Speech by Premier Helen Zille at the Fifth Regional Leaders' Summit
Mr. Horst Seehofer, Minister President of the Free State of Bavaria
Mr. Jiang Daming, Governor of Shandong
Dr. Josef Puhringer, Governor of Upper Austria
Ms. Monique Gagnon-Tremblay, Minister of International Relations
Minister responsible for La Francophonie
Mr. Trey Childress, Chief Operating Officer, State of Georgia
Members of the Executive Council of the Western Cape
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Good morning and welcome to the Fifth Regional Leaders Summit.
We are here today to renew the strategic partnerships developed over the last eight years since the first Regional Leaders Summit in Bavaria in 2002. In doing so, we hope to chart a new course for regional co-operation, particularly as it relates to transport and food security.
All of us here are mindful of the role that such partnerships can and must play if we are to increase our global competitiveness. We believe that the world is flat not in a literal sense of course but flat because of the leveling effect of globalisation.
And this is a truly global gathering. Represented here are the four points of the compass west, east, north and south. We represent some 170 million people. We have a foothold in five continents, and there is potential for us to expand even further.
But the real value of this Summit lays not so much in the geographic spread of its member states, but in the diversity of the regions we represent. We are a melting pot of different cultures and belief systems. Some of us are part of the developed world and some of us are still developing.
This means that there is a great deal we can learn from each other. But, whatever our differences, we all share a common purpose; to leverage the benefits of global partnerships for the people we serve.
Before I share some of our thinking as it relates to integrated transport and food security, let me begin by sharing our vision for the Western Cape, particularly as it relates to the themes of this Summit.
Overall, we want to build what we call an open, opportunity society for all in the Western Cape. In such a society, people are given the space to live the life they value. It is based on transparency, accountability and the rule of law. And it is designed to give people the chance to make a success of their lives, whatever the circumstances of their birth.
For us the state has a key role to play in economic development. But it is not an interfering state. It is not a state that picks winners. And it is not a state that encourages a culture of dependency.
Instead, the state must create an enabling environment for job-creating economic growth. Experience from across the world has shown us that this is the most effective and sustainable way out of poverty. But this does not mean that people should be left to their own devices, or should be free to starve. In the open, opportunity society the state has a duty to do for people what they cannot do for themselves.
I am aware that not every member state represented here shares every element of our vision or political philosophy. But I think it is important for us to understand the philosophical underpinnings that inform all our policies and strategic focus in government. And, from what I learned yesterday at the bilateral interactions with all of you, there is a great deal that we all share in common.
Let me start with transport.
All of us agree that efficient public transport systems are integrated ones. And we all agree that reducing dependence on private vehicle travel is essential if we are to reduce the congestion that hampers productivity and pollutes the air we breathe, contributing to climate change.
The days of one person travelling to work by themselves in a car are numbered. It is simply unsustainable.
But before we introduce sticks, we want to offer people carrots incentives for people to change behaviour. This is why our policy in the Western Cape is designed primarily to upgrade our transport infrastructure to make it more convenient, cheaper and reliable.
The response to reduce congestion in the past was to build more lanes and roads. But international experience has shown that building new roads and adding new lanes simply encourages more cars. This is why we are not going to build any new major roads for the next four years. Funds earmarked for new roads will instead be invested in public transport.
I will be the first to admit that our plans are still very much at a nascent stage. This is why the interactions at this Summit are so important for us. Indeed, integrated transport is a policy area where we hope to learn from you, our partners.
In our bilateral discussions yesterday I learned of a number of transport initiatives in the various regions that we should consider emulating here in the Western Cape.
I was interested to hear that Bavaria shares our goal of encouraging more people to use rail instead of roads and has embarked on a strategy to achieve this. We have already sent some of our staff to Bavaria to learn from what they are doing there.
And I know that Georgia is already at an advanced stage in terms of integrating its transport system.
Quebecs focus on supporting public transportation in rural areas is something that we would very much like to study given the number of people in the Western Cape who live beyond the urban edge.
We would also like to find out more about what Shandong has done to cut congestion, given the size of its population and the rate at which its economy has grown over the last few years.
And finally, we look forward to learning from Upper Austria which I understand has a special focus on developing emission-free transport.
Food security defined as the availability of food and one's access to it is the second topic for discussion at this summit. It is an issue that will feature on the global agenda more and more as a result of population growth and the impact of climate change on agriculture.
This is of concern to all of us given the key role that agriculture plays in each one of our economies. In the Western Cape, agriculture brings in 40% of all export revenue and employs 200 000 people. It is therefore integral to maximising economic growth and creating job opportunities in the province.
Over the next five years, we aim to increase agricultural production through research and financial support to farmers. We also have a key role to play in assisting farmers to access international markets. I hope that the relationships built through this Summit will go some way to helping us achieve this.
In this regard, we are encouraged by the success of Bavarias successful branding of itself as a global agricultural hub. This chimes with our own rebranding exercise known as Future Cape which is designed to attract skills and investment by showcasing our most marketable attributes.
We also want to encourage more people to take up farming and will continue to offer training and financial support to students who study agriculture. We want to encourage the best, most innovative young minds to consider farming as a career. The agricultural innovation centre in Georgia which supports small agribusiness is something that we would like to look at replicating here. We would also like to study the world class farmer support programmes that have been implemented in Upper Austria.
But we understand that we cannot boost our agriculture sector and therefore food security if we do not mitigate the effects of climate change, particularly drought. This year, the Western Cape experienced the worst drought in over 100 years with adverse effects for local food producers, particularly dairy and vegetable farmers.
In response to the increasingly dry conditions, we built the Sedgefield desalination plant in the eastern part of the province to produce fresh water for up to 11,000 households. This is something we would like to replicate in other parts of the province and on a greater scale. In this regard, I would very much to hear more about the Shandong desalination plant which I believe will process 100,000 cubic metres per day enough water for half a million people.
Just as water is necessary for our survival, we in the Western Cape could not imagine life without the fine wines we produce in our province. And we dont want to keep them all to ourselves. This is why we would like to engage further with all of you particularly those regions that are already net importers of wine such as Quebec, as well as those where the market potential is vast such as Shandong.
In conclusion, let me declare this plenary session open. I look forward to hearing the report backs from the bilaterals and business chambers yesterday, and hearing more about each regions vision going forward.
But most of all, I look forward to finalising through deliberation and discussion the projects and proposals that will form the basis of our strategic partnerships for the next two years until we meet again.
I am particularly pleased that, for the first time, there will be a Secretariat that will monitor and evaluate the implementation of these projects. I am a firm believer in any mechanism that encourages accountability. I know from experience that projects have a much better chance of succeeding if they are driven every step of the way by a project manager who takes responsibility for their success or failure.
Let us make sure that we as the political heads of the regions we represent are able to report back in two years time on the concrete outcomes of these deliberations.