Stories by Emeka Anaeto, Business Editor
Lagos state government has indicated that the state was faced with daunting challenges that required far more resources than is presently available. It also hinted that it was mobilizing the entire citizens of the state to enable it meet the challenges.
Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, Samuel Egube, who disclosed these to newsmen in Lagos, said while the state’s landmass was just about 0.04 percent of the entire country, the state’s population is over 10 percent of the country’s, giving a huge disproportion of space-to-residency ratio.
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But he also hinted that the state’s 2020 budget has been designed in consultation with all stakeholders cutting across economic sectors and the tiers of government as well as communities in the state, to address the challenges.
Some of the challenges he linked to the population are the overstretched infrastructure and social services in the area of healthcare, education, roads and transport, business development, employment amongst others.
These were reflected in the figures announced by the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, previous week in his budget presentations to the state’s House of Assembly.
Sanwo-Olu had stated: ‘‘The proposed budget size for year 2020 is N1.168 trillion; to be funded by a projected total revenue of N1.071 trillion Naira, and a deficit amounting to N97.53 billion. This budget size is higher than the 2019 budget by 34%.
‘‘Capital expenditure amounts to N723.75 billion while the recurrent expenditure is N444.81 billion giving a 62:38 capital to recurrent ratio. This, in our view, is strong for development.’’
Giving further insight into the facts behind the figures, Egube stated: ‘‘The truth is that the land mass for Lagos is 0.04 percent of the country yet we indeed carry about 10 percent of the total country’s population. It is disproportionate. So managing that density is going to put a lot of pressure on the available infrastructure. So how do you make Lagos a 21st century economy without thinking of how you will address things like power, things like education, healthcare, security, things like housing and all of that because if you succeed with traffic, health or education where will the people live? How will their lives be powered? How secured are they? What of their state of health?
‘‘When we looked at the health care systems, we felt that for most of our people, their healthcare requirements are more primary than secondary. So in the budget we have said that we needed to ensure our primary health care systems are strong. Now, but how do you intervene in Primary Health Care? Primary Health Care is really in the ambit of local government. So it was clear that if we needed to be successful, intergovernmental cooperation was going to be very important. If you say this is a state government and therefore you won’t intervene, if there is a gap at the primary or local government level, it is still your people that will go through that challenge. So we needed people to encounter good healthcare in their communities so that we remove the pressure from the tertiary and secondary health institutions.
‘‘What that meant is that we needed people to have confidence in the primary health care system. But we also felt that sometimes access to health care systems is not only a matter for the location. People are concerned about how to pay for it. What we have found in our experience with people that we interact with is that sometimes the sickness gets into a critical stage before they go to the hospital and what they are avoiding are those consultation fee, all those small money that you start with. So it actually becomes very difficult which is why we had in our mind that we needed to push the health care insurance scheme and we have given ourselves a target to be able to get 2.5 million people enumerated. Now in that enumeration, we also have social impact initiative where the government will subsidize quite a bit
‘‘There were also the presentations to us from people in the education system. Basically we see that early child education was crucial and it was failing very dramatically. So we knew we needed to intervene.
‘‘First of all again, primary education belongs to the local government. So you will see that in our agenda, intergovernmental cooperation needed to be very strong with the local government and with the federal government.
‘‘We also knew that in traffic management, there are a lot of influx of people into Lagos and that is understandable. People coming from different states and some from different countries into Lagos. Now, Lagos is not a sovereign. So you can’t control how people come into Lagos. But if people are coming into Lagos, you know that there will be a lot of strain on the entire infrastructure system whether it is education, whether it is traffic, whether it is your healthcare system and we need to ramp things up at the best of our abilities.
‘‘So we said to ourselves that we need to strengthen our technology infrastructure because a stronger technology infrastructure helps you leverage more people into a smaller system.
‘‘But we also felt that we should stop paying lip service to entertainment and tourism. We believe that the creative industry, without much support from the government, is one of the biggest employers.
‘‘Now haven driven these as our commitment, everything we did had to revolve around these. It was our means to connect with the people and then it was sacrosanct. So the way we then organize the budget was that any proposal that was not aligned with these agenda will not make its way into our budget proposals. ‘‘So the budget of 2020 has very broad objective and the heart of it was encouraging citizens participation and we are going to encourage by engaging the citizens strongly. We are going to create platforms with which the citizens engage us. There are different types of programmes which we will be having from time to time that will give opportunity for that.
‘‘There are certain platforms that we shall open and people will randomly contribute. The action is not to report what is happening only but to say that in governance the people’s power goes beyond the ballot box. They have a responsibility that runs deeply in insisting that this is what should happen. So when the people are angry, you can’t say why are you angry. They have a right. Encouraging the citizens participation was going to be crucial. We are going to create a volunteer corp where people are able to contribute through volunteerism. There are people we meet in the course of government who really want to participate in traffic. They are business people but they want to participate. There are people who are doctors and nurses that are retired, teachers that have retired. We create windows for them to participate in government.
‘‘So that is the idea and we believe that with that participation, we are able to get a lot of people into what we call mentorship programs. What I mean by mentorship programs, you know every time you look for work, first thing they ask is your experience.
‘‘So one of the things we will do is to get people to do internship under our volunteers core in anything. Whether it is engineering, public works, e.t.c and we will pay them and hopefully, they are able to enrich their careers and are able to gain some experience which will help them move into the workforce.
‘‘So developing human capacity to drive productivity was very important and the way we saw it is that developing human capacity was going to be addressed from education, health and environment and no matter what you do there are always vulnerable people in our midst. So you need to be able to look for solution that is targeted at helping the people and supporting those who are vulnerable.
‘‘We also want to be able to connect the education which we have to the industry. And again, this is a challenge for sub-nationals because the curricular for us in Nigeria is not controlled by the state. So even if you change your curricular in a way you feel will affect the industry positively, there is no exams to be set for those kind of new things at the national level, so it cannot be tested or certificated statutorily. But we now feel even if it is not tested, let the people have the skills and let them be able to compete.
‘‘We also felt that Lagos is actually known for business; for enterprise; for market and so we felt that at the heart of these, in fact the reason why we are preparing our people for productivity is so that they can function in an environment where we can see that Lagos is indeed ready for business. So we have started moving strongly on the ease of doing business.
‘‘But when businesses come, if the infrastructure is not there then it collapses. So we are interested in what I will call focusing on optimizing relevant infrastructure for development effort. You will see it in transportation, technology, drainage and other physical infrastructure.’’