Mortgaging the future of Imo Children – Dr. Kelechi Okpalake

The Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Allocation Commission [RMFAC] earlier this month raised alarm on the debt burden of some states in the Federation.  The National Assembly has also raised the same alarm.

The Imo State Government has severally said that she has no loans taken since the inception if this administration.  But during the budget presentation, for the 2013 budget, it became clear that Imo State government is heavily indebted.

The budget reveals that twenty two (22) billion naira loan was obtained by this administration in 2011, and sixty one (61) billion naira obtained in 2012.  The government further seeks the approval of eighty one (81) billion naira loan for the coming 2013.  These figures do not include the forty five (45) Billion naira loan obtained from Zenith Bank using the Local Government Area Allocations, as collateral.

If the State House of Assembly approves the budget, with the requested 81 billion naira loan for 2013, Imo would have taken a total of 211 Billion Naira loan in 2years of Rescue Mission administration.

This is a serious problem because it amounts to mortgaging the future of Imo Youths.  When you add the allocation received by the administration during this period, you will start to wonder what Imo have to show for these enormous amounts of money.

We must all be cognizant of the fact that our primary source of income in Imo State Government still remains the revenue allocation from the Federation.  As a matter of fact, Revenue allocation to Imo State contributes over 98% of Imo State’s income.

Revenue allocation on the other hand is totally dependent on the volatile world oil market.  With new oil discoveries every day in other parts of the world, and the decision by the United States to exploit her oil reserves, the price of oil may eventually be on a permanent downward trend.  What this means to Imo State is, may be, we may have put our state in a situation that she may not be able to get out from.  To compound the problem, none of these monies had been used in income yielding projects and assets.

If there are no substantial increases in the allocation to Imo State, Imo may be unable to service these loans, while paying the salaries of its work force.  Already we are bow experiencing the early stages of serious financial hardships.  Employees of Imo State University Teaching Hospital claim that the last salary they received was the salary for the month of September.  It is now almost the end of December, and most of the employees of the teaching hospital have yet to receive October salaries.

Furthermore, retired primary school teachers in the state are also claiming to have only received January and February pension checks.  How do you expect a pensioner to survive without his or her pension check for almost 10 months of the year?  The right to pension is a vested right and should not be tampered with.

As a well meaning Imo citizen, I appeal to the members of the House of Assembly to take a very serious and look close at the budget before passing it.  An additional penny loan to the state’s debt profile may spell doom for Imo State and her people.  A state that has less than 130 billion naira total income annually cannot survive with over 200 billion naira debt.  Passing the budget with the inclusion of 81 billion naira loan approval to the executive will amount to giving the executive the choice of either servicing the loan and keep Imo State from defaulting or being able to pay salaries of employees.  Knowing our governments, past experience tells me that the choice may be retrenchment.

Imo must be better, but Imo can only be better of we do not spend the future of our children today.

Imo can only remain better, if she is returned back to the hands of God.

BY

DR. KELECHUKWU C. OKPALAEKE

 

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