By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK SADC member countries need to redouble their efforts in reducing poverty to achieve the growth target needed for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the regional grouping’s Chairperson of the Council of Ministers, Baledzi Gaolathe, has said. Although SADC’s aggregate GDP is more than double that of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and is equivalent to more than half the aggregate of the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa, there are some economic imbalances among member states. A large majority of the member states continued to record economic growth rates of below 7 percent, the latter needed to attain the MDGs, said Gaolathe. Despite these economic imbalances, Gaolathe noted that the region could still reap the gains of regional economic integration, provided insufficient infrastructure and adverse weather conditions are addressed. Some of the key infrastructure that the region needs are roads, rail, information, and communication technology, energy, ports, freight capacity and availability of water. As a result of a number of economic reforms that the grouping embarked upon are real GDP growth, which has grown from 3.2 percent in 2003 to 4.1 percent in 2004. SADC, which has a population of approximately 230 million inhabitants, has a combined GDP of over US$230 billion (N$1380 billion). On top of this, two thirds of member states registered single digit inflation rates. Most importantly, said the chairperson, who is also the Minister of Finance and Development Planning of Botswana, the region’s economic giant recorded the lowest inflation rate in 2004. The regional economy is dominated by South Africa, whose GDP accounts for 75 percent of the overall GDP of SADC. Contributing to this growth are the deepening of sound economic macro-economic reforms, improved prices for major export commodities and improvements in agricultural production. But noting that some states still fall short of the growth needed, the minister urged all member states to harness all available resources to achieve higher growth rates in an effort to meet the MDGs. Realising that the region is endowed with natural resources such as minerals and fisheries, SADC is working towards harmonising policies to create a conducive environment for the private sector to take a leading role in the development of the region with the government paying the role of catalyst by providing the enabling environment through the provision of infrastructure such as education, health facilities, water and electricity and also telecommunications.
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