Joint Statement by Austria and Tunisia

On the occasion of the visit of the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Tunisia, HE Mr. Khemaies Jhinaoui, to Austria, and after fruitful talks with the Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, HE Mr. Sebastian Kurz, the following Joint Statement was adopted:

  • Both sides stressed the longstanding excellent relations between the two countries and their determination to enhance their cooperation in all fields.
  • The Austrian side expressed appreciation for the Tunisian government’s efforts in democratisation, further development of an inclusive society under challenging conditions, internationally recognized by awarding the Nobel price. Both sides discussed the complex situation in the region, combatting instability, terrorism and economic problems, and stressed Tunisia’s important role in North Africa and beyond.
  • Both sides stressed the importance of socioeconomic stability for the success of the Tunisian model of democratic transition and expressed their willingness to further intensify their cooperation in all domains. They emphasized that attracting foreign investment was essential for the Tunisian economy.
  • In this context, both sides also discussed the engagement of Austrian companies in Tunisia, emphasizing the necessity of a stable and secure climate for investment and the creation of jobs by Austrian companies in Tunisia. They further underlined the importance of community development programmes of Austrian investors in Tunisia aimed at increasing the employability of young Tunisians.
  • Both sides are determined to support the positive momentum generated by the International Conference on Investment “Tunisia 2020” and the improvement of the business environment in Tunisia which remains the most competitive site in the region. In this context, the Austrian side has expressed its willingness to further support Austrian direct investment in Tunisia, in particular in view of the advantages and incentives provided by the new investment code which entered into force on 1er April 2017.
  • Both sides recalled the very successful cooperation during Austria´s Chairmanship of the OSCE Mediterranean Group last year, in particular regarding the ministerial-level Mediterranean Conference in Vienna, as well as the workshop in Tunis on youth radicalisation in North Africa.
  • They acknowledged the close cooperation with Tunisia on the situation of youth on both sides of the Mediterranean, including their participation in all aspects of public life, and issues regarding prevention of radicalisation and violent extremism, which serves as an important basis for the focus on those issues during the 2017 Austrian OSCE Chairmanship.
  • The two parties stressed the importance of supporting young entrepreneurship. They also agreed on greater dialogue between Austrian and Tunisian youth and to work together for the implementation the ‘EU-Tunisia Youth Partnership’ initiative launched by the Tunisian President, agreed upon the occasion of the first EU-Tunisia Summit, held in Brussels on 1st December 2016.
  • Both sides touched upon the Austrian EU Presidency in the second half of 2018. In the Southern Neighbourhood, the overarching objective of the EU will continue to be long-term sustainable stability through democratic governance in the region with the EU stepping up her engagement with countries that, such as Tunisia, are implementing meaningful political and economic reforms.
  • The two sides endorsed the results of the Association Council EU-Tunisia (Brussels, 11th May 2017) and held an exchange of views on the future framework of relations between Tunisia and the EU for the period 2018-2020. In this respect, Tunisia reiterated its wish to advance its relations with the European Union in order to reinforce its anchoring in the European socio-economic space.
  • Both sides agreed that the future EU- Tunisia framework of support should reflect the unique and specific democratic experience of Tunisia and, as foreseen by the European Neighbourhood Policy’s review in November 2015, provide for a special and differential treatment to this country in order to help Tunisia to face the enormous transition challenges.
  • Both sides paid particular attention to the various aspects and challenges of irregular migration along the Central Mediterranean route. Smugglers and human traffickers exploit migrants, who risk and often lose their lives. Both sides stressed the paramount importance of disrupting the business model of smugglers and traffickers.
  • In this context, both sides acknowledged the existing technical cooperation on border management issues and reviewed possibilities for further Austrian support for Tunisia’s efforts.
  • Both sides remain committed to the Action Plan agreed at the 11-12th November 2015 Valletta Summit on Migration and consent to continue to support a swift implementation of the aims laid out therein, including on development and poverty eradication; on addressing instability and crisis; on promoting regular migration, inter alia through the opportunities provided by the Red-White-Red Card; on protection and asylum; on preventing and fighting against irregular migration, migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings; on return, readmission and reintegration.
  • Both sides exchanged views on the importance of the “Malta Declaration by the Members of the European Council on the external aspects of migration: addressing the Central Mediterranean route” and the priorities laid down therein.
  • Both sides have been cooperating bilaterally on questions related to asylum, regular and irregular migration for more than forty years and intend to continue and further improve this cooperation.
  • Both sides agreed to deepen and further intensify the cooperation between the two countries at all levels.

Distributed by APO on behalf of Federal Ministry Republic of Austria.

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Regulations for Lottery Funding to help all NGOs

Each year the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) receives over 14 000 applications for funding. The Rand value of the requests exceeds R70 billion from a budget of R1.6 billion, showing that the need of the NGO sector far exceeds what the NLC has to make its contribution to changing lives.

In order to address this, the South African Government approved the amendment of the Lotteries Act and promulgated new regulations in 2013 and 2015.

Some of the changes include: proactive active funding based on NLC research; full-time Distributing Agencies to decide on applications within 150 days; funding is only for activities within South Africa; a cooling-off period between grants to prevent dependency on the NLC for funding; and applicants have to show proof of other funding and their sustainability plans.

Legislation has to be adhered to and any change to legislation is outside the control of the NLC. If any NGO finds the current regulations too prescriptive or restrictive, they need to lobby SA lawmakers through proper channels and not through media reports aimed at garnering sympathy.

Recent reports about the plight of SASCOC has brought the dependency of NGOs on one source of funding, and the cooling off period between grants, to the fore. Such dependency is exactly what the legislation was meant to prevent.

SACCOC has received over R300 million from the NLC since inception of lottery funding in 2000. The most recent grant of R70 million was paid in June 2016 and has to be reported on satisfactorily before any new funding can be considered. The NLC awaits this report. The cooling off period also comes into play because legislation dictates that NGOs can only apply for new funding 12 months after the last payment. The cooling off period ends in June 2017 and is also subject to SASCOC submitting its outstanding report. Any concerns of SASCOC is therefore unwarranted and premature.

The SASCOC CEO is also quoted as saying that his organisation is now relegated to that of a National Federation. This is untrue. The 2016 open call for applications targeted sports bodies from National Federations all the way down to Sports NGOs. There is only one Macro Body for Sports in SA and that is SASCOC. At the time of the advertisement in 2016, SASCOC was not eligible for funding because it had just been paid R70 million in June 2016. It would have been prudent of SASCOC to have asked for clarity from the funder that they are clearly dependent on before taking this to the media.

In previous years, SASCOC was funded for, amongst others, team preparation for international events. National Federations of Sport were also funded for international events. The new regulations do not make provision for activities outside the borders of SA. However, preparation and participation within SA would be available within the applications submitted.

The NLC is committed to meeting its mandate of changing lives in South Africa, within the stipulations of the Lotteries Act and Regulations. NGOs need to also look at how they design their budgets and to look at cutting costs given the limited funds available.

Distributed by APO on behalf of The Department of Trade and Industry, South Africa.

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IMF Staff Completes 2017 Article IV Visit to South Africa

  • South Africa’s rate of real GDP growth is projected at 1 percent in 2017 thanks to a resumption of solid agricultural production as the drought abates, and an increase in mining output prompted by a moderate rebound in the prices of South Africa’s commodity exports.
  • Headline inflation is expected to return below 6 percent in the second half of 2017 and in 2018, making it appropriate for policy rates to remain on hold, and for the central bank to stand ready to increase rates if inflation expectations were to rise.
  • With limited room for stimulus through macroeconomic policies, the priority to stimulate economic growth and job creation rests with structural reforms, notably in product and service markets and in the labor market.

An International Monetary Fund staff team led by Mr. Paolo Mauro visited Pretoria, Johannesburg, and Durban from May 3 to May 16, to conduct the 2017 Article IV consultation discussions with South Africa.

At the conclusion of the visit, Mr. Mauro made the following statement:

“Following last year’s near-stagnation, there are signs that a modest improvement in the pace of economic growth is underway. The rate of real GDP growth is projected at 1 percent in 2017. The main factors underlying the pickup in economic activity this year are a resumption of solid agricultural production as the drought abates, and an increase in mining output prompted by a moderate rebound in the prices of South Africa’s commodity exports. The pace of recovery this year and the next is unlikely to prevent a further increase in unemployment and a continued decline in per capita incomes.

“Against the background of declining business and consumer confidence and rising impatience with longstanding inequalities, the authorities face the dual challenge of reigniting growth and rendering it more inclusive. Addressing that challenge will require early action through an initial set of policy measures to foster entry of new firms in product and service markets and to enhance flexibility in the labor market, as well as clear and consistent communication of the strategy to be pursued. In this regard, staff welcomes the authorities’ recent reaffirmation of their budget objectives as approved by parliament. Implementation of the budget and of an initial set of reforms will be necessary to improve confidence in the next few months.

“In view of the rising public debt ratio, fiscal policy is appropriately focused on maintaining medium-term debt sustainability. To reduce the likelihood of a sizable increase in the cost of government borrowing, a mild but steady reduction in the fiscal deficit would be advisable during the next few years. In addition, reforms of public enterprises would reassure investors and the public at large, with associated benefits for public finances and economic efficiency. Such reforms should focus on stronger governance, enhanced transparency and imposition of penalties for failures to adhere to public procurement guidelines, and quantification of public service obligations.

“Under the current stance of monetary policy, headline inflation is expected to return only somewhat below 6 percent in the second half of 2017 and in 2018. In line with the inflation targeting framework, it would thus be appropriate for policy rates to remain on hold, and for the central bank to stand ready to increase rates if inflation expectations were to rise.

“With limited room for stimulus through macroeconomic policies, the priority to stimulate economic growth and job creation rests with structural reforms, notably in product and service markets and in the labor market. The focus should be on sectors that provide crucial inputs for most firms in the economy, such as power generation, telecommunications, transportation, and financial services for small-and medium-sized enterprises.”

The team met with Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, South African Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago; senior officials of the National Treasury, South African Reserve Bank, and other government departments; the Congress of South African Trade Unions; and financial market and business representatives.

Distributed by APO on behalf of International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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Inauguration of the extension project of the Ridge Hospital in Accra

The official commissioning of the first phase of Accra Ridge Hospital modernization project took place on Wednesday the 17th of May 2017 in the presence of the ambassador of France to Ghana, HE François Pujolas, his American counterpart HE Robert P. Jackson, the Health Minister Kwaku Agyeman-Manu and the traditional chiefs. This is a significant project for both Ghanaian healthcare and Bouygues, the French company in charge of the construction in collaboration with APHP (Public Assistance of Paris Hospitals). The “green” hospital is set to become the flagship of modern surgery in West Africa.

France expertise available in key sectors of Ghana’s development

Started in March 2014, the first phase of the development process of the Ridge Hospital in Accra has been completed. This project is symbolic for both the French company Bouygues, in charge of the construction works in cooperation with Public Assistance of Paris Hospitals, and for Ghanaian medical healthcare as well. This “green” hospital will become the flagship of modern surgery in West Africa.

France has a leading range of services in the healthcare sector ranging from the pharmaceutical industry to hospital management, construction, hospitalization of foreign patients in French hospitals and consulting. The inauguration which took place on Wednesday 17th May, involved the first phase of the project with a capacity of 420 beds. The final phase of this modernization plan is scheduled to begin soon. In the end, the facility will have 620 beds, as well as 12 operating rooms and a state-of-the-art maternity center. The French Ambassador in his speech noted that “Projects of this nature enhance the attractiveness of Ghana, contributing in particular to increasing FDIs to the country”.

The Bouygues Company has also played an important role in this project. The French company, represented by its American and Ghanaian subsidiaries, has been responsible for designing, supplying equipment and training, covering the entire construction of this public hospital from architecture to maintenance. The project, funded mainly by the United States, is indicative of the development and modernization of medicine in Ghana.

A major contribution to sustainable development in Ghana

As the French Ambassador said; “This project is emblematic of the path towards sustainable development taken by Ghana”. This new facility will enhance social justice, one of the three pillars of sustainable development, while “improving the health and well-being of the population” -the 3rd SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) on the list of 17 SDGs adopted by the United Nations two years ago. This facility will save more lives than before and will take better care of patients.

Economic development: Furthermore, this project will also bring important economic advantages. It enabled the creation of direct and indirect jobs during the implementation of the project and will continue to produce them within the hospital, well after this inauguration. Improving health also contributes to increase the productivity of the country.

Environmental protection: Finally, this facility has received LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, attesting to the success of a project in compliance with the best environmental standards (eco-design, waste management, resource efficiency…). This will be the first “green” hospital on the African continent.

Distributed by APO on behalf of Embassy of France to Ghana.

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