Saturday, 13 April 2013

Ezekwesili: Rivers Squandered Development Opportunities

From Ahamefula Ogbu in Port Harcourt, 08.25.2009 President, African Region of the World Bank and former Director General, Due Process Office, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, yesterday said Rivers State had squandered its development opportunities due to lack of financial discipline, when it earned over N1.2 trillion between 1999 and 2008. The state was ranked among the best 100 economies in the world, but still lacked improvement in its development index. The situation was blamed on lack of public procurement policy which ought to have protected the economy of the state from excessive bleeding in public procurements, since government is the highest spender and sustainer of the economy. Speaking yesterday at a public enlightenment programme organized by the state Bureau on Public Procurement, Ezekwesili expressed regrets that while Rivers State was the second largest economy in the country and earned so much, the people still live in poverty. “Many of you are probably aware that Rivers State is the second largest economy in Nigeria after Lagos State. As of 2007, it had a total GDP of US$21 billion (equivalent of US$3,960 per capita). It is important to reflect on this briefly. This is equivalent to $3,960 per capita and compares to the GDP per capita of such middle-income countries as South Africa ($3,562); Botswana ($4,511), and Mauritius ($4,522). “The figure – which is well above the African average of $823 – also compares favorably with per capita GDP of Brazil ($5,860), Malaysia ($6,420) – countries that are classified as upper middle-income. Using the 2008 World Development Indicators, Rivers State would have been ranked among the top 100 economies in the world. “It is very surprising therefore that in spite of this potentials and gross allocation of more than N1.2 trillion ($7.97 billion) between 1999 and 2008, 46 percent of the population of the State still live in poverty. Rivers State still has amongst the highest in infant mortality rates with less than half of the population having access to safe drinking water and 68 percent of the population still using firewood as a source of energy”, she lamented. She however observed that how the resources of the State was managed determines how the economy and its people will fare which makes the enthronement of a procurement policy imperative if the best is to be got from public resources spent. Ezekwesili reminded the audience which was held spell bound by her presentation that broad based economic growth was only possible through sound policies. “As someone who initiated the procurement reforms at the federal level. I know that public procurement is one activity of government that is most prone to corruption. As a major interface between the public and private sectors, it provides multiple opportunities for both public and private actors to divert public funds for private gain, waste and inefficiencies, ” she added. She said that when viewed from the standpoint that most private businesses depend on public budget, the policy of government on monitoring to ensure that value was got for public spending determines the well being of the people.

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