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Economic re-engineering at state level imperative for national growth, development

Published by Guardian on Mon, 24 Jun 2013


Dr. Wale Bolorunduro, Commissioner for Finance, Osun State, believes that faithful implementation of germaine economic projects in states has the potency to aggregate into robust resource base for national growth and development. He spoke with the Business Editor, ADE OGIDAN, on measures being taken by Osun State to achieve that objective. Excerpts.HOW would you assess the state's performance on the economic front so far'In terms of performance, I believe we have scored 80 per cent based on what the Governor set out to achieve. As I am talking to you, there are 25 state-of-the-art schools that could take 1000 to 2000 students across the state in Osun. Apart from that, we have been able to deliver on our promises in respect of enabling business environment for entrepreneurship. We have 20,000 youths that have graduated from various skill acquisition centres. We have another 20,000, which has brought the figure to 40,000 youths that have just been empowered in the state. The youths were paid certain allowances in return for two to three days work. From these allowances, some of them have been able to start small businesses. Some of them have graduated from that scheme and are now farmers or operators in several business areas.Many of them have been able to engage themselves in one business or the other. Some got jobs with telecommunication companies because they were taught how to repair computers and phones. With this, we have been able to reduce youth restiveness in the state.In addition to this, we have over 3,000 food vendors that have been engaged in the feeding programme for primary one to four called 'Home Made Programme'. We have employed over 3,000 tailors that are engaged in the sewing of uniforms. Through the help of the Governor, we have been able to establish a garment factory, which is one of the biggest factories in Nigeria. The factory has taken 3,000 youths. We have the budgetary and fiscal tools to drive job creation. We happen to be the only state that would today tell you that based on our plans, this is the number of jobs we have been able to generate. I believe that before the end of our first tenure, we would have achieved 90 per cent of our plans and whatever is remaining would be completed in the second term.What's been happening in the area of infrastructure development'We are building roads. We are opening main corridors for businesses. This is not only in the state capital, but also in the rural areas. We have nine rural areas that have been turned to urban cities and they have large population. We are doing a lot in improving commercial activities in the rural areas.But to carry out these projects, we embarked on concerted efforts to grow our internally generated revenue. Our internally generated revenue is now in billions. We started with just N337 million. The first step was to block leakages and ensure that revenue generation is done through the banks. Once you pay to the bank, you will get electronically generated receipt. This ensured that the whole revenue is going to the government. Some of the development projects in Osun were actually done through internally generated revenue. Prior to the taken over of Osun state by the present administration, the state had inherited shares of blue ships companies like Guinness, Unilever that were stranded and nobody knew where they were. Today, we have recovered those shares of over N2.5 billion. With this, we can comfortably support our contractors and downstream operations.You had earlier talked about challenges inherited when you came into office. How did you resolve them'When we came in, the civil service was not effective enough in achieving its mandates. The health system had already collapsed. As I am talking to you now, we have just mobilised contractors to renovate nine state general hospitals. It is a remarkable project, which is expected to cost the state N7.6 billion. It is remarkable in the sense that the Osun is the only state where you will have about nine general hospitals being renovated at the same time. This is deliberate because we wanted to use it as an opportunity to create jobs and save lives so that people will not be travelling from one place to another for quality health care service. We have also carried out civil service reforms. We have successfully done this in the area of revenue collection. We have also been able to reform our expenditure procedure. This became necessary because, you could have all the money, without proper steps in spending it, it could be misused. We were able to work on our payroll system with the introduction of biometric technique.On May 1, many civil service personnel actually came out to support the governor's second term regime. This was possible because there was a deliberate attempt to ensure that we have industrial harmony. So, we made sure that the agreement that we signed actually stated it clearly that we have met the minimum wage policy across the board and we have also met relativity across the board.Our biometric technique has been able to remove the members of staff, which were not properly identified in our system. As we reform physically, we need to reform the mind. The civil servants' attitude towards work has changed. We have also spent a lot of money on training. As we are automating the process, we are also making the computers available on their desks to make them more efficient.In area of industrialisation, what's the update on the industrial park initiated by the previous administration'The industrial park initiated by the past administration was located far away from power supply sources. The challenges we are having now is what to do with the industrial park. We need industrialisation. We are interested in building factories in the state. We have electricity plants in the state. We have an agreement with Bank of Industry in the area of finance. Bank of Industry has just financed mechatronic for us to train our youths on how to handle the new models of cars. With this, the mechanic would be able to apply the latest technology in the repairs of car. Through the collaboration with BOI, we have given over N1 billion to the cooperative societies. But, we can do better than that. We are making sure that we move the industrialisation of Osun State forward. One of things we have done was to find a corridor near the rail line to make it easy for us to move our farm produce to Lagos and bring in finished goods to Osogbo. Osogbo used to be a commercial city in those days. We are trying to bring the state to become a commercial hub for the South West.How far have you gone with that project'Today, we have an agreement with Transmission Company of Nigeria to create a power plant. We have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a company in Asia ' CWG, to build the warehouses. On their own, they have secured letter of agreement with a multinational company. Government is not a manager of business. They will be the one that will build the infrastructural facilities. Now, we are bringing power plant to that side because the national control centre is not far from that site. There is a company that is currently building a factory in the state, which deals on repair of phones, laptops and other electronic devices. There is also a Chinese company, which is interested in establishing a computer factory in the state. So, in our own little way, while industries are closing down in other states, we are actually attracting industries to the state. Like I always say, this ought to have been done several years ago.What is the situation of the computer factory now'We have gone very far. Prior to being nominated as a commissioner, I read a story in the newspapers in which someone said that the towns in Osun are big but rusty. So, basically, if you have a rusty town, no investor will like to come and live there or visit the place. So, what we have done is to commence the urban renewal programme. With this, we will go to the city centres and begin the intervention. Urban renewal programme also entails having new schools, hospitals and creating commercial corridor. We have built 'Freedom Park'. If you go to the railway terminal in Oshogbo, you will be amazed with what we have done there. We have beautified places to make them possible to chill out, eat and enjoy the fresh air in the city and have a sense of living in a modern city.These are deliberate interventions to ensure that we create conducive modern cities that can attract investors. Our urban renewal programme is broken into two; we have the emergency intervention, which is to go to the Yoruba traditional city centre, where the market, mosque and Oba palace are located. Those places would cost over N1 billion to rejuvenate.While the larger plan is in collaboration with the United Nations, which evolve 20 to 30 years plans on how those cities would revolve. There is need for us to begin to plan on where to locate infrastructure, market, sawmills, mechanic villages and others so that in 10 to 20 years time, you will still have the beautiful city. These are the things we are doing to mordernise the state of Osun.Your flagship programme was anchored on agricultural development and food security. What are you really doing with the stakeholders to encourage large scale farming'There are two critical factors militating against agricultural production in the state. The initial one we tried to address was access to land. An average farmer in Osun then, had only two hectares, which were too small for a farmer to make reasonable profit. They face more challenges whenever there is glut and there is fall in the price of farm produce. This means that in the next farming season, they will not plant. The first thing we did when we came in was to acquire more land, clear it with tractors and gave minimum of 10 hectares to these household farmers. This eventually led to higher yields. We also assist them with seedlings and fertilizers.We are manually distributing the fertilizers now. We are in the process of automating the system so that we will be able to capture the data of all the farmers. We try to get information like what kind of seedlings the government has given and where the farm is located. These are the major challenges the Governor has tackled. Now, we have stability of food prices in Osun. We are not yet there, we have now gone further to ensure that we create a commodity exchange system with the private sector. What it means is that we bring out N150 million and the private sector would bring out another N150 million to raise N300 million. With this, they will be able to engage in trading activities. We discovered that the farmers were not interested in moving the food from the farms to the market. They want you to take the food from the farm gate. The farmers actually explained that they make more money when you come to their farms to buy the produce than when they take it to the market. So, in terms of creating value and allow them to get value for their money, that is what we have achieved through the removal of the challenges such as access to land, availability of fertilizers and buying the produce from the farms.The next phase is that we want to begin to create Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that would process the cassava. The problem with the cassava is that you must quickly remove the moisture whether you are making it into garri or other things. In our plan this year, we have actually made budget for those who will buy the cassava, plantain or yam under our agro scheme. We are going to embark on campaign very soon to woo people to express their interest to partner with government. In some cases, we would build the plants and the private sector would manage. We may even collaborate with the private sector to build plants or allow the private sector build its plants. But we have partnered with the Bank of Agriculture to make credit available for farmers. Initially, we used to contribute to Bank of Agric and they will administer, but now, they also contribute to the scheme. In the last two and a half years, we must have given out over N1 billion to farmers corporative societies.This year also, we have started moving to cash crops like palm produce, cocoa, cashew and others. Our agric programme is actually going on and is on course. We also have programmes to create a scheme to tackle some of the challenges being faced by poultry operators. One major problem with chicken farmers is lack of fund to buy raw materials. Another major problem is that once the chicken is fully grown, you must take it to the market, so they have market constraints. Our plans are to create market and provide more chicks for them. That scheme produced about 1.5 million chickens last year. It is expected to increase to 2.4 million chickens this year. About 3,000 chicken farmers benefited from this scheme. We eventually buy these chickens from the farmers to be used in our home made programmes where we feed school children in our schools. This has actually created two to three thousand jobs. Some of them have become millionaires through the programme.We also have what we called OFIG programme. This enables us to provide fingerlings to those that have ponds to produce fish. Our agric programme is almost getting to a state where big companies will begin to patronize the sector. As I am talking to you, Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc wants to come to Osun because our fish and chicken programme buy a lot of feeds. I know within the next six months, we would have attracted feed millers to the state. We have several feed millers talking to us. We are ready to welcome some agro-allied company that will be willing to provide training for our farmers or buy the farm produce from our farmers.How optimistic are you on further improvement on the state's IGR profile'We have to look at the general economic situation in the country. If you say you want to get IGR of over N1 billion outside of Lagos, people will not believe you. So, you have to look at it in the light of the possibility in the other states. It is not that we have not done over a billion. But, we have significantly improved our IGR. This was possible because of the developments that have taken place in the state and how we have transformed virtually every sector of the state's economy. When we started initially, people were concerned on how we were going to finance the projects. We have done a lot in the area of infrastructure development and these are very visible for people to see. We believe very much in the fact that re-engineering of the resource base in the state and effective utilization of manpower will have overall impact on the macro-economy. In our own way therefore, we are contributing significantly to the growth and development of the nation's economy.
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