Statement delivered by Eugene Owusu Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative At the Launch of the Diagnostic Trade Integration Study February 16 2016 Juba Grand Hotel, Juba, South SudanFeb 16, 2016
Hon. Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning
Hon. Undersecretary, Ministry of Trade, Industry and Investment
Managing Director, Ebony Centre for Strategic Studies
Secretary General, South Sudan EAC Accession Negotiation Secretariat
Ladies and gentlemen
I would like to start by thanking, on behalf of UNDP, the Ministry of Trade and Industry for organizing the launch of the first ever South Sudan Diagnostic Trade Integration Study (DTIS), and for inviting me to join the proceedings.
I believe I speak for all my colleagues at UNDP, when I say that we are proud to be associated with this historic event. Our presence is not just a reminder of our contribution, but also a symbol of our partnership.
As we express our support for government, we wish to extend our appreciation for all who supported the study. We are delighted that this event would be instrumental in shaping our evolving and diverse partnership as we head into the future.
We are gathered here today at a time of immense opportunity and challenge for this young nation. At a time when attention seems to be on the implementation of the peace agreement and addressing the unfolding humanitarian challenge, it is gratifying to see that the leadership of this nation is also thinking about the long term development of this country.
We do not only need a government of national unity; we need to restore economic dynamism. South Sudan’s survival is no longer a choice between conquest and annexation; it is now a choice between poverty, marginalization and prosperity. We must invest in trade to secure durable peace. Economic vitality is central to pulling South Sudan out of the vortex of conflict and putting the country on a sustainable path towards peace.
As an African, our development history journey tells us that it would have been easy for South Sudan to shut down the curtains and embark on inward looking policies. That is an option this country had. But from the commissioning to the launching of this report, I believe it is not an option that the leadership of this country wishes to take.
Certainly South Sudan cannot afford to isolate itself from the rest of the world. This country must want trade and not just aid.
Excellences, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
Why does the study matter and why now more than ever?
The sombre reality that confronts South Sudan today demands bold, innovative and aggressive action. Some would say we need voodoo/unconventional economics to navigate these difficult times. Yes, the economy is not in good shape as a result of a combination of conflict, inappropriate policy choices and a difficult global economy. We all do know for example, that collapsed oil prices have severely reduced government revenue and access to development aid is a real and difficult challenge.
But South Sudan needs and must seek to turn the current crisis into an opportunity to reinvent governance in this country. The current challenges call for South Sudan to step up its game and single-mindedly pursue the necessary structural reforms needed to place the economy and the country as a whole on a sustainable development pathway.
With the launch of the study, we now need to move from analysis to action. Opportunities are plenty. South Sudan has the late comer’s advantage of learning from and avoiding the mistakes of countries in similar conditions.
This country is endowed with abundant and virgin fertile agricultural land, untapped water, forestry, natural resources and the blessings of a predominantly youthful population.
With the right mix of policies, and a sense of purposefulness and determination similar to what got this country its independence, South Sudan can extricate itself out of the economic challenges that confront it today. And enhanced trade that leverages this country’s comparative and competitive advantages must be a central feature of economic policy making.
In this regard, it is great to see that strong effort is being made by government to become a member of the East African Community.
But while this is vital and necessary, it is absolutely not sufficient in itself. A number of structural and macroeconomic policy reforms are still urgently needed to make a true difference. Herein resides the importance of this study.
Embarking on long term structural reforms requires a thoughtful approach anchored in cutting edge diagnostic work. Through this study, we are now able to identify what corrective and transformational measures could be adopted to address the economic situation, by building the domestic competitive and comparative advantage and export capabilities of South Sudan.
As UNDP we are pleased by the content of the study and its strong human development based approach. Trade is not just about oil and big business. It is also about the women who sell dry fish in the market, the young boy who dreams of opening his own company and the girl who dreams of owning a hotel.
The trade we talk about is not just making South Sudan competitive, it also about making South Sudan attractive.
Excellences, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
As we seek to appreciate the content of the study and reflect on the path forward, allow me to share some perspectives;
For all of us as partners, this study cannot be a reference document to use to bash government for some of the omission or mistakes made. It is a best practice for policy formulation based on joined-up research, analysis and wider consultation.
The study is not about apportioning blame; it is about articulating a felt need and it presents the optimal entry point for support to enhance trade. It is an invaluable repository of data and analysis. It also provides guidance on how South Sudan can overcome the supply side constraints to trade.
It is about how the country can mainstream trade in its national development strategies and leverage its competitive and comparative advantage, in using trade as a powerful engine of inclusive growth, employment generation, reduction of poverty and inequalities in the country.
The two action matrices make the DTIS a strong action oriented framework that can guide sound trade policies, design programme support and channelling of multilateral trade related development assistance in the country.
I am particularly pleased to note that this study is not a collection of policy prescriptions from the international community on what needs to be done, how it needs to be done and by whom. But rather that it is a tool and a guide for mutual accountability based on differentiated responsibilities.
The study provides an opportunity for enhanced partnership based on a common understanding of what the challenges are, what are possible solutions and a shared expectation of what success would look like.
Excellences, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
From our perspective as UNDP taking forward the recommendations of this study is all about division of labour and the sharing of responsibilities premised on a range of partnerships. For this reason, please allow me to outline some of the opportunities which could improve and enhance our partnership going forward.
The UN Country Team has just elaborated an Interim Cooperation Framework to provide support to South Sudan. The proposed package of support, which amongst others includes reinvigoration of the local economy, strengthening social services for the most vulnerable and enhancing the resilience of communities, is expected to enhance the competitiveness of South Sudan. The proposed support from the UN sits well with some of the recommendations of the study.
Second UNDP is in the process of developing a programme on entrepreneurship. I am a strong champion of fostering entrepreneurship and empowering the South Sudanese women and youth jointly through the efforts of government and the private sector in particular, and in my view, this should form part of the policy mix which needs to be operationalised.
UNDP has been a partner of the EIF along with agencies including the World Bank since its inception and will continue to work shoulder to shoulder with the Government and people of South Sudan to ensure the implementation of the report.
Excellencies, Disntinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
As indicated earlier, this event is not only about diagnosing the challenges we face. Indeed its importance rests on how we move forward. So, yes, we should be mindful of the past, worried about the present and acknowledge the mistakes we have made, but we cannot ignore the reality we find ourselves facing. We cannot just hope the tide of the global economy will one day swing to our favour. We have to harness it on our terms.
We must lift our eyes beyond the dangers of today to the hopes of tomorrow. We need not dwell too much on the difficulties but rather focus on what interventions, capacities and strategies are needed to navigate the challenging context and optimise emerging opportunities.
Doing so demands innovation, it requires dynamism, flexibility and the spirit of entrepreneurship, and last but not least information, knowledge, research and innovation.
This is what this study is about, making South Sudan an attractive and competitive member of the global community. And helping South Sudan optimise its potential for transformational development, to enable the people of this young country live a life of prosperity.
I thank you