Imoke, appended his signature to the State’s 2010 Appropriation Bill.  With this executive act of assent, the Bill in effect becomes law.

The event sets the stage for the implementation of a budget that seeks to place the hopes of the State and its people in realistic perspective.  It also closes the curtain on the year 2009 that brutally exposed the delicate financial position of the State when about 76 oil wells were unjustly withdrawn from the State and allocated to Akwa Ibom.

In this circumstances, the State 2010 Budget, appropriately titled the “Budget of Hope” is a conscious resolve by Governor Imoke to meet the expectations of the people and sustain their faith in the future greatness of the State.

This is against the backdrop of the lean resources of the State.  In the Governor’s own words: “Learning from that experience, we have decided to confront our challenges with courage, stronger commitment, determination and hope”.  In this context, Governor Imoke stressed that the implementation of the budget would be carried on regardless of challenges.

This is in part due to the fact that since 2008, the government had perfected the planning of the budget under the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, and also applied a Medium Term Sector Strategies, MTSS.  This two planning models have made the execution of projects and policies seamless.  It is in this sense that there is continuity of projects and policies despite the ebb and flow in the finances of the State.  One other factor that would ensure the success of the Appropriation Bill is the support of the people.

This was cultivated through the government’s deliberate building of a broad consensus in the making of the budget.  All critical stages of the budgeting process saw the participation and active involvement and contribution of the people through a select representative of stakeholders drawn from across a broad spectrum.

Popular participation by the people in all aspects of governance is a feature of modern government.  A popular government draws its power and legitimacy from the support of the people.  It is rare for a government to proactively engage the participation of the people as Governor Imoke.  The default practice, especially in the Third World, is for the people to be ignored until the next election is due.  Governor Imoke has shown himself to be nobly different from this aberrant norm.

It does not stop at that.  The Governor holds periodic consultative town hall meetings across the three senatorial districts for the purpose of having a first hand intelligence of their fears, concerns and hopes.  This enables the government to craft policies and programmes that reflects, to a large extent, the desires and wishes of the people.

A modern, efficient and highly-driven or motivated bureaucracy is an aspect of modern governance.  One of the very first revolutionary steps Governor Imoke took when he assumed office in 2007 was the reformation of the public service.  Training and retraining programmes were instituted to make the public service Servicom compliant, and also e-governance compliant.  Public servants were exposed to various capacity building workshops, courses and seminars.  Also, for the first time in the history of the public service, competitive examinations become one of the prime criteria for promotion into the permanent secretary cadre.

The government went a step further to build the efficiency of public servants through the application of various motivational policies.  These includes yearly salary increment, car loans, housing and modern working conditions.  These reforms are gradually easing the State public service outside the cycle of red-tape and lethargy associated with the typical bureaucracy.

All these reforms have repositioned the public service for optimal service delivery.  It is now more in tune with its traditional role of serving as the pivot for the making and implementation of government policy.  It is now a primed engine for the delivery of the people’s mandate as residual in Governor Imoke.

Since the ’80s, especially in the prime ministership of Baronese Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain, and the presidency of Ronald Reagan of the United States, governments led by European democracies, thought it strategic to absolve the state from the direct running of businesses.  It was an era of privatising business.  This bug caught on and became global, aided no doubt, by the fall of the Soviet Union as a result of the Perestroika and Glasnost policies of Mikail Gorbachev.  As communism took a free fall around the globe as it were, the idea of a free market became the new economic order.

It was therefore, almost natural, for Cross River State to also adopt a privatisation and commercialisation policy.  The ex-Governor, Mr. Donald Duke, set-up a committee headed by Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, SAN, that oversaw the implementation of this privatisation exercise.  Businesses like the Calabar Cement Company, Calcemco, Metropolitan Hotel, and various agro-estates were privatised.  Although, there were a lot of public misgivings about this exercise, the State is better for it by and large, as this helped in ensuring the vitality of the private sector in the State.

In deepening the vibrancy of this sector, Governor Imoke, had to apply a Public Private Partnership, PPP, model in driving the economy of the State.  The PPP is a modern variant of privatisation as it allows for limited government participation in business either by realistically creating the enabling environment through tax incentives, land, manpower, counterpart funds, or by limited involvement in the operations of such businesses, etc.

Most of the strategic policies, programmes and projects of Governor Imoke are being executed under the PPP model.  These include Calabar Theme Park, Calabar Modern Market, Calabar Energy City, Margaret Ekpo International Airport project, Calabar Monorail Project.  The modern transportation project, staff housing project, all enjoy a PPP arrangement.

Governor Imoke has paid extraordinary attention to the forging of an extraordinary environment for investment-flow.  At first glance, Tinapa provides the big picture, and rightly so.  It is an iconic and strategic investment spark.  For in seeking to evolve a modern economy largely driven by tourism, and high level commerce, Tinapa, presents the best of opportunities.


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