By Ovie Okpare
The Delta State governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa on Thursday disclosed that the state government may slow down on capital projects across the state over the outbreak of the coronavirus disease also known as COVID 19.
Okowa said the outbreak of the disease poses great threat to the implementation of 2020 budget which was signed into law in December 2019.
The governor disclosed this on Thursday during the quarterly media briefing with journalists across the state at the Government House, Asaba, Delta capital.
He noted that COVID 19 outbreak had resulted in fall in crude oil prices globally thus affecting economy of the world especially country dependent largely on oil revenue such as Nigeria.
Okowa said the effects of such fall in crude oil prices will also affect budget implementation of states including Delta, adding that he hoped the economy does not slide into similar 2015 recession where many states were unable to pay workers’ salaries.
He noted that he was already meeting with his economy team to x-ray areas where the state will make necessary adjustment in the 2020 budget especially on capital projects it had earmarked for execution should the spread of the disease persists globally.
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According to him, “Events of the last few weeks have threatened the implementation of budgets. The FG has already set up a team to review 2020 budget. You know crude oil still constitutes mainstay of the nation’s economy.
“The fact that our oil is not being sold and oil prices have also gone down, it is obvious that each and every one of us, our states and the nation will have challenges even with execution of budgets for the year.
“At the federal level, a committee has already been set up to look into the issue of the reconsideration of the benchmark and that benchmark that will be eventually arrived at will impact on us.
“We have to be able to wait for the Federal Government to arrive at a new benchmark on the price of oil, because it is that figure that we as states will use in considering the likely revenue allocation we will be getting in the remaining months of the year.
“So, there is no doubt that our budget is likely going to be threatened and we know that any part of the threat affects more of the infrastructural development which our people desperately yearn for.”
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The governor observed that before the outbreak of Coronavirus, the state had made appreciable progress in the implementation of 2020 budget in the areas of capital development, youths and women empowerments, and technical education.
He also disclosed that the state has enrolled over 66,000 persons into the state Contributory Health Scheme, and expressed hope that with such progress the informal sector in the state will key into the project.
Okowa further stated that his administration is doing everything to ensure that frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers in the state were urgently tackled.
He urged the federal government to summon the political will to urgently address the situation.