The President, Afrexim Bank, Prof Benedict Orama, has said the bank will mobilise financial resources for the development of the South East region if the zone provides viable and realizable modules.
Orama, who is also the Chairman, Board of Directors of the bank, made the pledge on Thursday while delivering a keynote address for the 4th South East Economic Summit in Enugu.
According to him, the South East Region Economic and Development Company (SEREDEC) must come up with viable and realisable business modules for implementation.
Orama said that the zone with its abundant untapped resources had the potential to compete with the best developed regions of the world if the government did the right things.
He challenged the five state governments in the zone to address the burdensome investment climate in the area which, he noted, had encouraged capital flight and brain drain in the zone.
Orama called on governors of the zone to strengthen the confidence of investors as well as introduce reforms that would encourage indigenous entrepreneurs.
He stressed the need for the five states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo to pull their resources together as well as deepen integration in regional planning to reduce uncertainty.
“It is sad that states in the region just like others across the country have constantly depended on Federal Allocations and always blame the centre for failure of its programmes and services,”.
He said that internally generated revenue in the region accounted for less than 34 per cent of total revenue in the area.
Orama said that the foregoing had made it difficult for the state governments to generate and mobilise resources for the execution of capital projects in their respective areas.
According to him, it is gratifying that there is an improvement in the investment climate but we have a concern on domestic debt and the fiscal space.
“Capital expenditure is low and has been decreasing further, making it difficult for states to finance growth,” he said.
Orama urged the state governments to come together and pull resources to accelerate economic growth in the area.
“Regionalism will ensure burden sharing and lead to development, faster cooperation and prepare the zone to compete better,” he said.
He advocated for the creation of South East Sovereign Wealth Fund where the states in the region would make dedicated contributions from their annual budget.
“This will have a governance structure managed through public-private partnership. It will be a game changer for the region as it will leverage resources for economic growth,” he said.
He also encouraged governments in the region to jointly establish a regional centre of excellence for science and technology.
“Engineers that will graduate from this centre would be absolved by their respective state governments and others. By so doing, the issue of brain drain will be addressed.
“Regionalism has the potential to drive competition but financing is another challenge when limited by low capital expenditure,” Orama said.
Speaking during the plenary, former Chairman of MTN Nigeria, Dr. Pascal Dozie, said that the time for rhetoric in the development of the region had gone.
Dozie challenged the state governments to be more resourceful and dedicated in the service to the people.
He tasked them to work in unity to identify viable projects that would be jointly executed for the benefit of the region not minding where such projects would be cited.
The former chairman of defunct Diamond Bank said that the region had the potential to be the envy of the world if the right things were done.