Mmegi Online :: BEMA welcomes budget, but . . .
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Last Updated
Friday 23 February 2018, 16:00 pm.
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BEMA welcomes budget, but . . .

The government’s theme and intent to align budget allocations to national priorities is a commendable effort particularly on the developmental aspects of the budget.
By Correspondent Fri 09 Feb 2018, 15:16 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: BEMA welcomes budget, but . . .








The significant allocation towards the development and maintenance of economic infrastructure and focus on ease of doing business has our full support and applause. 

Our road network for instance is in desperate need of improvement and maintenance and we commend the significant utilisation of P1.5 billion from the Road Levy Collection fund towards maintenance in addition to the P2 billion proposed for improvement of the national road network. 

This will enable a fluid transit and logistical flow of goods within the country. BEMA has pleasantly noticed construction work and improvements that are already ongoing at some of our commercial entry points; we would like to see allocation of resources that will enable these ports of entry to operate 24 hours a day to allow for improved and more efficient cross border trade. 

Water and electricity are critical to private sector production efforts and the respective budget allocations speak well about Government’s intention to create a reliable energy and water sector to support economic growth.  This will help build investor confidence.

It would be remiss of us, however, not to express our disappointment with the allocation of a meagre P461.35 million towards the improvement of Government ICT infrastructure. Connectivity, speed and access to information have become basic necessities in society. 

Without access to information and innovative technology, Botswana will remain uncompetitive both in the regional and global markets. The digital revolution must be embraced as it brings massive productivity elements into play and allows cheaper, better and faster access to goods and services in today’s world than we are traditionally accustomed to.

The pace of development, improvement and adaptation in the ICT space will have to be elevated significantly and this can only be achieved with the backing of a significant national budget allocation.

P461 million is an equivalent of a turnover for a one medium to large sized commercial operator, and at this rate, we will not see advancements in ICT in Botswana that match the pace of where the rest of the world is going if we do not invest heavily in this space.

Productivity levels will remain stagnant in areas where there is significant growth potential as far as manufacturing is concerned.  Our counterparts in other parts of the world competing in the global arena will make it to market quicker with cheaper products that are of better quality than what we are able to offer.

Similarly, the pace of learning in our schools will be hampered, our level of innovation, as evidenced by our score in the Global Competitiveness rankings will remain below average and it all points back to low productivity.  We have

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a lot of work to do as a nation in ICT space.

Our opinion on ease of doing business in Botswana is that there is still a huge gap between good government policies and the implementation thereof. The budget speech mentions implementation of an effective monitoring and evaluation system as part of its alignment to national objectives. We have seen evidence of the reality of failed implementation consistently in the past and the immeasurable damage it causes to the efforts of the private sector in enhancing local production.

Until we change our mind-sets and approach about implementation and consider even unorthodox approaches to effect this in Botswana, we will not see significant growth in the manufacturing sector or broader economy, consequently, we will not realise our full potential to create employment for Batswana.

Many jobs have been lost due to the failure to implement policies and well-intended initiatives including directives such as the Local Procurement Preference Scheme. We speak about efforts to diversify and industrialise our economy and yet we are not ready to embrace and give preference to our own products.

In many industries, it has become more viable to dismantle one’s operations in Botswana, set-up the exact same plant in South Africa and export the exact same product into Botswana from across the border. This is not so much due to the lack of inclusive, enabling and efficient Government policies to promote local procurement as it is the failure to successfully implement the same.

Failed policy implementation and lack of local market support is one of the biggest inhibitors of growth and sustainable job creation in the manufacturing sector.

We highly recommend that this issue be addressed at the highest level in government and as industry, we commit to an open and honest dialogue that will result in effecting the necessary change. BEMA commends the Government’s efforts to invest in human capital and empowerment of citizens in its bid to build an inclusive society.

We have consistently ranked low globally on issues of productivity and work ethic and these efforts will have a positive impact on this issue. We must however, focus on aligning our education system to relevant current and future industry needs. Government has made and continues to make decent strides in its social development efforts and we wish to commend these initiatives.

The 2018/2019 budget gives us a positive overall indication of the Government’s thought process and direction in general. As BEMA, although we have reservations with some of the approaches, we are generally happy with the budget.

NKOSI MWABA*

*Mwaba is president of the Botswana Exporters and Manufacturer’s Association

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