A presidential report card

“I am confident in the future, and I am determined to build upon the solid foundation that has already been laid since independence by my predecessors.” President Ian Khama uttered these words on April 01, 2008 as he took oath of office as the country’s fourth president.

Exactly six years ago today, a perusal of the President’s report card makes for intriguing reading, being a kaleidoscope of positives and negatives, each unique to the eye of the beholder.  Having set the economy high on his agenda, Khama needs to be acknowledged for steering the country through its worst recession in history. He adopted the appropriate fiscal policy response - expanding expenditure to support the economy - and resisted the pressure to slash the civil service wage bill.   Khama’s economic policies, generally known prior to his ascension, have overseen the establishment of sectoral hubs such as the Diamond and Agriculture Hub, the merger of like parastatals and the deepening of the regulatory bedrock through institutions such as the Competition Authority and legislation such as revised Accountants Act.   Real economic growth, between Khama’s first inauguration in April and today, has recovered from the -5.4 percent recorded in the recession year of 2009, while major economic entities such as Debswana, BCL Mine and others have also reported improvements.    While Khama will be proud of his scores on the economic front, a sub-sector within that makes for knitted-brow reading. The president’s performance on the development agenda he stated very clearly in his April 2008 speech, is less lustrous than even his most hardened apologists would care to deny.   Billions of Pula have been pumped into major works such as airport refurbishment, dam construction, roads, water and electricity, but poor project delivery has undermined his overall development agenda. Nowhere else is this most obvious than in the electricity sector where the P11.1 billion Morupule B remains faulty, causing countrywide blackouts and losses, while repayments for its loans have, ironically, begun.  The electricity shortages, in particular, have weakened two of Khama’s four Ds, being development and dignity, made famous in his April 2008 address.  The president’s critics will be eager to bring attention to his performance in matters of labour, education, governance and foreign affairs, where several incidents, issues and trends have hit headlines regularly.  Khama’s handling of the six-week public service strike early in 2011 is undoubtedly a black smear on his report card, where he adopted an invariable even hostile or dismissive attitude that he scarcely tried to conceal. The president’s choice to handle the education portfolio in his Cabinet, and the resultant crises around examinations, pass rates and teachers’ terms and conditions, are another low point on Khama’s report card.  His approach to foreign issues also raises a lot of questions especially his position on Zimbabwe and other difficult states. Whatever his actual performance, Batswana will be the ultimate schoolmasters in October when they cast votes that will indicate, albeit indirectly, how Khama has performed.

                                                       Today’s thought

Editor's Comment
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