03 December 2023

Opening remarks by the Chairperson of Council, Hon. Majozi Sithole Minister of Finance, Swaziland

2 December 2011, Swakopmund, Namibia

Honourable Ministers
Madam Executive Secretary,
Commission Members
Members of the media
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour and privilege for me to welcome you all to this 25th Meeting of the SACU Council of Ministers. On behalf of all of us, let me take this opportunity to thank the Government of Namibia for the warm hospitality and the excellent arrangements made for this meeting. Swakopmund is indeed a delightful place to be during this time of the year and I do hope that we will find time to explore the city later in the day. The sound of the sea and the beautiful sight of the desert and the dunes should provide a sufficient incentive for us to move quickly but efficiently through our formal business.

This Council meeting is taking place against the backdrop of a fledgling and uncertain global economic recovery. The recent G20 Summit in Cannes, France, highlighted the challenges facing the global economy and the need for decisive action to address them. Among the key challenges facing the global economy, are: the financial markets instability; high commodity prices and the consequent inflationary pressures; and the sovereign debt issues affecting Europe and America, which have a potential to adversely affect the wider global economy. All of these pose particular challenges on efforts to create jobs in both developed and developing countries, which is a necessary ingredient for spurring economic growth. In the pursuit of economic growth, the challenge is to ensure sustainable and balanced growth that is inclusive and beneficial to vulnerable groups such as women and the youth.

In addition, the meeting of the G20 paid particular focus to the global imbalances and the differences between export rich countries and debt laden consumer countries. It is therefore heartening to note that the meeting of the G20 leaders agreed on a framework for balanced growth, reform of international orgnisations such as the International Monetray Fund (IMF) and a commitment to conclude the stalled Doha Round of trade negotiations.

Honourable Ministers,

The value of a collective approach at the global level cannot be overemphasised as is the necessity for a collective and coordinated approach at the regional level. SACU Member States need to work together to forge greater regional solidarity to weather the global challenges posed on our region. The time is opportune for us to consider a regional approach to addressing the challenges facing our economies, with a view to supplement national efforts. We have already started on a work programme that addresses, amongst others, finance, trade and industry issues.

In the area of finance, our commitment should go beyond revenue sharing, and focus on the fundamentals underpinning a Customs Union such as harmonised and aligned economic development policy. In the area of trade, we have emphasised the need to promote intra-regional trade, trade with third parties and maintaining SACU`s cohesion on engagement with third parties. On industrial development, we need to be creative and promote the development of value chains and addition to our regional resources.

As we pursue our work programme, special attention needs to be paid to the outcomes of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP 17), which is currently being hosted within our region in Durban, South Africa. In this respect, I would like to congratulate the Government and people of South Africa for all the preparations that they have made to successfully host this important global meeting. I have no doubt that the meetings will be a resounding success that will do the whole of Africa proud.

The need to mitigate the impact of climate change is no longer an issue for debate as the impact is apparent for all to see. The impact is likely to be severe among the poor as food crops fail and food insecurity increases. It is therefore essential that some balance is struck between the countries that are high Carbon Dioxide emitters and those that are at the low end of the scale. In this respect, I am hopeful that a favourable deal will emerge from the meetings in Durban.

Honourable Ministers,

Turning to the agenda for this meeting, I note that we have a number of important issues to deal with. During this meeting we will, among others, get updates on progress achieved on the mandates of the two Task Teams on the Review of the Revenue Sharing Arrangement and Industrial Development Policy. We will consider the proposed Customs Policy for the region, the development of a Common Negotiating Mechanism and the Amendments to the 2002 Agreement in order to institutionalise the SACU Summit. We will also receive feedback on the SACU headquarters building as well as a proposal for the convening of the Ministerial Retreat.

I am aware that the Commission has had extensive discussions on these issues over the last few days. I look forward to receiving the reports of the progress achieved.

With these few remarks, I would like us to turn to our agenda for the day. In doing so, may I also wish us fruitful deliberations.

I thank you.