Cross River State Commissioner for Finance Asuquo Ekpenyong Jnr

By Judex Okoro, Calabar

The Cross River State Government has begun consultations with stakeholders on the planned amendment of 2020 Budget.

Commissioner for Finance Asuquo Ekpenyong Jnr, who disclosed this during the Citizen Budget Forum held in Calabar, said at a time the world is facing economic downturn occasioned by coronavirus pandemic, the state government is being proactive.

Describing Governor Ben Ayade as a leader concerned about the socio-economic wellbeing of the people by thinking outside the box, Ekpenyong Jnr said modalities have been put in place for the revision of the state’s 2020 Budget in line with the current economic realities.

To achieve success, all state ministries, departments and agencies, he said, would be integrated into the on-going discussions on the budget amendment, as they 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 conclusion that there is an urgent need to amend the budget by engaging with relevant stakeholders on the new economic realities that have become a great concern,’ the commissioner said.

‘We anticipate that between 15% and 25% of the 2020 amended budget would be dedicated to the COVID-19 response especially in the health sector expenditure such as the production of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), scaling up of healthcare facilities, and 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 utilising the services of local service providers, contractors, as well as 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 stated.

Ekpenyong Jnr maintained that, in re-engineering the economy, the state will operate within the new reality by fixing priority to digitalisation, business environment reforms, improved economy and diversification of revenue sources.

The commissioner said to achieve this, expenditures would be pruned down and specifically channelled into 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, Nigeria and developing countries more broadly, was fragile, with GDP growth estimated to be only 2.5 per cent in 2020.

Onoh noted that the weak capacity of health care systems across the country is likely to exacerbate the pandemic and its attendant negative impact on the state economies.

He said the proposed budget review is expected to be sent to the state’s lawmakers soon, as he called on the people of the state to see the need to be part of the budgetary processes in order obtain the best outcome from its implementation.

David: Sun News Online team

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