The obvious precedent for the new ESP is, I presume, the old ARDP - the Accelerated Rural Development Programme of the early/mid 1970s.
Different words for more or less the same thing i.e. Accelerated/Stimulus, Rural/Economic and Programme/Package. The government’s preference for the word ‘economic’ instead of ‘rural’ is worth chewing on. ARDP is, of course, long forgotten by today’s planners which is a pity because much might have been learnt from its undoubted successes. The two crash development programmes have/had a shared objective - get a stagnant economy moving – both leaning heavily on employment creation via the construction of classrooms, teachers’ houses and clinics. ARDP was led with great capability by James Leach and Peter Molosi in the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and pushed forward with enormous drive by Brian Egner in Local Government.
Egner demanded results from his new cadre of volunteer District Development Officers, refusing to listen to descriptions of all the difficulties they encountered. But that kind of leadership is rare. But then the situation in the 1970s was different.
The civil service was trim, dedicated, motivated hard working and uncorrupt. And it took great pride in what it was achieving. But then an accelerated development programme today should be very different from the one that was conceived forty years ago.
By now, there should be no need to initiate a catch up programme to build hundreds of houses for teachers, nurses and the police. These should all have been constructed when the cash was available. With the ARDP there, was, generally, water available.
When and where there was no water, construction could not take place. The newly announced construction programme comes therefore as something of a puzzle. What water will be made available to those builders and road makers today so that they can complete all that the ESP expects them to do? Will the water, potable, grey, or brown be made available by the government at the places where they will need it? Is it possible to do this? Perhaps with the ARDP in mind, I had long ago hoped that it would have been agreed what this country as to what, sensibly, it can hope to do, taking account of its difficult environmental situation, what might be achieved at great cost and difficulty and what needs to be put aside as a complete non-starter. Successive National Development Plans would have been obliged to describe each component part in terms of those three categories.
This didn’t happen probably because the notion of doing things differently
Yet it is this difference which has exerted appeal for so many outsiders who recognised it and made such remarkable contributions.
Difference appears however to make many people feel uncomfortable. They don’t want to be different; they want everything to be the same. It is a characteristic that should cause no surprise. Probably for sound historical reasons, tribal societies are invariably intolerant of difference and it is only a short time ago that almost everyone in this country was part of one or another tribal society where conformity was a norm.
And this brings us to that most tricky topic, Gaborone. As we all know, the southern part of the country has only limited water resources.
Yet Gaborone has been allowed to grow – and has been encouraged by government to grow - regardless of its precarious situation.
The assumption presumably is that other countries have much larger capitals than Gaborone and that it is important for the sake of national prestige that it should get larger and larger.
The counter suggestion that further growth there should be stopped and encouraged elsewhere where water is more economically obtained, may appear to some to be nonsensical. The reality, might become a great deal clearer, however, were figures to be produced showing the projected costs of water in a Gaborone of half a million people and then with one million.
It can safely be assumed that there will be only few who will be rich enough to live there! In other words, Gaborone’s further growth is unsustainable. It needs to be noted though that for the new ESP to make new plots
available in the settlements immediately adjacent to Gaborone, understandable as this may be, is in effect a policy decision that nothing will be allowed to impede its continued growth. In other words, there will be no change.
The same might be of said of solar power which appears not to be featured as part of the economic stimulus in the ESP.
Little interest in solar power yesterday, little interest today which is very strange because solar power programmes, needing no water, could be easily implemented and give the potential for very considerable gain. But then there are any number of other non-water dependent problems that the ESP could help to help to fix – not least Air Botswana and CAAB which are so crucially important for the further development of tourism.