His Excellency Mr. Hipólito Mejía Domínguez
I wish to express our thanks to the people and Government of Mexico, to its president Mr. Vicente Fox for the very warm welcome extended to us and express our support in celebrating the birthday of Benito Juarez.
We express our congratulations also to the Secretary-General of the United Nations for enabling this event to take place despite enormous financial failures which everyday circulate around the world for the great majority of the developing countries. One of the most important sources of financing to improve the quality of the life of the poor remains international cooperation and, most especially, bilateral and multilateral banking. In that regard, the importance given to economic growth by international organizations was well founded.
Therefore, I would like to share some ideas with you relating to my specialty as President of a small agricultural farming country and agricultural producer and as a former Minister of agriculture and now President of my Republic. I repeat then, I wish to reiterate the importance of financing for agriculture and world development as a strategic topic that needs to be among the new priorities to be placed on the agendas of the international organizations. We have had a very interesting experience in the first year of our government. We have succeeded in increasing agricultural production by 8.3%, translating into an increase in the growth of the national economy by 2.7 %. Clearly, this gives us an experience worth sharing with you. In addition, our experience has meant that the reforms of our rural people who have faced poverty, as well as a series of problems also familiar to all of you, cannot be lopsided by international organizations as we look at world development as a highly important factor.
Something that is highly important, an explanation of the reasons why our people are leaving the land, has been translated into dramatic reduction in world financing that we experienced in recent decades - the decades of the 70ís and 80ís - of the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank. They deducted approximately 22% of their portfolio of the Latin-American Caribbean loans and, in recent decades, this has declined significantly to 6.6%, and the present trend is for it to decline further.
This plummeting of agricultural financing clearly concurs with the statement made by the UN through the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) that combating the fight against poverty is not achieving positive results in the population. The Dominican Republic at this time, and Iím speaking as a spokesman here, is occupying the chairmanship of the ACP countries at the Summit that receives technical and financial assistance from the European Union.
The purpose of this conference provides an opportunity to express some ideas on behalf of the seventy-eight countries that constitute the ACP Group, which constitutes two-thirds of the members of the World Trade Organization and more than half of the members of the United Nations. In this dialogue for development we cannot lose sight of the fact that severe financial restrictions and strong distortions in the operation of markets constitute at times insurmountable obstacles to reaching competitiveness among our nations. Technical advancement and the consequent improvement of productivity are essential pillars in promoting the competitiveness of the ACP countries. However, this process, like none other, requires support from the international financial system to renew and develop productive infrastructure made up of systems of irrigation, technological innovation, new technologies, credit, road construction and commercial infrastructure. International financing should contribute to introducing to countries with agricultural potential, as is the case of my country and the ACP countries, a new technology upon which competitiveness in the world today depends. The ACP countries are open to listening to recommendations from multilateral financing organizations in order to agree on modernization programmes for agricultural structures to make it more efficient and competitive.
We are seeing in the world today a new, intensive and knowledge-based form of agriculture. Agriculture adapts very well to the conditions of our countries, where population density is threatening to destroy natural resources and the environment. New agricultural technologies cannot only help to enhance the productivity of our economies, but also to make rational and efficient use of scarce resources. Greenhouse agriculture, genetic engineering and specific forms of irrigation enables the small farmer with some resources in varied environments by using highly productive methods to produce enough food for all. Advances in phytosanitary biological control systems and integrated management of plagues in the development of biotechnology are permitting the production of foods that are increasingly safe for human health. In the year 2015, 25 per cent of agriculturally-based products of developed countries will be organically grown. They, undoubtedly, will be the countries that are best equipped to so.
Development of forestry in its various aspects - horticulture, dairy and meat production, organic farming, ecotourism, small rural business and crafts are excellent opportunities -on which a better future could be built for our ACP countries.
A transparent and just system of trade for the ACP countries without excessive protectionism and practice by large developing countries is an important condition for our development. We can avoid globalization becoming a phenomenon that deepens poverty and the difficulties of our peoples only with just agreements and the guarantee that the majority of our nationsí populations will receive tangible benefits from this opening up. Globalization should be a two-way street. It should send clear and transparent signals. For the ACP countries the initiatives that seek to alleviate the external debt and its conversion into programmes of economic development and support must be highly beneficial in their impact in order to diminish poverty.
I wish to reiterate what I have said in all international forums: It is urgent that we find solutions now for our neighbour and fraternal country of Haiti, which requires urgent assistance today.
* The text of this statement has been transcribed from audio recordings as the original was not submitted to the Secretariat.