Transcript of "Prof Pat Utomi's Address at the 2011 Ekiti Economic & Development Summit"
Chief Host, Speakers, Leaders of government In Ekiti State, Leaders of Entrepreneurs, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen. I am honored to return to Ado Ekiti, this time to help set the tone for a summit on the economy of Ekiti, with the great prospects for social harmony and political progress that are consequent on economic prosperity. As I address you today, I cannot but recall my visit here a little over four years ago. I spoke at the declaration of gubernatorial candidate. Dr. Kayode Fayemi. I spoke then of the possibilities of human imagination. If you can dream it, I had said, you can make it happen. The opportunity to make it happen then got held back by the politics of electoral process controversy. Not so long ago, the hand of God set that challenge aside and Governor Fayemi was sworn in and named his team. I had the pleasure of joining the team at their frame setting retreat in Iloko to share from my perspective on the bottlenecks to making dreams come true and the discipline of working to advance the interest of a majority of the citizens. Today, I am happy to lay out some critical issues to actualizing dreams for a people like those of Ekiti who are rich in tradition and great in expectations. The first question I want to pose to this August gathering is why seek prosperity? In effect I am asking why we are gathered here for an economic summit or interactive session between the government and the private sector. WHY SEEK PROSPERITY For millennia man made progress very slowly and was not much caught up in the rush for material advance, even though it will be erroneous to
suggest he made no progress all those centuries. He not only discovered fire to roast the product of his hunt, he went from hunting to farming. But Jams Watt redesigned the steam engine and made power based production possible, with quantum leap in material advance. All the progress one can say comes from the essence of his humanity, established in creation. For people of faith, in the Christian tradition, the Genesis 2 v 15 injunction was for man to collaborate with God to move creation towards its perfection. If man is to have life and have it more abundantly (John10:10) and his essence is to keep improving creation, it follow that it is man’s right, in the modern age, to expect that his quality of life improve continuously, keeping pace with the improvements elsewhere, in the spirit human solidarity. The philosophy of the state and governing places the onus of facilitating the advance of the Common Good in the State, whether you favour John Locke or Thomas Hobbes. That role of the state is variously defined on a liberal-‐conservative spectrum, where at the conservative end is in the provision of non-‐appropriability goods, that is those goods that you cannot exclude those who have not paid from enjoying the benefits. Defence is a classic example. At the liberal end, in the collectivist tradition, government provided even commercial goods and services. Central planned economies of the communist state were the extreme example. Along the spectrum were the mixed economies of Britain’s Fabian Socialism and even conservative surrender, as in the case of very conservative Richard Nixon who declared “we are all Keynsians now” Whatever the colour of government it has a duty to improved quality of life and the people have a right to demand it. The discipline to go about that improvement in a systematic manner is why we are gathered here today. To make economic progress in a way that ensures social justice
is to raise the dignity of the human person, a core purpose of modern government. Unfortunately governments have not always acted with a clear understanding of this role and its obligations. Part of it is that while man made progress from hunting to farming, many who seek a role in public life in more primitive societies, where the institutions of accountability are not strong, still act as hunters and see government or public office as bush meat they have hunted down and seek the intent gratification of cutting up their share for voracious consumption. But it is in the farmers deferred, or delayed, gratification in which the Common Good is at the epicenter that human progress is most advanced. It is my expectation that is the cause we shall pursue here is the disciplined farmer approach. Fortunately advancing farming, (agriculture) alongside mining, tourism and an Education industry into global value chains is what I hope to suggest today. Today what we need is to build a partnership between the people of Ekiti, their government, and wealth creators from far and near. For the true mission of government to be achieved all must come together passionately committed to building for the long term. It will entail reforming the mindset of public servants and politicians, building capacity for execution and moving away from the hunter as scavenger mentality. Investment money is scare and goes only where there is warmth of welcome, whether it be the Naira of a prominent son of the soil, Asian with his Yuan or American dollar with a Texas Oil man. Our first goal must be to have a service that welcomes all with a smile. But we shall return to this later.
WHAT SHOULD BE OUR GOALS Our goals must be set in a smart mode. This means they should be specific (like we want 12% per annum growth in total Ekiti economy or 22% growth in certain agricultural produce) measureable, attainable, relevant and tangible. Unless we can reduce our discussions to such we may have talk with little implementation. WHAT MAKES FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH In my work trying to understand why some nations are poor and those far less endowed prosper, I have offered a framework of six critical variables. These are Policy Choices, Institutions; Human Capital, Entrepreneurship; Culture; and Leadership. I expect that with leadership that derives from a sense of service to the people of Ekiti, and knowledgeability regarding how to improve the human condition, the key to progress in Ekiti is in building strong institutions, investing in human capital, generating the entrepreneurial spirit and building values that sustain progress in the culture. A strong commitment to this enterprise will make Ekiti economically prosperous. COMPETITIVENESS AND PERFORMANCE We have said that investment money moves to the more attractive location. The competitiveness of countries or states will determine who attracts the money. The foregoing factors help shape the competitiveness of an economy. Competitiveness in specific areas of strength, where the state has comparative advantage, so to speak, is probably more important in a short-‐gun scenario than just building up the general competitiveness of the state. So which areas do I think Ekiti needs to emphasize in becoming more competitive to stimulate the growth of winning clusters, and how should the structure for making growth from these specific areas come together for rapid results.
My inclination is to favour the development of economic zones in local areas with particular factor endowments and then constructing values chains from these factors into global markets. For me Agriculture, agro-‐allied manufacturing; solid minerals mining; tourism and education are sectors from which Ekiti can grow rich, provide jobs for its youth and raise living standards for all. I know that areas in which the farmlands of Ekiti have been traditionally strong have been audited and are well known. The challenge would be for government to find champions dedicated to each agricultural produce and give them targets to help incentivize farmers to raise yield and then to ensure that they get the best prices for their effort, get support from research and networking to make output optimal and ensure little waste. Have we forgotten the Agricultural extension service of the Awolowo era. It has been done before and can be done again. Creating an industrial park for agro-‐allied manufacturing that adds value through processing, before distribution into global markets should be a big boost to the economy. But the process will involve professionals who can help plot the path and the interventions from the farmers inputs through the middlemen and the manufacturers to those who can move efficiently to distribute into global markets, domestic and foreign alike. My personal favorites include rubber and other cash crops that can thrive in Ekiti as well as cassava and the food security needs of grains. On mining I am of the firm view that the vast mineral deposits documented in studies by the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) and other agencies suggest the possibilities of the solid minerals sector in Ekiti. That sector remains depressed country wide because there seems to be a conspiracy of lack
of interest and corruption. The state government needs to go into aggressive dialogue with the federal government because this sector is largely a victim of the failure of Nigeria’s federalism. Abuja will care little about these sectors as long as cheap cash from oil continue to grease the wheels of government. Ekiti must seek an administrative devolution of some authority on this until a constitutional amendment comes. States like Enugu, on Coal, and Benue continue to suffer under this burden. You should act together. With tourism the rolling hills of Ekiti are picture perfect for some kinds of tourists, including internal tourists. The key here is to locate facilities, attract the hospitality industry and improve access. In this and many other activities. I want to say there is room for collaboration with adjoining states. If Ekiti, Ondo and Osun can have a regional strategy, it will advance the good of all three. Road and rail linkages need to be pursued in public/private partnerships. Then there is education Ekiti has the reputation of being the state of PhDs. That seems to me like an advantage the state can exploit. I think of Boston in summer and the loss of several hundred thousand citizens. This is because a good part of the populations are students who come from all over the United States and around the world to study in Boston, with its many famous academic institutions. It is an academic cluster, the city of Boston. Why can Ekiti not be the same in a country requiring huge investments to raise its human capital stock. I am persuaded that a focused search for partners here and around the world to build these value chains will have transforming value.
LEVERS OF GOAL ATTAINMENT There are a number of key levers for ensuring success. One key lever is the partnership logic. Governments still suffer badly from failure to own initiatives in the way the private sector manages to hold people to account and they work with commitment to set goals. This tragedy of the Commons Writ large is behind many failed promises of the Nigerian condition. If the right champions are found in Ekiti and they treat private corporations they wish to be partners with a clear sense for mutually beneficial partnership, with a one stop to shop to help resolve all the typical irritants that investors face, you will see amazing results. Let me commend as example the local government practice in the United States that have TIFA Funds which they offer as grants and loan to companies to invest in their area as a way of enhancing future tax revenues. The finances of Ekiti may not allow this but efforts need to be made to encourage investors. Again as countries that have done well with attracting foreign investors know, treating well already resident investors so they can spread the good news, is important. I am fortunate to be on the Board of Directors of Mutual Benefits Assurance which is one of the biggest investors in Ekiti State. I do hope we get royal treatment as a signaling to other investors. If Mutual Benefit can celebrate its retainership with Ekiti, others will show more interest. Mr. Governor, Captains of Industry, Ladies and Gentlemen. I see the future of Ekiti State green and flourishing as the rolling hills of the stare are. But it will take work and passionate commitment to make it happen. We can sometimes over assume about capacity. Training, retraining and motivating civil servants then holding them accountable is key.
We must learn from Malaysia in that it is best to ensure that all are inside the house pissing out than that some are outside pissing in. Building elite consensus is also a key lever in addition to making the civil service warm, welcoming and less corrupt. Their children will see the benefits of such determination to act differently. Ladies and Gentlemen. I am done. As a self declared son of the soil, one more Ekiti PhD I say God bless our intentions and give us the spirit to make all prosper in social justice. Pat Utomi 14/10/11