CALABAR - As Cross River State Government begins intense engagements for amendment of 2020 budget, State Commissioner for Finance, Mr Asuquo Ekpenyong, has described the Governor as a Leader who thinks outside the box, for socio-economic wellbeing of the people and safety of the State.
Mr. Ekpenyong who made the assertion during the Citizen Budget Forum that held recently in Calabar, noted that, at a time the world is gripped with fear of the Coronavirus pandemic exercebated with economic downturn and other social problems, the State Government is once again being proactive.
"This time, the Governor has put modalities in place for the revision of the State's 2020 budget to catch up with the current economic realities, as the battle to contain the corovirus pandemic intensifies.
"To achieve success, the State Governor who is known for operating an all-inclusive government, has ensured the integration of all Ministries, Departments and Agencies MDAs into the ongoing discussion on the budget amendment", the Commissioner disclosed.
He therefore, charged all MDAs to look into their core mandates in order to ascertain areas to focus on and possible budgetary amendment, as it relates to COVID-19 response.
"Having reviewed the current economic situation in the country, the State came to a firm conclusion on the need to amend the budget by engaging with relevant stakeholders and MDAs on the new economic realities that have become a great concern". Asuquo explained.
NEWS FLAKES NG reports that the Commissioner reiterated further that, the State is anticipating that between 15%-25% of the 2020 amended budget would be dedicated to the COVID-19 response, such as, health sector expenditure, including production of the Personal Protective Equipment, PPE, as well as, scaling up of healthcare facilities, provision of adequate water supply, job creation and social welfare of citizens, through provisions of palliatives. In order to further stimulate the local economy, the State Government will be focusing on utilizing the services of local service providers, contractors, as well SMEs in the course of implementing the amended budget.
"To further re-start the economy, we are going to optimise the State's budget for investments in jobs and priority sectors through job creation, economic stabilisation and fiscal consolidation", he stressed further.
Asuquo posited that, while re-engineering the economy, the government is poised at preparing the State to operate and thrive within the new reality with digitalisation, business environment reforms, improved economy, diversification of revenue sources"
"This would mean, pruning the expenditures as well as specifically channeling expenditures into areas that will yield maximum economic returns” the Commissioner added.
He further butressed the point that, part of the State's holistic approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, is to engender food security, safety net mechanism and economic stimulus as well as ensuring public safety and well-being.
Earlier, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Budget, Rt. Hon. Abeng Moses Onoh, recalled that even before the outbreak, the outlook for the State's economy in particular, and especially, Nigeria and developing countries, was fragile, even as GDP growth was estimated to be only 2.5 per cent in 2020.
Onoh who noted that, though the State is yet to record any case of coronavirus, the weak capacity of health care systems across the country is likely to exacerbate the pandemic and it's attendant negative impact on the States' economies.
He revealed that, the proposed budget review is expected to be sent to the State's lawmakers very soon; thereby, calling on the people of the State to see the need to be part of the budgeting processes, so as to get the best out of it's implementation.
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