Saturday, June 19, 2010

Opening Remarks by the President of the Republic of Botswana, Lt. General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, at the 28th High Level Consultative Council (HLCC)

source: Republic of Botswana (6/6/10) TAUTONA TIMES no 6 of 2010
The Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
"Democracy, Development, Dignity, Discipline and Delivery"


Your Honour, the Vice President 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 Eighth meeting of the High Level Consultative Council.

2. I am pleased to note that the Economy of Botswana has been able to weather the worst of the effects of the global Financial Crisis during the past year, through carefully considered interventions. Furthermore and as discussed before at this forum, Botswana's non-mining sector has performed reasonably well in areas of Agriculture, Construction, Personal Services, Transport and Communications during the period of the crisis. Mining and manufacturing for export did suffer the consequences of the crisis.

3. Global recovery is now apparent with the emerging markets leading the way. Botswana has begun to benefit from higher commodity prices and increased demand for rough diamonds as well.

4. However whilst the outlook is fairly positive, the broad stimulus budget which has played a part in the growth of the non-mining sector is not sustainable in the medium to long term. It is now timely that we refocus our efforts on aggressively pursuing the diversification strategies and development of the Hubs as contained in the Botswana Excellence Strategy. I am advised that the Hubs have made presentations to the private sector and that the private sector has displayed positive interest in participating in the development of the Hubs. Government is committed to the diversification programme of the Excellence Strategy, and Ministries are regularly monitored on the progress that is being made with their relevant Action Items.

5. I have also been informed that the Government Implementation Coordination Office, otherwise known as GICO hosted a brainstorming session titled "Gearing for the Recovery" last week involving senior civil servants and leaders from the private sector with focus on the Excellence Strategy. I understand that this interaction met with great enthusiasm and more of such meetings will be arranged by GICO. It has been decided that GICO who serves as the secretariat for this High Level Consultative Council and the Botswana Economic Advisory Council will not only be responsible for implementation and coordination but shall also take on the responsibility for coordination of the formulation of strategy, and shall henceforth be known as the National Strategy Office.

6. I would like the Ministries to also now methodically share the progress they are making on the implementation of the Excellence Strategy with their private sector counterparts at the HLCC Sectoral meetings. The private sector must play its part in the diversification of the economy and implementation of the Excellence Strategy.

7. The Government has conceptualised a further Economic Diversification Drive to benefit locally based Manufacturers. A major objective or thrust of the Economic Diversification Drive is to promote sustainable production and consumption of locally manufactured goods and services.

8. The initiative would identify economic opportunities in areas where citizens and locally based entrepreneurs have comparative advantage in order to diversify and grow the economy.

9. Ministries and Parastatals have been directed to commence implementation of the promotion of local procurement through preference margins and reservations on the basis of a turnover threshold. The Ministry of Trade and Industry is driving this initiative and will publicise further its modalities.

10. I look forward to seeing the private sector taking advantage of this opportunity of using Government's purchasing power to drive economic diversification. This initiative should foster the expansion and establishment of manufacturing operations with consequent increase in employment.

11. Companies which have been awarded tenders to manufacture products locally but instead import them will be blacklisted. I also look to the private sector to use its own purchasing power to buy locally manufactured products so as to help drive our economic diversification efforts, and look forward to any suggestions from the private sector as to how we could promote this concept.

12. I also expect that BEDIA will focus on encouraging expansion of existing ventures and new investment in manufacturing for local consumption. Such ventures should eventually graduate to serving the export market.

13. It is of great concern that there are some reports that retailers, and perhaps wholesalers, are using the recent 2% increase in VAT to opportunistically increase prices. This will not be tolerated and I would like the Consumer Protection Unit of the Ministry of Trade and Industry to investigate such reports in conjunction with BOCCIM.

14. I am pleased to note that some of the ministries have commenced holding "Pitsos" with relevant sectors. The findings from these Pitsos should be recorded and the progress of the resulting Action Items should be tracked by the relevant HLCC Sectoral meeting to ensure that there is proper follow up on Action Items.

15. I look forward to greater partnership between Government and the Private Sector in pursuing our goals of diversification and employment creation; I believe we have navigated well through the storms of the global financial crisis and even gained a few positives such as lower inflation and lower interest rates. Whilst we have to be vigilant of the so called double dip effects on certain economies around the world such as Greece, we also need to be agile and be able to take advantage of the economic growth of the emerging markets, and not miss out on new investment in the country to ensure sustainable development going forward. Thank you.

NB: In his opening remarks H.E. the President also went on to express his delight at Botswana Tourism's success in taking first prize through its entry of the Okavango at the World Travel and Tourism Conference Awards in Beijing, China.

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