Okonjo-Iweala: South-East no longer has solidarity, are we taking on too much debt?

The director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has encouraged and urged the Southeastern stakeholders to cultivate joint leadership in order to tackle the challenges plaguing the region collectively.

The two-day summit kicked off on Thursday with the theme, ‘South East Beyond 2023, Time for a Reset,’ in Owerri as Okonjo-Iweala addressed the South-East summit on Security and Economy.

“We no longer have solidarity; instead, we are fragmented as a people, and that has made us forget how to support each other. If our big problem is ourselves, it means that the solution also lies in our hands,” she said.

She emphasized on the need for the region to improve capital expenditures, improve its internally generated revenue, and to borrow effectively, if necessary.

The WTO Chief said, “Governors, state legislatures and local government chairs must continuously ask themselves, are we using our FAC allocation wisely, transparently and effectively?”

“Can we generate more revenue internally, and how do we do it while motivating our productive sectors and factors? Are we taking on too much debt? Are we even spending the amount borrowed effectively?”

Okonjo-Iweala advised the region to look towards the solar and gas solutions to improve power supply as that is one of the best ways to seize the opportunity of privatisation in the electricity sector.

The WTO chief explained, “I want to suggest that we convene a South-East investment forum, not for people from outside the region or abroad but for our own Igbo business people. In this forum, we should examine what is blocking greater investment in the South-East region and what we can do to block these leakages.”

She underscored the need for the region to put into consideration, the need to diversify and attract investments in the supply chain of fertilisers, pharmaceuticals, digital technology and labor-intensive industries.

Furthermore, Ms Okonjo-Iweala urged the stakeholders to take advantage of the benefits of digital marketing for micro, small and medium enterprises, accounting services, health and online education.

“I am sure the South-East governors, coming together, can do some financial engineering and find a way to float a South-East diaspora bond or fund to capture some loans and tenured to financing some development priorities,” she noted.

Okonjo-Iweala urged the region to build on the health sector by drawing from its diaspora resources.