SACU to lose $680 million in revenues

Staff Writer
Customs revenues that accrue from member-countries of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) are projected to drop by an estimated P5.5 billion (US$680 million) this year, it has emerged from Japan's TICAD IV conference here.

SACU, which groups together Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia and South Africa in the regional trade bloc, will experience the huge decline in customs revenues over the 2008/09 financial year due to the deepening global downturn, South Africa's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sue van der Merwe, said on Sunday.

Speaking at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) Ministerial Follow-up Meeting, van der Merwe said a rapid decline of between 8 to 12 percent in customs revenues over the medium-term, SACU members are also experiencing a slowdown in most key sectors.

"But the statistical account does not reflect the potential human and social costs of the crisis on our economies," she said.

Africa's commodity-dependent economies, including Botswana, have been the hardest-hit by the global recession.

In the 2006/2007 financial year, Botswana raked P6.6 billion in SACU revenue pool receipts. This was attributed to the growth in the value of imports and excisable goods into the SACU area which was largely driven by rising international commodity prices.

Countries like Angola and Zambia recorded impressive growth rates over the past years as a result of the rise in copper and oil prices.

"However, with the sharp decrease in the prices of commodities, both Angola and Zambia's

economies have come under pressure," the South African minister said.

Her counterpart from Lesotho, Mohlabi Tsekoa, said Africa continues to be "be-devilled by a myriad of challenges" that erode some of the gains the continent made in the past 10 years.

Tsekoa said the crisis also threatens stability, increases abject poverty and HIV/AIDS. He called on Japan to help the African countries to mitigate the impact of the crisis.The Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Baledzi Gaolathe, told the delegates that the impact of the global financial and economic crisis on Africa's broad development agenda cannot be overstated.

"Attaining the Millennium Development Goals, especially those in education, health and environmental protection, is diminishing by the day," Gaolathe said.He said the continent lacks the capacity and resources to address the challenges emanating from the financial crisis and the global economic downturn.

African ministers at the conference called on G20 leaders meeting in London on April 2 to approach Africa's economic crisis with the same urgency that they treat their domestic economies.

Japan has agreed to convey Africa's views on the crisis to the G20 meeting. Only South Africa from the African continent is afforded representation at the group that represents the wealthiest economies.



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