>From Kwasi Kpodo, GNA Special Correspondent, Niamey.
Niger, Jan 08, GNA - ECOWAS Executive Secretary Mohamed Ibn Chambas has urged greater commitment by member countries to adopt regional approach to economic development as a means of achieving their Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of halving poverty by 2015.
He said while some of the countries were pursuing creditable reforms towards development, the continued unstable political situation in parts of the region, coupled with drought and food crises, continued to militate against the attainment of the growth rate of at least 7% required for the attainment of the eight MDGs on schedule.
"The policies of member states are pointed in the right direction. However, we need to redouble our efforts in West Africa if the region is to develop into a middle income economy and if our people are to escape the poverty trap," Dr Chambas told the opening meeting of the Council of Ministers of the sub regional body in Niamey.
The West African economy grew by 5% in 2004 and is predicted to achieve the same level in 2005.
However, a report of an evaluation conducted in 2005 showed that all member states "run the risk of not achieving" most of the eight MDGs on schedule.
Dr Chambas expressed the hope that growth would increase as a result of improved macroeconomic stability and the easing of the external debt burden through the debt relief package offered by the Paris Club of Creditors.
This is however contingent on improvements in the fragile political situation, particularly in the Ivory Coast and Guinea Bissau. He suggested that member states formulate their overall economic policy within a medium-term expenditure framework and avoid unsustainable long-term expenditure commitments in order to reduce the impact of uncertainties of the world economy such oil price fluctuations.
The meeting of the Council of Ministers, the statutory administrative policy making body of ECOWAS, is expected to approve the 2006 work programme and the budget for the community as well as prepare the session of the next ECOWAS Authority.
High among the proposals to be considered by the Council in Niamey are the transformation of the Executive Secretariat into a Commission and the reappointment of Dr Chambas for a second four-year term. So far there has been no objection to a proposal to reappoint Dr Chambas, whose performance has been commended by Council members and staff at the Secretariat. Also on the agenda of Thursday's summit of Heads of State is the election of chairman of the Authority.