Ogun eyes economic recovery, sustainability with 2021 budget
When Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State and his economic think tank started early to put heads together for the 2021 budget, the primary aim was to use the budget to tread the path of economic recovery, and ensure the sustainability of the state, bearing in mind the economic implications of three major events that characterised 2020, and their dire effects on world economy.
After due consultations in and out of the state, part of what Abiodun focused on, as the budget’s thrust was capital spending with the determination to complete many ongoing projects, and to initiate new ones as early as possible.
Appropriately christened “Budget of Recovery and Sustainability,” the governor, while presenting it before the State House of Assembly recently, harped on the need to prioritise projects that can be rapidly completed for the citizen to benefit from.
His words: “The main thrust of our capital spending programme in 2021 is the completion of many ongoing and new projects as possible across the State. Accordingly, we have prioritised projects that can be rapidly completed to benefit our people.”
In his inaugural speech last year, Abiodun laid emphasis on the welfare of the people, which according to him has not really been the priority of various administrations, especially in the eight years preceding his emergence.
The 2021 Appropriation Bill, which is now before the Assembly, is expected to be passed into law before the end of this month, going by the assurances from the legislators who said, “The passage of the bill would be expedited, and would not exceed this year.”
Abiodun had, during the presentation, pleaded with the Speaker, Olakunle Oluomo, to allow the state run the January to December budget cycle by passing the appropriation bill into law on time, while recalling how challenging the implementation of the previous budget had been, especially the 2020 Budget due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the #EndSARS protests.
These notwithstanding, he added that the state was able to address the needs of the people, adding that the 2021 fiscal year would follow the same pattern of inclusive approach, which has always allowed the people to make inputs and take ownership of the budget.
According to him, “We are proud of how we have (in spite of a difficult year) continued to record giant strides in infrastructure development across the state, youth empowerment, job creation, human capital development, agriculture, education, conducive environment for business, as well as fiscal responsibility, amongst others.
“The preparation for the next fiscal year has followed the same inclusive approach that our administration instituted last year, with town hall meetings held across the three senatorial districts. The meetings afforded us the opportunity to obtain inputs from all relevant stakeholders into the 2021 budget; made them take ownership of the budget process and the outcome, and align the budget with the expressed needs of the people.
“I fully understand the difficulties many of our people are going through as a result of the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic. However, the road to economic growth is the establishment of sustainable public finance management that will bring about better allocation of scarce resources and improved public service delivery.”
The governor, while recounting efforts made by his administration to ensure that families were not so much imperiled in the thick of the pandemic, expressed satisfaction that his administration’s prompt intervention paid off. Said he: “Apart from medical and pharmaceutical interventions, we also extended palliatives, at different times, to about 400, 000 households across the 20 local governments of our state. With an average of between five and six individuals per household, we were able to reach close to three million people with various items to cushion the effect of the pandemic and consequent reduction in household incomes.
“Businesses were not left out. Palliative measures to provide reliefs included six-month extension of the 2019 income tax returns deadline for self-employed residents from March 31, 2020 to September 30, 2020. Others were eight-month extension of filing of 2019 annual PAYE returns by PAYE operators/tax agents from January 31, 2020 to September 30, and complete waiver of interest and penalty for late filing for the extension period
A cross section of residents of the state, who corroborated Abiodun’s claims, expressed the hope that the implementation of the 2021 budget would not follow the pattern of the past administrations, where citizens’ hopes were dashed, stressing that the incumbent has raised their hopes and given them new confidence through the appropriation.
Mrs. Taibat Sharafa, a businesswoman, who narrated how she others were availed tax waivers after the COVID-19 lockdown said: “Truly, a new life is possible in Ogun State. We have seen a remarkable difference since the inception of this administration. Hope is rising on the horizon, and we believe that there are more goodies in the pipeline. If the governor could avail us help relief when we needed it, there is no doubt that he would do more as he has promised to in this new budget.
“Many residents are aware of the number of people helped by this administration in the last six months. Some residents got cash gifts, others got drugs, food items and sundry welfare packages. The students were not left out of the largesse as they are still benefiting from digital and online classes.
“So, it is safe to say that someone who did all these will definitely do more next year. Therefore, we are in for a good time in the Gateway State. We are so grateful to God and the governor for helping us out of our difficulties. We have no doubt that this 2021 budget will impact positively on us,” she said.
On his part, Chief Adebodehinde Afonkagba, from Ijebu-Igbo, also expressed hope that the 2021 budget would help the state’s economy to truly recover, even as the state’s growth would be sustained.
Afonkagaba expressed delight that Abiodun sought the inputs of most stakeholders in the state before narrowing down to their needs.
He pleaded with the state Assembly to accede to the governor’s request of returning the state to the January – December budget cycle, by quickly passing the appropriation bill into law before the end of December.
He said: “This budget is called Budget of Recovery and Sustainability; it is an estimate that will bring about all inclusion. The financial estimates will, no doubt, put our dear state on the path of recovery, and it will sustain all efforts so far made in that direction. So, it is truly a budget of recovery and sustainability.
“We hope that the lawmakers will further help the course of the state by quickly passing the bill into law, as it is better to return the budget to the January to December cycle,” he said.
On his part, a student and youth leader, Moshood Olaola said: “This is a critical period in our state, and we are blessed to have Dapo Abiodun as governor. As students and residents of the state, we benefitted from the numerous welfare packages that his government made available during the lockdown. That is one of the reasons that we are here to support show our support for the 2021 budget, which will put the state on the path of recovery after the unfortunate occurrence of COVID-19.
“We are also here to identify with him because this budget is for the people. Some of us would have been out of schools because our parents were affected by the COVID-19 lockdown, but the governor came to our aid, by helping our parents get back on their feet. Today, if not for the strike embarked upon by the ASUU, we would have been back on our various campuses,” he explained.
Speaking generally, the governor, who expressed appreciation to monarchs and other stakeholders in the state for standing by his administration, equally lauded residents of the state for their support, especially health workers, who have been in the frontline battling the pandemic.
He said that his administration took a deliberate, focused, and methodical approach to the management of the pandemic, adding that such deliberate steps produced admirable outcomes that have been widely commended.
He said: “We were able to achieve a careful balance between living and livelihood. We thank God for His benevolence that has assisted us to contain the virus in our state. I thank most sincerely, our religious leaders, community development associations, market leaders, business communities, and indeed all citizens and residents of Ogun State.
“Your prayers, supports in various forms, cooperation and understanding, particularly during the most trying period of the pandemic are well appreciated. My appreciation also goes to our health team, other frontliners, including our security agencies for your heroic roles in fighting a common enemy to humanity.
“Without your dedication, professionalism and commitment to save lives, even at great risks to your own lives, the story would have been different in Ogun State. Nonetheless, as an Administration with commitment to the welfare and wellbeing of the citizenry, we are not lowering our guards”, he had noted.
Shedding light on achievements so far recorded by his administration, even though the budget presentation was not an account giving session, Abiodun said: “Despite the challenges faced, I am happy to report that much progress has been made on several fronts and our administration has delivered on key policies, programmes and projects in priority areas of the Building Our Future Together Agenda.
“The Agenda continues to gain steady momentum and traction, as we meet all our obligations and substantially deliver on the promises of each of the I.S.E.Y.A development pillars of the Agenda, that is I for Infrastructure; S for Social Welfare and Wellbeing; E for Education; Y for Youth Development and Job Creation; and A for Agriculture and Food Security.
“On Infrastructure, no less than one hundred roads spread across the length and breadth of our dear State have been constructed, maintained and rehabilitated. Many more are at different stages of completion, whilst another batch of rural and township roads across the three senatorial districts was approved by the State Executive Council.