source: Republic of Botswana (11/7/09) TAUTONA TIMES no 18 of 2009
The Weekly Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline
C1) 22/6/09: Statement by H.E. Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, President of the Republic of Botswana, at a State Banquet held in his honour by the Honourable Dr. Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore
Your Excellency, the Prime Minister and Madame Lee; Honourable Ministers; Excellencies the High Commissioners; Honourable Members of Parliament here present; Distinguished Guests; Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Let me begin by thanking His Excellency President Nathan for the kind invitation.
2. This being my first visit as President of the Republic of Botswana, I appreciate the invitation and I am particularly delighted to be in Singapore. My presence here today is a reaffirmation of the value we attach to the relationship and the friendship we have cultivated over the years. I also bring greetings and good wishes from the people of Botswana.
3. I am committed to expanding these excellent bilateral relations for the common good. The path established by my predecessors will not be hard to find, let alone follow. I therefore come with the desire to consolidate our profound and meaningful relationship, and look forward to a fruitful stay in this very beautiful and tranquil Republic.
4. I am also grateful to you, Mr. Prime Minister, for the warm words you have said about me and my country. The words are very touching especially when they are expressed by those we value as true and well meaning friends.
5. Botswana and Singapore are worlds apart geographically. But we can both be proud that we have succeeded in defying these geographical distances between our countries, by creating what today stands out as a working and exemplary relationship based on partnership and collaboration. Ours is therefore, a relationship defined by a strong foundation of mutual respect and shared values of democracy; good governance; the rule of law and respect for human rights.
6. Our common membership of the Commonwealth, the Non Aligned Movement and the United Nations provides opportunities for our countries to work together in a meaningful way at the multilateral level. Our ability to coordinate positions on issues before such fora can be critical in ensuring that reason and common sense prevails.
7. In facing up to its development challenges, Botswana has had to rely on Singapore as a dependable development partner. To this end, we have received a lot of development assistance especially in the area of human resource development. The partnership has over the years proved to be an enduring one and its benefits are beginning to impact positively on the national economy of Botswana.
8. The most daunting challenge in our development initiatives has been to address the issue of service delivery, especially the public sector. Singapore presented us the best case study, hence our unending desire to learn more about this successful model. We have sent many Batswana to Singapore to learn first hand about Management techniques, as well as gain knowledge in certain specialized fields.
9. Singapore has been instrumental in setting up the Botswana National Productivity Centre, which is modelled along the lines of the Singapore Productivity and Standards Board. There is also the ongoing exercise to transform through Singapore’s assistance the Botswana Institute of Administration and Commerce into a fully fledged Public Service College.
10. We certainly have a lot to learn from Singapore, the success your country showcases demonstrates that, where there is purposely leadership, a lot can be achieved. Singapore is globally famous for its vibrant seaport, hard work, high levels of productivity, high standards of education, quality of life, picture square environs and a disciplined population and national pride. Singapore projects all the qualities of a centre of excellence, and she is an important player in the South East Asia region and in world affairs.
11. I am aware that your country has for the past few days been hosting a very important conference, “The Second Singapore International Water Week”. Botswana is represented at this important meeting. We attach a lot of importance to water, a trait we share with your country as we both are deficient in water resources. The essence of making this conference an annual event in your national calendar underlines the importance your country attaches to water as a source of life and sustenance of human development. It is my hope that, from the conference there will be many lessons learnt both in terms of the management, technologies and business issues related to water.
12. Developing countries are facing up to a major challenge out of the current global economic slowdown, the prospects for growth look gloomy, to say the least. What makes most of us anxious is the fact that, there are no projections pointing to anything positive, all we hear is that, the turn around of the world economy will take a while; some are even predicting 5 years at most. The current global economic crisis can only mean that, most of the developing countries will fail to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), and the African continent stands to be the most affected.
13. It is however pleasing to note that, at the last Meeting Group of 20 (G20) held in London, United Kingdom this past April, the development partners committed themselves to assist the developing countries by maintaining their lines of credit, but also desist from being inward looking by encouraging Foreign Direct Investment and reducing tariffs. We can only hope that they will be true to their word.
14. Botswana is beginning to feel the impact of the economic downturn. To get ourselves out of the present circumstances, my government has embarked on programmes whose aim is to bring relief, but above all to create sustainable development.
15. Our greatest ambition is to diversify the economy and reduce dependency on the mining sector. We therefore identified a number of mega projects, which we define as hubs. The hubs focus into the fields of: Agriculture (to ensure self sufficiency in food production and security); Innovation (mainly in modern technologies and ICT); Diamond (to create value addition in down stream production, this includes Jewellery manufacturing); Health (to create specialist health care facilities of international standards); Transport (to create the nerve centre for the SADC regions transport infrastructure), and Education ( to create centres of excellence in the field of education and learning).
16. In order to render these hubs effective, Botswana is looking for partners from both the private and public sector to invest in these various sectors/hubs.
17. In the same regard, we have had to readjust our approach to Education by placing more emphasis to science based and technical education. We have moved further to establish a University for Science and Technology, so as to meet the needs of our economy in the technical and specialised fields.
18. It goes without saying that, we take the cue from the Singaporean experience, and we also count on your support in this endeavour. We equally call upon the notables within Singapore’s private sector to take advantage of the investment opportunities in Botswana. It also worth pointing out, that, in my delegation I have officials from the Botswana Export Development and Investment Agency (BEDIA), who are here to promote the investment opportunities I have alluded to. BEDIA is also here to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Singapore Business Federation (SBF). We envisage that from the MoU, our business people will fashion out business dealings which will benefit our two countries and people.
19. Let me conclude by once again expressing my appreciation for the invitation and the warm welcome. As I stated earlier, Botswana has the greatest admiration for Singapore, and we have reason to believe that, we can learn a lot from your example and success. It is equally important to emphasize that the relations between our two nations have over the years been profound, but we need this time around to explore further areas to engender our cooperation.
20. I will do my best to nurture this relationship for the mutual benefit of our two countries and peoples.
21. Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, May I now ask you to rise and join me in a toast:
• To the continued good health of His Excellency, President Nathan;
• To the continued friendship and cooperation between the Governments and Peoples of Botswana and Singapore; and
• To International Peace and Security! I thank you for your attention.