There is no doubt that Taraba is currently among the least developed states in the country. Its general level of backwardness in all aspects of social and economic well being can best be described as being the result of many years of neglect, insensitivity to the abundant natural and human resources, planning and lack of good gover nance that characterised previous administrations in the state.
It was common for every government in the past to characterise the state as "the food basket" of the country and as a serious embodiment of resources. Yet, there has never been any serious commitment on the part of any government so far, to properly study, understand and plan for the development and exploitation of these acclaimed resources. Perhaps the worst that has happened to the state in terms of development is the total neglect of the educational sector.
This means a near total abandonment of the state's human resource potentials, as reflected in the high levels of illiteracy and school dropouts. The development of the state's natural endowment is necessarily contingent on developing its human resources. No industrialist would invest in an area that is grossly lacking in skilled labour. Moreover, the high level of illiteracy rivation among the state's population who otherwise would provide the potential market for any local industry.
The future economic development of the state lies, not so much on how many trade fairs and exhibitions the Taraba state government would participate in to expose its investment potentials, or on how much it spends to establish industrial layouts as incentives to investors. Rather, the state must plan more seriously, with all sense of commitment, towards the educational development of its over whelmingly youthful population.
The state may compromise any thing but not the development of its human resources. Perhaps, beyond investing in education and agriculture, the investment climate in Taraba state also favours the development of the tourism industry. This is possible only if there is serious commitment on the part of the government to participate directly and encourage the involvement of both local and foreign private investors.
This is one area where the state has a good comparative advantage for its future economic growth and development. Spatial and gender inequalities that are manifested in the state's development process should also be the focus of government planning strategy in the new millennium.
This requires a more aggressive policy that encourages local participation in matters of development that directly affect the people's lives. Through organs such as co-operative unions, development associations and other non governmental agencies, advice can be given to the local government council and the state legislature on issues of development and people's wellbeing.