Mmegi Blogs :: Where are the jobs Mr President?
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Friday 15 December 2017, 17:56 pm.
Where are the jobs Mr President?

On Monday and after almost an hour of delay, the President of Botswana Ian Khama delivered his state of the Nation Address (SONA). The President looked and sounded like he was in a hurry to finish reading the speech and leaving the chamber. There was no sign of flu or cold that the Speaker talked about as the main reason for the delay of the delivery of the speech.
By Dithapelo Keorapetse Fri 09 Dec 2016, 15:05 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Where are the jobs Mr President?

A possibility was even made by the Speaker that in the event the President fails to complete his SONA speech, the Vice President may have to assist him. The President didn’t connect with the speech, it was as if he was reading somebody else’s speech and didn’t exude confidence in whatever he was saying.

Disappointingly and characteristic of him,  the President has failed to present a critical and fair assessment of Botswana’s daunting challenges in so far as the economy is concerned. He missed an opportunity to respond to issues raised by opposition political parties, civil society, students, media and academia that job creation remains a pie in the sky under his presidency. After eight years in office, most Batswana no longer have high expectations on the SONA, even the public gallery and outdoor tents for the public are seldom packed to capacity like before. People have simply given up on the administration.

The legitimacy of any government rests on its ability to cater for its citizens.  Is this government able to create jobs? Unemployment rate in Botswana is more than 20% having increased to 20 % in 2013 from 17.80 % in 2010. According to Trading Economics, unemployment rate averaged 18.42% from 1991-2013, reaching an all-time high of 23.80 % in 2006 and a record low of 13.90% in 1991. These numbers do not include people who have given up on looking for jobs and are therefore inaccurate. Moreover, since 2008, these figures now include Ipelegeng programme participant, i.e. they are deceivingly counted among the employed.

The President claims that his Economic Stimulus Programs (ESP) initiative has created over 18, 000 and it remains unclear what his target was. He didn’t state the number of jobs which were temporary, for example in construction which is what ESP is mainly about, he didn’t say how many are sustainable jobs and how many are well paying enough to make people graduate from poverty. He didn’t unpack these jobs. There was nothing, even a simple acknowledgment that the economy is bleeding jobs at a scary rate. The President ought to have stated the number of jobs lost in the last twelve months vis-à-vis the number of jobs created and how many he anticipates to create in the next twelve months. He has to state these by sectors so that everybody understands whether the country is making progress towards job creation or not. Botswana is faced with a daunting problem of an economy which is in the hands of foreigners. This doesn't seem to bother the head of state. Major procurement jobs are given to foreign companies while Batswana continue to get crumbs of the national cake.  The purchasing power of an average Motswana has been eroded over the past few years because of the rising prices of commodities in the market and the President did not unequivocally address that. Inferring from his address, there are no new ideas on


how the endemic poverty, which is caused by lack of productive and remunerative employment, would be eradicated.

We are told that there are attempts of social upliftment. There are no clear goals, objectives and or targets. What is the government target, in real and percentage terms, of poverty reduction and job creation?  The President does not adequately account to the nation on why defence and security budgets, especially the DIS and the BDF, are this high when the nation is experiencing economic difficulties. DIS will get P1 billion for NDP 11 and the BDF will get about P16 billion-mainly for purchase of Gripens fighter jets.  The President, in addition to the helicopters he uses as he pleases at the BDF and the presidential jet, has procured another helicopter aircraft worth about P300 million. A probable conclusion, therefore, is that the country does not have its priorities right.

There are no new ideas on diversification of the economy. The mainstay of the economy remains the mineral sector, mainly the diamond industry. The developmental state of Botswana has failed to diversify its economy away from the traditional mineral sector into other sectors such as tourism, agriculture, manufacturing industry and others. Diversification is usually stimulated by two sources: foreign direct investment (FDI) and domestic investment. Botswana, however, has neither managed to attract meaningful FDI nor cultivated domestic investment. The economy has been exporting jobs by means of exporting extracted raw minerals for further processing into finished products in other countries.  These jobs have to be brought back to Botswana through a robust beneficiation of most of our minerals.

There are no new ideas on how the country intends to build up large scale competitive manufacturing base to promote export-led growth. The agricultural sector, notwithstanding numerous efforts in terms of policies and programs, has nearly collapsed. Its contribution to the country’s GDP remains ominously miniscule. There are no fresh ideas on how to develop sustainable large scale commercial arable and pastoral farming. This sector has the potential to create jobs for many Batswana. The must be a commitment on diversification through Beneficiation (at least 50%) target has to be made. There is a need for citizen economic empowerment law and that citizen reservation policy has to target more high value ventures. It is also important that the country taps into foreign reserves for meaningful and sustainable economic activities. Funds should be sourced from pension funds for development and government has to minimise wastage and corruption as well as enhance efficiency.

Recession has been used like a scare crow and a pretext to defer and stop some developments, to refuse civil servants’ salary adjustments etcetera but there has never been a decline in government revenue since 2008 (except in one year). Therefore, misplaced priorities have been a problem during the purported recession period. Up to now the president hasn't visited those who lost their jobs in Selebi-Phikwe, Francistown and other areas.


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