PAUL ISHABOR: LG chair aspirant airs perspective on Ayade’s Foreign Investment policy

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Efio-Ita Nyok|10 February 2017 An Ogoja chairmanship aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and investment expert has aired his mind on the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy of His Excellency the Executive Governor of Cross River State. Barr. Paul Ishabor has published what may be referred to as an unbiased perspective on the issue tilting a little to the sides of harping on both the merit and demerit of Governor Ben Ayade's drive. NegroidHaven got a peep into Barr. Ishabor's thinking faculty on the already mentioned subject when the duo of Messrs Venatius Ikem and Emmanuel Etim debated on the notion on 5th February. Barr. Ikem is a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who frowned at Ayade's foreign investment policy whereas Mr Etim who is a development consultant was critical of Ikem's submission in what appeared as a fair and level headed intellectual discourse. Mr Ishabor who admitted that the business of foreign investment attraction is a herculean task observed that the current approach by the state government, though tenable, may require a different marketing strategy. According to the legal luminary foreign investors before contemplating investment in other climes take into consideration country and political risk analysis and resources risk analysis as well. He further stressed that beyond political stability, political will, security, etc investors look out for specific policies, programmes and institutions of government as yardstick to measure the viability of an investment haven. He cited the instance of South Eastern Asian emerging markets who embarked on a radical tax cut as measure in attracting foreign investors. In his own words, 'His Excellency, the Governor has demostrated a very strong desire for attraction of FDI to CRS. However for those familiar with the subject in issues, the task of investment attraction for a sub national government like ours is a herculean one considering regulatory limitations which are beyond the scope and jurisdiction of the sub national government. Crossriverians everywhere hail with two hands a passionate action to bring foreign investors the same way they get enthused about conscious action to empower them to be more productive. For Cross River to cajole foreign investors to really flood our State with all kinds of projects may requires a different marketing concept but that does not mean the present approach is not tenable. I will like to state that all serious minded foreign investors irrespective of the country they come from are really serious with country and political risk analysis and resources risk analysis are flowing like water everywhere. For our leaders to bring investors into the country, it will take more than just talking about political stability, political will, safety, democracy, cheap labor, and the few scanty points we have. We need to really come up with specific programs, institions and policies among others in order to be a little bit confident in ourselves about being able to attract investors into our country from this perfectly compettitive market. Countries like Thailand and South Easten Asian emerging economies are embarking on radical Tax Cuts for corporate entities as a means to just getting the investors into their country. 'All this underscores the limitations of a sub national government. Be that as it may, we must not relent in our investment attraction efforts. All hands must be on deck to support the government actualize the vision of industrialisation. In fact Cross River State aspirations to see itself develop at a radical pace as a means to the end of better quality of life for the citizenry requires a collective consciencious effort from me and you whether home or abroard. We have a vision today to get to where the developed world is. It has taken them years to get there. But the truth is that when they started our part of the world was also on earth. In fact our part of the world actually propelled significantly their development.' The local government chair aspirant and investment authority who finally encouraged the aides to the Governor as well as every indigene of the state to support the foreign investment attraction drive of Ayade ironically observed that more of the campaigns of the present government in this direction are ceremonial suing for caution. 'Finally my concerns are that while His Excellency is opening up transactions world over, we his lieutenants must gear up with the requisite capacities and sincerity of service to see through transactions and follow up to actualisation. 'The South East Asian hub has since sometime now been the largest attractor of American investors because they have worked systematically and consciously towards that goal. Today they have well trained youngmen and women who have been enabled to continuously explore and place themselves at meeting places of all prospective investors to reveal not only opportunities in their country but specific favourable business conditions created to aid their business. 'Ironically, we rely on summits, conferences and Executive visits to market our country to investors. I am afraid, most of the campaigns at these places are just ceremonial and we need to watch it if we want to attract any serious investor'. What follows are excerpts of Ikem's
'Governor Ayade: still on the Trail of "Investors"!' and Emmanuel Etim's Re: Governor Ayade: still on the Trail of "Investors"! Barr. Venatius Ikem:
Governor Ayade: still on the Trail of "Investors "! This week I got a fresh awakening that Governor Ayade still remains ensconced in his elusive search for foreign investors ostensibly to jump start the CR State private sector development he loves to talk about without doing anything about, running to two years now since assuming office as Governor.  The news still coming about flying to South Africa from London to do so is daily diminishing the status of the office of Governor itself because it does seem the premium is more  in the fact of the governor traveling abroad than in the achievement of the objective of the trip, since none has ever been recorded after all the Paul Ifere census of the scores of foreign trips. Maybe I will be reminded of the garment factory achievement which till date is not known to even have been test run yet, not to talk of being put to any productive use. We do appreciate that as a project., it has served it's purpose by delivering more than adequate dividends to the contractor but what of the real stakeholders? The billions of public funds needlessly wasted remain like the Biblical servant who went to bury his master's loan in the ground without investing it. No jobs created, no return on investment, a  piece for just SHOW! What an investment! Anyway, to remind him that primaries for governorship elections will hold next year! Maybe he is planning the factory as a campaign tool for second term no less! If so he will still need a few more to sound convincing. Now that he is awash with cash from the revelations of all the bumper releases PMB has generously given to the governors for bailout, Which most of them are unwilling to use for the purpose even though the money is far in excess of actual needs, we are seeing again fresh efforts at foreign trips for foreign investors. Now we hear our Governor wants to buy fishing vessels and merchant vessels! I thought the governor said he was a business man and would run the state like a business man. I'm yet to know of any capitalism where the state invests in fishing directly other than creating the enabling environment for fishermen to do so. Ditto for shipping. Cross River State was ahead of the fGN in divesting from private sector business, selling her Agriculture estates, Hotels, etc. In a strange reversal of fortunes it seems we are back trying to set up Govt businesses all over the place without any cohesive plan on how what to do with them apart from just setting them up. That it is lucrative to award contracts for setting up is understandable but can we spend four years attempting this and hope to get away with it? I always remind my fellow politicians that the day of reckoning must come surely. When I look around I see few survivors of those rumored to have made so much money in recent years still living like they are enjoying same, if they still have it at all. Why do we insist that ours will be different? If the Governor truly wants to encourage private sector investment, what he needs is to turn Tinapa into an Industrial Park in collaboration with some Chinese firms who will readily jump at it. Minimal cost will go into basic restructuring. For instance to achieve the space he used for the still-born garment factory, T-Mart Store space, would have been more than adequate and saved the state the billions spent on construction! Space for similar  modular factories still abounds within the zone with various incentives in tax rebates and export waivers even if within the Ecowas region alone. Such factories that would not cost more than 30-50 million naira can be  set up and can  be run in partnership with  foreign investors ( capital) , Government (matching grant to )private individuals who are willing to buy them off after an agreed  period by paying off Govt investment. To hope to   run factories directly as govt  is a moribund model which the governor knows is unworkable at the best of times. To expect wholesale foreign investors without local partnership to risk the entire stakes, would require much more incentives than the CRS environment currently provides. Since I did not set out to do a proposal on Business Development for CRS govt, let me stop here. We all have our blueprints and some day will have the opportunity to show case the difference between reality and utopia. Suffice it to say, enough is enough of these embarrassing trips. I understand one former Governor of jigawa state has been spotted around CRS government House lately. The one that was almost declared AWOL by the state House of Assembly during his tenure! The one renowned for foreign trips for foreign investors! He left his state without any  "investment "  after 8 years and uncountable trips" abroad", even though some of them were to Calabar here to hole up at Mirage Hotel for months on end! If that is the model we are copying, I can understand.  If we genuinely want to get investors interested in putting their money on us,  we must use the cash at hand  as ready matching grants to encourage investors to believe that we are serious and work out a model that can be a win win for all concerned. Emmanuel Etim :
Re: Governor Ayade:still on the Trail of "Investors "! This is a rejoinder to the article titled " Governor Ayade:still on the Trail of "Investors "! " posted by Barr. Venatius Ikem on his facebook timeline on Saturday 4th Febraury, 2017 at about 11am. In the said write up, Barr. Ikem raised a few pungent issues. I want to put it clearly that this treatise is not focused on the person of Venatius Ikem who as a person has made some level of contribution towards state and national development, but on addressing these issues and concerns and to disabuse the minds of other citizens who may also have these concerns. First, he opined that Prof. Ayade's search for Foreign Direct Investment FDI is "ostensibly to jump start the CR State private sector development" which I agree with him. Indeed, this is one of the strategic objectives of the investment drive. In addition to this, Foreign Direct Investment results in the transfer of soft skills through training and job creation, the availability of more advanced technology for the domestic market and access to research and development resources. Apart from capital inflow and these stated gains, Foreign Direct Investment also impacts the host economy in a lot of other positive ways. Where I differ with Barr. Ikem however is that he thinks this search is "elusive". According to webster mariam dictionary, elusive is defined as "tending to evade grasp or pursuit, hard to comprehend or define, hard to isolate or identify." I do not know which of these definitions the writer had in mind but in my opinion, none of these apply to a geniune investment drive. Many reputable and successful businesses and investors globally have the objective of business expansion and seeking of new markets as a priority. Saying that Foreign Direct Investments FDI or even Local Direct Investments LDI is elusive thus is to say the least untrue. Driving Investments may be difficult but that is no reason not to try. I leave the issue with this quote by Louis Sachar which he puts succinctly "I'm not saying it's going to be easy. Nothing in life is easy. But that's no reason to give up. You'll be surprised what you can accomplish if you set your mind to it. After all, you only have one life, so you should try to make the most of it." Having established clearly the import of this, it is clear then that the opinion of the writer that the trips by the governor are "daily diminishing the status of the office of Governor itself because it does seem the premium is more  in the fact of the governor traveling abroad than in the achievement of the objective of the trip" is clearly misplaced. I will not waste my energy to establish that the governor was well travelled as a businessman even before becoming a senator and thereafter a governor and was also wealthy enough to travel to any country of choice. That is trivial matter. What I would rather establish is that some of these trips are not at the convenience of the governor considering that he could sit back in the state , appropriate federally allocated revenue and achieve very little. If half the number of governors in Nigeria had the zeal of the governor of Cross River State to harness the potentials of and industrialize their states through Foreign and Local Direct Investments, Nigeria would be on its way to joining the Industrialized Nations by 2020. The task of achieving economic transformation of Cross River State from a civil service economy to an industrialized economy in record time cannot be achieved by commonplace endeavor or by average men. This then explains the extraordinary zeal of Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade of Cross River State to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), harness the potentials in the state which abound and catalyze the industrialization and economic development. It can be understood however if a few citizens do not understand this direction of action and the need thereof as it has never been, with all due respect, the nature of our people to aspire zealously and take risks in investing outside their comfort zone. It was Albert Einstein who said "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Ayde has chosen to do things differently and will surely achieve a different set of results. Doing things differently may rattle a few people but it is the different results that we are anticipating that we must rather focus on. The writer's assertion that "no achievements" has been "recorded" including the garment factory "which till date is not known to even have been test run yet, not to talk of being put to any productive use" is totally misleading. The garment factory which has long been completed has begun operation, employing hundreds of youths and widows and contributing positively to the economy of the state. Some of the projects that the governor has successfully attracted Foreign Direct Investments to the state as outcomes of his trip which construction work have begun and are at different stages of completion include the Calabar Pharmaceuticals Company which on completion will be the largest in the whole of the South-South region of Nigeria and the Thai -Africa rice city, which will boost rice production in the state. Others include power project, the Bakassi Deep Seaport, the Bakassi Katsina Ala Super Highway, Canadian Model School project and the New Cities project to mention a few. These Foreign Direct Investments are worth billions of United States Dollars USD and are set to transform Cross River State to an industrialized economy. The report released by National Bureau of Statistics in February, 2016 indicates that Foreign Direct Investment fell in Nigeria by 82.84% in fourth quarter of 2015. In the same period however, the bureau reported net growth in Foreign Direct Investment to Cross River State. The National Bureau of Statistics report stated that “For 2015 as a whole, the state to import the second largest amount of capital was Cross River State.” It further states “The state’s rank relative to the other states was primarily due to an investment of $40.00 million in the fourth quarter, which was twice as large as the total Capital imported for the year by any other state other than Lagos.” It is expected that by the time the National Bureau of Statistics reports are released for the first, second, third and fourth quarters of 2017, Cross River State will lead every other state in terms of Foreign Direct Investment inflow and will help reverse the fall in FDI in Nigeria because of the effort of the digital governor of Cross River State, Sen. Prof. Benedict Ayade. With such data, even the greatest pessimist and critic will agree that the state is on its way to revolutionary industrialization and economic development. This will also come with the creation of thousands of jobs for youths in the state and other spillover effects in the economy of the state. Beyond Foreign Direct Investment, Barr. Ikem also raised the issue of government doing business rather than "creating the enabling environment for businesses to thrive." I must agree that this has been a subject of discourse among stakeholders in the business sector with people holding varying opinions. On this subject, I find this submission instructive "Privatization of state enterprises was a core recommendation of the so called "Washington Consensus" that emerged over a decade ago. While governments worldwide followed the recommendations, and countless state enterprises were privatized, the debate over the proper role of the government in the economy remains open. (Franko 2007). The Governor of Cross River State Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade, coming from a private sector  background has conceived an innovative strategy that'll see government drive the growth of the economic sector in the state through Special Purpose Vehicles SPVs in Build Operate and Transfer, Public Private Partnership concession models. In all of these, government will establish the vision while the private sector will partner to deliver on the vision and set objectives. On his final idea " to turn Tinapa into an Industrial Park" , I will not say much. Like Venatius Ikem rightly said, "We all have our blueprints and some day will have the opportunity to show case the difference between reality and utopia." I will thus advice Barr. Ikem to wait for his opportunity to be governor and then implement his blueprint. Thank you for sparing some time to share these thoughts. We wish you the best now and always. Arc. Eric Akpo, Special Adviser to the Governor on Technical Matters has described Ishabor's opinion as 'nice and apt'. What do you think? Efio-Ita Nyok
Is a Blogger, the Editor & Publisher of NegroidHaven.org