01 March 2024

Opening Remarks by the Chairperson of the Council, Hon. Baledzi Gaolathe, Minister for Finance and Development Planning, Botswana

28 September 2007

Maseru, Lesotho

Honourable Ministers
Madam Executive Secretary,
Commission Members
Senior Officials
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour and privilege for me to welcome you all to this 12th Meeting of the SACU Council of Ministers which is the first under the stewardship of Botswana. In the same vein, on behalf of all of us, to take this opportunity to thank the Government of Lesotho for the warm hospitality and the excellent arrangements made for this meeting.

In assuming the Chairmanship of this Council, I would like to pay special tribute to the outgoing Chairperson, Honourable Majozi Sithole, the Minister of Finance of Swaziland for having successfully spearheaded the meetings of Council during this past year. I recall that one of the main messages from the Minister's remarks at the previous Council meeting was the need for SACU Member States to make timely follow up on Council decisions. It is my intention to build on the excellent foundation laid by Swaziland.

Honourable Ministers

This meeting is taking place shortly after the 27th SADC Summit of the Heads of State and Government held in Lusaka, Zambia in August 2007. I believe that the decisions taken by our Heads of State and Government are still fresh in our minds.

In particular, the Heads of State and Government reconfirmed their commitment to launch the SADC FTA in 2008. These decisions have particular significance for us as we are members of both SADC and SACU. During the previous Council meetings, this Council took certain decisions on how SACU should position itself in relation to developments regarding regional integration at SADC. In this regard, Council set up a Task Team to monitor developments on regional integration at SADC level. We therefore expect an update on progress made so far on this matter. The progress report will provide an opportunity to SACU to take stock of developments on regional integration and strategise on the way forward.

Honourable Ministers

The importance of regional integration to SACU cannot be overemphasised. Our long history of co-operation has brought our economies closer together in many respects. SACU's stable political and macroeconomic environment as well as cooperation in many other areas such as power, water, transport and tourism makes us unique in the region. As a Customs Union, we should strive to preserve this profile and offer it as a basis for any future dispensation within the region.

Honourable Ministers

This being my first meeting as Chair of Council, I would like to take this opportunity to outline Botswana's priorities during her term of office. Our focus will be on the achievement of the following key objectives:

  1. Finalisation of the SACU Wide Strategy -a major priority would be the finalisation of the SACU wide strategy which will provide a framework for our internal operations as well as engagement with external stakeholders. The ongoing studies on regional integration should serve as an input towards the development of a SACU wide Strategy. An important element in launching this SACU Wide Strategy will be an effective Communication Strategy which will position SACU. It is gratifying to note some work has been started to that regard.
  2. Consolidation of SACU - The Government of Botswana would like to see movement towards the achievement of the objectives of SACU as outlined in Article 2 of the SACU Agreement. Amongst these is the objective to enhance economic development, diversification, industrialisation, and competitiveness of Member States. This will entail the full implementation of the provisions of the SACU Agreement such as the establishment of outstanding institutions and development of common policies outlined in Part 8 of the SACU Agreement. These policies include the industrial development policy, agricultural policy and competition policy.
  3. Management of the Common Revenue Pool - As you aware, this issue has been with us for a while. We have undertaken studies to try and clarify the different options that are available to us. As Council, we need to finalise this matter and decide on a permanent arrangement for the management of the pool for implementation with effect from 1 April 2008. In doing so, we need to adopt an option that would be fair and equitable, taking into account the sharing of costs and benefits in a proportionate manner.
  4. Trade Relations: An important objective for SACU is enhancing its integration into the global economy through trade. In this regard, we will focus our efforts towards the completion of ongoing negotiations and establishing a common negotiating mechanism. Hence, we will be expecting an update on progress made so far.

Honourable Ministers

Turning now to the Agenda for this meeting, I am happy to note that most of the issues that I have mentioned as priorities will feature in our discussions. On the trade side, I am pleased to note that since the last meeting of Council, the Ministers of Trade have met to follow up on some of the outstanding issues and Council looks forward to receiving their report. On the finance side, the agenda includes consideration of the final reports of the study on the Management of the Common Revenue Pool. Once more, it would be important for Council to give direction and facilitate finalisation of this matter.

Honourable Ministers

In conclusion, I would like to note that it is five years since our Heads of States and Government met and signed the 2002 SACU Agreement on 21st October 2002 in Gaborone, Botswana. This Agreement embodies the aspirations of our leaders and a desire to achieve the prosperity of our people through close cooperation. Our duty therefore as a Council, is to ensure that those aspirations become a reality by providing the overall strategic direction to SACU. I am sure that with your sustained co-operation, we will be able to achieve this goal.

With those few remarks, I would like wish us fruitful deliberations.

I thank you