I have, over the preceding weeks, been trying to demonstrate that the financial services sector is the weakest link in the national effort towards both citizen and national economic development.
As the President jets around the world, and as oft clueless cabinet ministers and senior government functionaries receive massages on trans oceanic flights trying to woo foreign capital, even more capital needlessly leaves the country as part of a de facto investment boycott by the financial services sector.
It is all, a grave contradiction. Why should foreign investors have confidence in us if we don’t have confidence in our own economy? Every now and then, we celebrate our own high flying financial services executives, appointed to key positions in the sector.
Their faces and resumes are spread across newspaper pages in institutional self-adulation. We must start asking whether in so doing, we are not being sold a dummy by foreign power brokers who ultimately control the direction and flow of locally generated wealth. Or could it be that our glorified own, forget country once they reach the top. I am confused.
We have to maximally exploit locally generated wealth before we solicit for capital inflow from other countries for whose attention we are competing with tens of African and Asian economies many with stronger economies and more investor friendly business environments. I have made the point that the financial services sector has no confidence in the Botswana economy.
If I am wrong, in this regard, kindly advice on how much of the wealth generated by or in the custody of this sector is invested in the local economy. Our oft favourable economic rankings by international bodies have done nothing to instil such confidence.
As I have acknowledged before, in the end, we are talking private wealth, and government cannot decree the use, deployment or investment of such.
But even then, is government even making an effort to entice this sector into investing more of the wealth in the local economy? Imagine how much development we would achieve if key players in the finance sector would further develop and toll the A1 all the way to Francistown or Maun.
How about a pensions owned tramline service servicing the greater Gaborone area and another one for Francistown? Imagine how far we would be with regards to power self-sufficiency if government had not chosen to go it alone on Morupule B, but wooed the finances industry to invest in it and to relieve it of the burden?
Would the finance industry have allowed the Chinese to take them for a ride and render a hopelessly defective job as did government? Would that not have freed public wealth for the development of other areas of the economy?
Now, I would be lying to say that I do not understand why our government believes it is solely responsible for national development projects. It is all
Say it after me, C. O. R. R. U. P. T. I. O. N. It is all about cabinet ministers controlling government procurement in order that they man benefit themselves and their families. That explains why some of them were crying wolf over the tender allocated to Khato Civils, throwing tantrums over fictitious corruption allegations when in fact they were nothing but deployees of construction mafia sporting a bloody nose.
There must be dialogue with the financial services sector on its lack of confidence in our economy and its de facto investment boycott of the same. Where is Business Botswana, on this issue? I haven’t heard them say anything.
NBFIRA, should be open to ideas that truly open the insurance industry in particular, and the finance industry in general, to Batswana and that help facilitate national development. The starting point is to realise the concept of an inclusive economy, as a means of enabling a sustainable regulatory environment.
It is a non-brainer to conclude that if we are to develop, locals have to be not only a part of the development program, but the leaders of it.
To that, NBFIRA must recognise that change will be needed in structure, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership, management and control of the insurance companies, among others, all to favour Botswana.
Perhaps when we have achieved that there would be some patriotism in the institutional boardrooms and the investment boycott would stop.
NBFIRA needs to be bold on this score and stop behaving like harassing local entrepreneurs and seeking to close them down is its core mandate. Explicitly, a minimum requirement of ownership by Batswana has to be established for insurance firms.
Clear programs of economic and social plans that better Batswana have to be submitted to the regulator annually.
Going forward, let words like indigenisation of our economy and economic transformation and inclusiveness be part of national economic development dialogue.
Let them move us towards a vibrant financial services sector that works for the country. Let them reach institutional boardrooms and further, guide dialogue between the government and the finance industry.
We need to bring our money back home to work for us and to crate our children jobs. We need to bring our money back to help develop our roads and other much needed infrastructure.
Why need not be so desperate as to think that the solution to our unemployment woes is in counselling or that it lies in growing and selling motokwane. We have hundreds of billions sustaining foreign economies.