Sunday, May 17, 2009

Opening Remarks by the President of the Republic of Botswana, Lt. General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, at the Twenty-Sixth High Level Consultative Council

source: Republic of Botswana (17/5/09): TAUTONA TIMES no 14 of 2009
The Weekly Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
"Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline"


Honourable Ministers
President of BOCCIM
Private Sector Leaders
Senior Government Officials
Ladies and Gentlemen

1. It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Twenty Sixth meeting of the High Level Consultative Council.

2. At our last meeting in November 2008, we briefed you on the impact of the global financial crisis on the country's Diamond sales. Subsequent to the last HLCC meeting, an inaugural meeting of the Botswana Economic Advisory Council whose membership includes the President of BOCCIM was held. The Council's main topic of concern was the effect of the crisis on the economy of Botswana. Following the meeting, I set up a Task Force to further research on the strategies advanced by Council. The primary goal of the Task Force was to look at ways and means of countering the impact of the global recession on the economy. The Task Force concluded its work earlier this year and the recommendations were approved by Cabinet for implementation by relevant Ministries.

3. The recommendations are aimed at maintaining business confidence and employment, and repositioning the country for future growth in the medium to long term, and ensuring that the country will be better able to deal with the recession if it endures. Botswana is in a unique position to do this owing to its past prudent management of resources. I wish to emphasize that for optimum results to be obtained from implementation of the approved recommendations, both the public sector and the private sector need to effectively play their part. For example we were pleased to see the private sector response to the recent issue of bonds by government which were oversubscribed. We trust that the private sector has taken note of the Bank of Botswana's recent monetary policy stance and will be encouraged to increase investment in the country and create opportunities for growth and employment.

4. The global crisis is dynamic and is in continuous flux. This complexity requires action at both global and national levels. Botswana was privileged to participate in meetings in preparation for the summit of the G20 which also addressed the needs of the developing countries during the time of recession.

5. The Botswana Economic Advisory Council met again just last week. We once again consulted with the private sector; strategic thinking is not the monopoly of Government and we welcome your constructive recommendations and ideas in charting our way forward. I urge you to be proactive. Do not wait to be invited. Use the structures of this High Level Consultative Council and the Sectoral Ministerial Councils to good advantage. Do submit your recommendations supported by well researched information for consideration by Government.

6. An area of specific concern that I would like the private sector to address is the rate of escalating prices of food and other consumer items. One of the positives that we have witnessed during the global recession is the reduction in oil and fuel prices. When fuel prices increase food and other prices increase on the basis of increased transportation costs.

7. Conversely, I would expect that the reduction of fuel prices should help to facilitate reduction in food and retail prices of consumer items. We would like BOCCIM in conjunction with the Consumer Protection Unit of the Ministry of Trade and Industry to examine and investigate the reasons for any continuing price increases and address the causes of this phenomenon.

8. I am pleased to note that ministries held two sectoral meetings each with their counterparts from the private sector prior to this meeting. BOCCIM needs to improve on research and the quality of its submissions in support of its recommendations. This does not necessarily require additional financial resources, as BOCCIM should be able to turn to bodies such as the Bankers Association, the Botswana Institute of Accountants, the Botswana Law Society and the Botswana Institute of Engineers for such assistance.

9. I note that the Revised National Policy on Incomes, Employment, Prices and Profits approved by the National Assembly has redefined the membership of the HLCC so as to enable a quadrie-partite partnership involving Government, Labour, Civil Society and the Private Sector. It is noteworthy that BOCCIM does not have the exclusive right to represent the private sector. I understand that the Government Implementation Coordination Office (GICO, has had consultations with the private sector including BOCCIM on this matter. I also understand that other leading institutions in the private sector are now represented at the ministerial sectoral meetings with the cooperation of BOCCIM.

[In additional remarks, His Excellency went on to note that there was, however, consensus that the membership of the HLCC should not be expanded in such a way as to cause it to lose it focus as a forum for Government-Private Sector dialogue]

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