We fund trade advisors to work in regional organisations like the Southern African Development Community or government ministries to help facilitate the integration of African Caribbean and Pacific countries in the global trading system.
Anselmo Nhara, is one such regional trade policy advisor for the SADC funded by us and the European commission. He is part of a team of advisers who have identified organically grown products as potentially lucrative exports for countries in Southern Africa that are aiming to boost their competitiveness in the European market.
In a move to expand their traditional product range, these countries hope to benefit from the high demand for organic fruits and vegetables which has increased across Europe in recent years. Horticultural products, particularly flowers, have also been earmarked as other exports for these countries to consider trading.
"It is important for countries to diversify their range of exports in order to reduce over-reliance on a few product lines. If the price of one commodity goes down this will have a serious knock-on effect on a country's economy," says Anselmo Nhara, a Regional Trade Policy Adv iser from the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
"By increasing your range of exports you cushion yourself from this potential risk," he explains. "There are already plans under way to have regional laboratories set up to certify the quality of these products so they meet European Union standards."
As part of their efforts to encourage rural landowners to farm more of their land, Botswana’s Ministry of Agriculture approached the Commonwealth Secretariat for help in training farmers to manage their farm businesses more effectively.
The aim of the training, which took place throughout 2007, was to assist farmers to improve their farm management skills, especially farm business planning and market analysis, which will assist them to identify opportunities to sell various produce in both national and international markets. “It is especially important for farmers to use their training now because of the world food crisis” – Kelebonye Tsheboeng, Principal Agricultural Economist at Botswana’s Ministry of Agriculture.
Because this training could not logically be given to each farmer dotted around rural areas, the Secretariat’s teaching targeted extension officers, who were then placed across the country by the Ministry of Agriculture to pass on the basic skills of business management to farmers. They were taught to identify what products there is a market for; the level of demand; how to keep records; and how to produce business plans.
“The extension officers continue to train farmers to this day. They teach them to identify available resources and what they should focus on producing depending on the local environment and demand,” explains Boitumelo Makuyana, Principal Agricultural Economist at the Ministry of Agriculture.
The Commonwealth Secretariat has provided legal advice and assistance to the Maldives Government on its maritime boundaries and other issues relating to the law of the sea. We are working alongside the Government of Maldives to establish maritime boundaries that are consistent with international law, as set out in this 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This Convention is a multilateral treaty, which regulates all aspects of the use of ocean space including rights of navigation – both civil and naval – the exploitation of living and non-living marine resources, the protection of the marine environment and the conduct of marine scientific research.
We are providing technical assistance to help set up a modern free economic trade zone in a bid to diversify Botswana’s economy. It is anticipated that establishment of the Free Zone (FZ)/Special Economic Zone (SEZ) will help attract more investment into the country, and reduce Botswana’s economic dependence on its mining sector, notably diamonds. FZs/SEZs are designated areas within a country where barriers to trade including tariffs as well as bureaucratic requirements are eliminated or minimised in the hope of attracting new business and foreign investment.
As part of its assistance, the Secretariat is providing a legal expert who will work with the Government of Botswana to prepare a draft policy on FZs/SEZs that spells out Botswana’s engagement with its neighbours, as well as the enactment of legislation that is consistent with commitments undertaken in the context of the World Trade Organization Agreements as well as regional arrangements, most notably, the Southern African Customs Union and Southern African Development Community.
With rice prices rising as demand continues to outstrip supply, a Commonwealth Secretariat publication offers an insight into its potential consequences on poverty and welfare in rice-dependent countries.
‘Global Rice and Agricultural Trade Liberalisation: Poverty and welfare implications for South Asia’ primarily aims to explore the likely consequences of rice and agricultural trade liberalisation in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
It finds that liberalisation measures such as the withdrawal of domestic support and export subsidies, would trigger price rise in the world market.
Using detailed data and statistical analysis the book shows that if rice prices rise by just about 10 to 12 per cent, Bangladesh – the world’s fourth biggest rice-consuming country where more than 60 per cent of the daily calorie intake is due to rice alone - would see poverty rising by about 1.5 percentage points. With a population of 140 million, this would lead to an additional 400,000 households falling into poverty.
Notwithstanding the current crisis, the Secretariat publication suggests that the distribution of gains from future rice and agricultural trade liberalisation are to be highly skewed across countries - there will be both winners and losers among the developing nations. The book also demonstrates uneven distributional consequences among different social groups within individual countries.
Strategies that Commonwealth countries can adopt to help them produce and sell goods and services more efficiently were discussed at a workshop held in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It provided a platform to exchange approaches, opportunities and challenges in developing and implementing strategies to enhance export competitiveness and also facilitate networking and sharing among participants.
This workshop raised the awareness and understanding of competitiveness which will lead to a more robust articulation of competitiveness issues. This is an important precursor to developing and implementing strategies for enhanced competitiveness,” she stated.
Small island states including Maldives and Seychelles brought valuable perspectives on competitiveness to discussions and their efforts to position themselves both at the regional and global arena during the workshop.
Between 2004 and 2007, the Secretariat worked with the University of Malta to develop an Economic Resilience Index and the Economic Resilience framework that can assist Small States in their efforts to cope with their inherent vulnerability. The Secretariat is currently conducting a pilot project which examines the resilience framework of small states, identifying gaps in the country’s framework and suggesting technical assistance projects that can be implemented by small states to build their resilience.
For nearly 50 years, local and international energy companies drilled for oil in Belize, but without significant findings, they eventually left. A decade of relative inactivity followed until 2005, when Belize Natural Energy discovered potentially lucrative oil fields in Spanish Lookout in Western Belize, prompting a resurgence of exploration.
On 31 August 2007, the House of Representatives in Belize approved the establishment of a Petroleum Revenue Management Fund. The Fund aims to ensure transparent collection of petroleum revenues, proper investment policy of the accumulated funds as well as regulating the payments made to the State Budget.
The design and ‘engineering’ of this Fund as well as the drafting of the Law that sets it up were developed by the Commonwealth Secretariat.
“We now have a law that clearly spells out how these funds will be managed, invested and spent, leaving very little room for discretionary decision-making by the political party of the day. This takes transparency and accountability to a completely new level,” says John Briceño, former Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment in Belize, who was responsible for petroleum in Belize for nine years.