Accra, Jan 16, GNA - Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Executive Secretary of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said on Sunday that the failure of Member States to translate ECOWAS policies into national development programmes was holding back the economic development of the sub-region.
He said although member states had adopted various regional policies that cut across all the sectors to enhance the region's development, these policies had not found expression in the development agenda of member countries.
"Nowhere in the region can regional integration been seen as top national priority. Not even in the countries where a whole government Ministry for regional integration exists," Dr Chambas told delegates in his 2004 annual report at the opening of the 53rd session of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers.
"Institutionally, government business is not being organized and conducted with the primary objective of meeting the obligations of the ECOWAS integration agenda," he added.
The two-day session on the theme: "West African Integration Perspectives-Searching for a New Development Model," will consider the annual report of the Executive Secretary, and the report on the status of ratification of the ECOWAS revised treaty, Protocols and Conventions. Dr Chambas said the prevailing institutional arrangements at the various national levels did not ensure a centralized approach and an effective coordination of ECOWAS, NEPAD and national development issues, affecting negatively both the regional integration and development processes.
"The challenge before us, over the next few years, is for West Africa to show concrete proof of its commitment to regional integration."
Member states are expected to consolidate a free trade area and establish a common external tariff regime by the end of 2007.
In this direction, Dr Chambas said ECOWAS expected each member state to either replace completely or adapt substantially national policies in line with the common regional policies to ensure coherence and efficiency in the management of the regional economy.
"This will reinforce the ECOWAS strategy of establishing coherence and synergy between the regional integration process, national long-term development policies, the NEPAD initiative and the thrust of external assistance from our development partners," he said.
"It is our collective responsibility to take the necessary steps to ensure that Community acts and decisions are implemented so that ECOWAS can make the expected contribution to the development of the region," he added.
Dr Kofi Konadu Apraku, Chairman of Council of Ministers reiterated the need for lowering of barriers to trade and the implementation of the various trade protocols to ensure free movement of persons and goods to complement efforts at monetary union.
"The year 2005 should be viewed as the target year for the achievement of the West African sub-region's crucial integration programmes," he added.