Economic Development in Imo State – One Gubernatorial Team's Vision
The paradigm for running government and managing Imo State citizens (as is the case in most other states in the federation) is one based on the concept of social welfare. The government assumes key responsibilities such as providing or heavily subsidizing health care, education, business opportunities and employment, to mention a few. Unfortunately, over the past two decades we have witnessed the massive failure of this governance approach with respect to end results that are measurable as improvements in the standard of living for the populace and creating opportunities for progress for the average Imo State citizen. Part of the reason for this observable decline in the quality of life for Imo citizens is partly because the population has outgrown the government's resources, and also because whatever resources are available have been stolen or mismanaged.
Where we go from here as a state is very important and this particular election season presents an unusual bag of opportunities for the state.
What would it take to empower the average individual in Imo State? Certainly this is not a journey of 5 days or one year and a road map is requisite. However, the foundation of the plan and its initial implementation are the cornerstones of its success. The solution will not manifest if we focus our attention on talk about “creating jobs”. While creating jobs is a necessary outcome of economic growth, it is how we create and sustain these jobs over the long term that is most important. This is why an economic plan is necessary. This economic plan must be based on the principle that government is primarily an enabler and less of a caretaker. It cannot operate on an impromptu and reactionary basis; in other words, the plan has to demonstrate forethought and be comprehensive with set goals, milestones, and the appropriate level of “seed” financing/investment and enablement from government. The plan must be premised on a clear understanding of market demands, both locally and globally. Finally, the plan should be centered on the outcome of economic empowerment for many rather than a few, and on the creation of diverse opportunities for various categories of labor including simple unskilled and skilled laborers, technocrats, managerial types and entrepreneurs.
In this election, I find the brief proposal by the Nwajiuba-Mezu gubernatorial team encouraging (see their website at www.cpcimostate.org). Not only is there a promise to create jobs, the plan to create jobs is succinctly articulated under their plan for economic development. I am particularly impressed with the specifics of their economic development manifesto because it recognizes that there is a world economy and that Imo State citizens ought to tap into it. Their manifesto boasts of key terms that indicate the team is interested in facilitating access of local small scale entrepreneurs to the finances that are required to give them the necessary booster support in their businesses. I also am excited by the use of the word “export”. There is no reason why Imo State should not be a center for globally demanded goods and services. I am further enthralled by their proposal to promote business enterprise that “emphasizes indigenous shares” and “facilitates the growth of worker-owned companies”. As the team aptly note, ownership is an important driver of productivity, accountability and sustainability. I dare add that when businesses enjoy these attributes, they are successful over the long term because they have invested workers who feel some sense of ownership. I have a few friends who are unable to run sustainable and successful businesses in Nigeria despite the fact that they run businesses with high market demands. Their primary problem is that the workers see themselves as no more than slave labor without rights or reasonable benefits, and the business owner as no more than the rip off slave master. These friends have suffered significant losses despite well meaning intentions through theft of their business equipment and poor quality products driven by apathy on the part of the workers.
Economic advancement for the people of Imo State will only come with economic transformation and progress at the individual level. This cannot be achieved with government playing the traditional role of provider. It is time for a paradigm shift and an aggressive plan. The government should take on a nurturing role and provide ample opportunity and fertile grounds for the private sector in the state. So far only the Nwajiuba-Mezu gubernatorial team seems to have a plan. If for nothing else, the fact that they have thought about how to create lasting prosperity for the average Imo State citizen is indeed laudable and worthy of a vote of confidence.