Regional integration vital

Regional integration arises from expanded market access for goods and services in the country.

17 July 2017 | Business

Minister of finance, Calle Schlettwein has highlighted regional integration and trade liberalisation as some ways Namibia could expand her economy.

The minister made the remarks in a statement he delivered at the third annual conference of the Economic Association of Namibia recently.

Schlettwein said the case for regional integration arises from expanded market access for goods and services in the country, increased value shares, productive efficiencies and welfare gains over time.

He said national growth poles for regional integration exists and Namibia should, more than before, reposition its national agenda to advance its regional integration goals.

Schlettwein said the Southern Africa Customs Union is an important point of departure for regional integration for Namibia.

Added to this, the minister said, will be the Grand Tripartite Free Trade Area amongst the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, the East African Community, and Southern African Development Community to widen opportunities in intra-African trade integration.

Namibia can also make use of the opportunities provided by its involvement in the Angola, Namibia and South Africa (ANSA) countries' pact.

“Namibia is strategically located to serve as a gateway in the ANSA configuration, as it is wedged between the two largest economies in the region,” Schlettwein said.

The minister said, for the country to reap benefits from regional integration, there needs to be a designated national strategy to guide strategic interventions within the framework of national development plans.

Industrial capacity, as well as the associated institutional capacity to support the provision of goods and services is also vital for this purpose.

“Availability of a critical mass of skills and national competitiveness across the broad range of production and supply chain is also needed,” he said.

On the growth front, he noted that the year 2017, started off on a cautionary note of weak domestic demand conditions, a relatively flat investment function and slackness in exports.

Schlettwein, however, said there are some positives which make for brighter medium-term prospects.

Amongst these prospects is stability in price, with stable or even falling inflationary levels, while monetary policy has assumed a generally neutral stance.

Output in the primary industries, particularly mining and agriculture have rebounded, while the recovery of commodity prices in the mining sector remains soft, according to Schlettwein.

He noted that a natural hedge for uranium prices in respect of Swakop Uranium Mine promises for increased exports, supported by activity in the off-shore diamond sub-sector.

“We see the momentum on exports and other inflows relative to imports already contributing to the narrowing of the current account deficit. This is further reinforced by the effects of the fiscal consolidation programme,” he said.


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