The fly in the ESPís ointment

In as much as the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP),, first announced by President Ian Khama last month, is meant to salve the country’s economic wounds, a fly in the ointment threatens to render the fiscal remedy ineffective.

As pointed out by commentators at the National Assembly after Monday’s State of the Nation Address, the ESP is not the first wide scale intervention of its kind in the country’s history.

In fact, it is only the latest in intermittent initiatives by government to keep citizens from disasters due to the fluctuations associated with being a single-commodity economy.

Many will remember that between 2009 and 2012, the Finance Ministry ran the budget into billions of Pula in deficit in an effort to maintain spending on prioritised large capital public works, needed to support the economy through the global recession.


Spending on projects such as the Morupule B power station, various dams and other water works, roads and airports was maintained despite lower revenues, as a way of shielding an economy historically reliant on government spending.

Today, government is preparing to dip into its P39.6 billion Government Investment Account, a fund created from historical budget surpluses and other revenues and ideally meant to cater for periods of deficit or stagnation in the economy.

As noble as the ESP is, it could be soured by the same fly that to a great extent, undid the post recession spending. In a word: implementation.

If anything is to be learnt from the billions of Pula spent on infrastructure development between 2009 and 2012, it is the dismal failure and critical importance of implementation, monitoring and evaluation in project delivery.

Outside the National Assembly after Monday’s address, it was clear that many fear the ESP may suffer the same implementation, monitoring and evaluation weaknesses as the post-recession spending.

Already, it has been pointed out that Khama dedicated only a brief paragraph to this critical ingredient, while spending nearly 70% of the rest of his address on the various interventions the ESP will undertake.

According to the President, the ESP will be coordinated from the Vice President’s office and be supported by a Cabinet Sub-Committee supported by a Technical Committee and District Development Committees.

Without wishing to pre-empt the full ESP brochure, this arrangement is hardly confidence inducing, when set against the fact that billions of Pula in posterity reserves are being tapped into.

Once those funds have been spent – whether through inefficient use, abuse or misuse – they cannot be recovered. Unlike the smaller post-recession stimulus, this is a situation where we will have to get it right first time.

 

Today’s thought

“Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.”

 - Sue Grafton

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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