————-By Ovasa Ogaga———-
Professor Patrick Utomi, a renowned economist, development strategist and scholar has proffered that three new cities with industrial parks can be built in Delta State based on the resource endowment of the State.
Addressing members of Urhobo Social Club in Lagos State on Sunday, Prof. Utomi explained that these industrial cities will develop within the three senatorial districts of the state based on the comparative advantage of each district.
Utomi added that creating the industrial cities can be done regardless of the size of the federal allocations to the state, whether lean or not, and that all that is required is the firm commitment of government and binding foreign partners to work with to create those things that will generate jobs and numerous business opportunities for the people.
According to him, “the Chinese are willing to partner because they are looking towards moving capital from China to other parts of the world. We can create industrial parks in three different zones of the state and around each industrial park brand new cities will emerge.
“What needs to be done is to link these new cities and industrial parks by ten lane highways and rail network across the state. All will be done from foreign private capital. Not whether your allocation is big or small.
However, it will require the confidence of foreign investors for this to happen, and this is why integrity and transparency are important elements of governance, and why it is sometimes difficult to secure funds when such confidence cannot be established.
He observed that investors have been scared because of the way development programmes are handled.
“If a new Governor comes, all the other things the governor before him did is cancelled; so, foreign investors are afraid to put their money in an environment of uncertainty. These are changes we should begin to make to create the enabling environment to attract foreign capital”, he stated.
Responding to questions on development at the grassroot level, Utomi said his development strategy for this strata of governance is a bottoms-up and inclusive approach which compels the engagement of people and leaders of the communities in each local government area in a round-table discussion, and to inquire about what they really need in their areas and funds can be budgeted to meet these needs.
According to him, “each area will have to state their problem. Some may say they need water. Others may say they need school and so on. In that case, we will create a budget for them according to their needs and distribute it to them as it comes. You determine what you want, and a transparent process will be put in place that has to be implemented. Those in the grassroots are better positioned in solving their small problems, while those at the state level are solving the bigger problems.
He added, “That also goes to Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC). It is crazy. I cannot believe that we have that Agency and we can’t see anything from it. The local people have to take control of it, rather than cronies or people who just capture money and take it out. It really must change,” he vowed.
This emphasis may have come against the background of stories making the rounds that the funds that are allocated for the development of the oil producing areas through DESOPADEC do not seem to be making the expected impact in the lives of the ordinary people and their communities that have continued to take the brunt of oil production activities.
Utomi disclosed that those in the grassroot are fed up with the way their lives are today and only good governance can change that. “That is what we need to educate our people on. If we do that, the grassroots will join in the process of change and our future will be bright,” he stated.
He further emphasized that with the current situation of things and the need for urgent development, the State cannot depend on federal allocations alone; and that from the limited funds coming from Abuja, a significant amount would be put aside to run the routine affairs of government, ensuring that salaries and pensions are paid as at when due, while the finances required for strategic large-scale developments to drive economic growth shall be sourced from foreign investment funds with far lower interest rates and other unique partnership arrangements.
Prof. Utomi received warm applause from the audience and indicated that he will continue to make the case for the realization of a Delta State that works for the people; a state that is guided by fiscal discipline, transparency and a firm commitment that will rejuvenate the benefits of its resource endowments in order to restore the lost glory of Delta State and put a smile back on the faces of all Deltans.