30 March 2023

Opening Remarks by Hon. Baledzi Gaolathe, Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Botswana and Chairperson of SACU Council of Ministers at the 14th Council of Ministers Meeting held in Phakalane Golf Estate, Gaborone, Botswana

4 April 2008

Honourable Ministers,
Madam Executive Secretary
Senior Officials Ladies and Gentleman,

Good morning.

I wish to take this opportunity to welcome you all to Botswana and to this 14th meeting of the SACU Council of Ministers. I hope you are finding your stay in Botswana enjoyable and the arrangements made for this meeting acceptable.

Honourable Ministers,
This meeting is taking place immediately after the inauguration of the new President of Botswana, His Excellency President Lt. General Seretse Khama lan Khama, on 1 April 2008. You will understand that Batswana are still rejoicing the smooth transfer of power from the former President His Excellency Mr. Festus Mogae, to the new and the fourth President of the Republic of Botswana since Independence.

In the backdrop of these celebrations, we are acutely aware of the challenges that lie ahead of us as a nation. These challenges include employment creation and poverty reduction, which I am sure, are not only peculiar to Botswana but also affect other countries in the region. In this respect therefore, there is need to adopt common approaches to addressing these problems.

At the regional level, we continue to face challenges around the full implementation of the SACU Agreement. Some of these challenges unfortunately, frequently come to light during our engagement with third parties as has been the case during the ERA negotiations. Clearly the need to have common policies that bring together our diverse interests and address the differing weak points in each of our economies, cannot be overemphasised. At the same time, there is need to operationalise some key institutions provided for in the 2002 SACU Agreement to enable SACU to effectively function as the Customs Union envisaged by our political leaders, when they signed the Agreement in October 2002. I am informed that the studies on consolidation of SACU and the impact of SADC regional integration programme on it are nearing completion. These need to be expedited in order to feed into the SADC regional integration process.

Honourable Ministers,
Whilst there are challenges in any regional integration setting, I would like to underscore the fact that we have made considerable progress in areas where many integration arrangements in the continent continue to struggle. We have a functional customs union that has a Common External Tariff, relatively free intra-union movement of goods and a mechanism for the collection and distribution of revenue. Despite its relative complexity, this arrangement does work.

We have successfully established a Secretariat, which is responsible for the day to day administration of the activities of the organisation. We have also implemented the new revenue sharing formula and have engaged in negotiations with third parties, as a bloc.

Notwithstanding these achievements, the early years of the entry into force of our 2002 Agreement have not been easy ones. It is therefore imperative that we move with haste to achieve the ideals of the Agreement, through the establishment of the outstanding institutions and the development of common policies.

Honourable Ministers,
Turning to the agenda for this meeting, I note that we have a number of important issues to deal with, both from a trade and finance perspective. The development of a Common Negotiating Mechanism will assist in concretizing our structures and rules of engagement with third parties. I suggest that the Ministers of Trade should continue to meet to harmonise our approach in dealing with these issues. At the same time, the now completed study on rebates and duty drawbacks should enable us to finalise the decision on a permanent arrangement for the management of the Common Revenue Pool. The issues I have referred to above, in one way or another, have a bearing on our consolidation efforts. It is for these reasons Honourable Ministers that, I believe, we should move with haste to conclude some of the items on our agenda.
With these few words, I would like to wish all of us constructive deliberations.

I thank you.