Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) President and Leader of Opposition in Parliament Duma Boko’s reponse to the State Of The Nation Address
1. I rise, as both the Constitution of this great country and the Standing Orders of this House impel me, to respond to the State of the Nation Address delivered here two days ago by the President of the country. I note that the President, in addition to the already numerous names and titles by which he goes, has conspired to add an Honorary Doctorate to the list. I also note with, disappointment, that the President is conspicuous by his absence from these proceedings.
2. In fact, the President has made it his habit and culture to absent himself from this House except when he either delivers the State of the Nation Address or seeks to cow the members across the aisle from me into docile submission to a position he has decreed. That is the cavalier disdain with which he treats this House and indeed our democracy. Even his acquisition of the Doctorate has not imbued him with a respect for democratic engagement and discourse. It is a source of great shame.
3. We all know the unpredictability of our weather. Its mood swings are sometimes vicious and deadly. For the last few months the scorching dryness and prolonged heat have turned our vast sparse country into an inferno baking our black skins; roasting us all, alive. I see the pain and the despair in the weather beaten faces of our people.
4. We crave the wet fragrance of the morning dew, full of life and freshness. We have been warned of these and many other hazards. We have long known of the El Nino effect. Our government did nothing. Now, everywhere you go in the Southern part of the country especially, you are met with the muffled pleas and the desperate cries of whole communities. They have no water to drink and to water their livestock. They sink further into the muck and mire of crushing poverty and the grinding indecencies that go with it.
5. Almost fifty years since our independence we have whole communities whose misery and destitution submerge their existence at a sub human level. What do the rights enshrined in our Constitution mean for the communities and individuals consigned to a life of exilic marginality in their own country?
6. Our nation has come to a fork in the road. We are a country that has known fortunes from its diamond mines, some of which fortunes were applied to support our way of life at all levels. These diamond proceeds are no longer bountiful; they are no longer as predictable or reliable.
7. Yet our needs as a people have also grown and become more complex. We demand more from our health care facilities, we expect a better and more unique education system to make us more productive or competitive. Our governance structures or institutions and systems are no longer adequate to build major infrastructure projects on time or on budget or up to the quality necessary to make us the envy of the world. We are agreed that there are no longer excuses why our neighbours in our communities should be poorer or richer in the extreme than we are, nor are there any reasons why so many of our people, the young, women, people living in remote parts of our country, or people from one minority group or another should live in such abject poverty. We demand a higher sense of justice in how people are treated by the state, any other authority or even individuals, regardless of their beliefs, status or even origin. We expect more care and consideration for people living with disabilities. We yearn for more freedom from the ravenous clutches of our Government’s ever-growing control over our consciences or sense of safety, whether through the intelligence apparatus or patronage of the ensuing crony capitalism. We expect the supply of basic amenities; of water and power, not just to live decent lives but as input towards the establishment of industry or businesses and our capability to produce food for our nation. These are not just our expectations as a people they are indicators of our state of health. They define the state of the nation – and hence should have, in the circumstances, formed the pith and substance of any State of the Nation Address by any head of the state of Botswana.
8. Importantly, there is a dream we are pursuing as a people – a dream that one day each one of us will believe that they can achieve anything they wish to become, for themselves or their community and nation. This is the dream that we believe brings and binds our people together. This is what unites us as one nation, one people.
9. The fork in the road, therefore, is the place where we have to make a choice as a country. The choices for our future are ours to make now. We either give in to the idea of doing things the way we always did when diamonds were bountiful or we acknowledge we have to do much more than sugar-coat our state of health – we need to be honest and acknowledge that we need change. We need transformation. We need to transform our economy. We need to transform our governance institutions and systems. We need to transform how we prepare the young to be meaningful participants in our economy. We need to transform our mindsets, to stir up the creativity and innovation in us. We need to transform how we organize and create opportunities for all our people.
10. The choice we therefore need to make is that of stimulus (Economic Stimulus Package) vaguely offered by the President or that of transformation. We at the UDC, on behalf of the people of Botswana, choose transformation. We choose the Economic and Institutional Transformation Plan (EITP). It is our faith that this is what we need to create sustainable jobs (given the high unemployment rate of more than 20% under the narrow definition and more than 33% under the expanded definition), create wealth, spread opportunities among the majority of our people, and provide adequate water and power in a sustainable way. This is what we need to create a new Botswana that is a jewel; an oasis of material and spiritual prosperity in Africa.
11. Never, in our half century as a sovereign state have we been so uncertain and so concerned about our future, so unhappy and so bitter at the incompetence and impunity of Government; so untrusting of our government and public institutions. Nor have the political, class and values divisions within our society ever been as deep and ugly as they are today. These are not the normal divisions that can be expected of dynamic and engaging societies. Ours are at the toxic depths typical of nations in which leaders and institutions of governance on the one hand have become alienated from the people, and on the other, detached from the people’s aspirations and their values. The President calls for unity but his tenure in the Presidential office has been the most divisive and disempowering.
12. If you do not see these divisions - between those who desire political, economic and social inclusion and those who trample on this dream because they benefit from the patronage and cronyism of the state; between those who believe in the unfettered rule of law and are horrified by the lawlessness of the state and those who cheer, aid and abet it; between those who yearn for transparent and accountable government and those who support the status quo of criminal opacity; between those who want efficient government and those who look the other way as the President fills critical positions with cronies regardless of ability; between those who dream of empowering, decentralised and meritocratic government and those who support the self-seeking centralisation of power in the Presidency – then you have your heard buried in the sand. You have misread the resounding message of 25 October 2014.
13. The nation yearns for a unifying, ethical, competent and farsighted leadership to give it direction, provide competent stewardship of its affairs, restore hope and confidence in the future, and lead in building an economy that works for everyone. Its cries are getting louder by the day in the face of incessant disruptions of energy and water supplies to households and firms; a stagnating and increasingly vulnerable economy; rising unemployment and a growing population of despairing youths; poverty at levels atypical of upper middle income countries; and sagging business confidence.
14. Its hope for a change of fortunes wilts under the weight of rising corruption and impunity in government; a creeping culture of patronage and cronyism that denies the nation the benefit of the service of some of its most capable sons and daughters; the wilful destruction of our institutions of governance; flagrant violations of human rights; a rapid decline in the rule of law and increasing lawlessness by the state itself; low regulatory efficiency and quality; and generalised government failure.
15. Expectedly, the people do not trust their government anymore. In fact, they fear and loathe it, because they see the increasingly apparent and disconcerting reality that their government and its institutions are extractive by nature. They recognise that the state is captive to the narrow interests of a rapacious political and business elite. They are helpless witnesses to the targeting for capture and destruction, of their once credible institutions. This is the fate that befell the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, once a standard bearer for planning in Africa, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC) and many others. It is the fate that has now befallen our judiciary. This is the state our nation is in. This is not how you achieve inclusion and unity.
16. And how does our government respond? First with a yet to be detailed Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) that we know is based on a misdiagnosis of the economy’s problems, has flawed conceptual and contextual moorings, and is for the most part, self-seeking. And second, with tone deaf defiance and lawlessness. It will not listen to the advice of competent institutions and economists who counsel that for a range of reasons, the ESP is ill-conceived and ill-timed. Instead, they will suspend established procurement procedures, ostensibly to accelerate delivery, but in reality, to direct ESP resources to their cronies. If this honourable house does let the ESP pass when and if it is brought before it, then let every one of you who has a conscience, insist that these resources be disbursed through established procurement systems, through the PPADB. I will return to the ESP because it merits further attention.
17. In 1992, a young William Jefferson Clinton, then Governor of Arkansas, USA, famously retorted in a presidential debate, “It’s the economy, stupid”. Today, as we discuss the President’s assessment of the state of our nation, most of our frustrations and pains revolve around the economy and I am minded to say to this house and the nation, “It’s the economy …”. The Botswana economy is, by any responsible account, in a perilous state. It is failing to meet the expectations of its stakeholders - households, workers, firms and even the government itself, because a weak economy means less resources for the fiscus.
18. Growth is faltering badly, with the economy estimated to have contracted by 1.8% and 0.4% in quarters 1 and 2 respectively this year, which technically means it is in recession. The Bank of Botswana reports in its 2014 Annual Report that productivity has been falling since as far back as fiscal 2005/06 and with it, our global competitiveness. In fiscal 2008/09, the year President Khama assumed office, Botswana had achieved a global competitiveness ranking of 56 out of 134 countries. By fiscal 2014/15, he had taken us down to 74 out of 144 countries. We know that when productivity and competitiveness go down, we lose growth and jobs. The President does not get it. When you lose sight of merit and appoint incompetent people to positions of leadership and responsibility, expect productivity, competitiveness, growth and jobs to suffer.
19. These problems, of declining productivity and competitiveness, predate the 2009 recession and today’s tough commodity markets. They lie at the core of our failure to transition from a resource driven economy to a diversified and efficiency driven one that is resilient to shocks such as slumps in commodity prices. Why did Rwanda continue growing at 7% per annum through the 2009 recession? The answer is simple. They have a solidly efficiency driven economy. High regulatory efficiency and quality, and government efficiency are critical components of their growth and development strategy.
20. Rwanda is strongly reformist. It is cited in virtually every edition of the World Bank’s “Doing Business Report” for leading in creating an efficient entrepreneurship ecosystem. Its reward is an efficient and inclusive economy. Botswana, on the other hand, is slouchy and at times uncertain on reform. The Government is tone deaf to the persistent pleas of business for reduction of the regulatory burden on business and greater policy clarity, consistency and certainty. Instead, the government watches passively as regulation becomes more and more rent seeking. In fact, it creates an even more conducive environment for rent seeking. No responsible government will allow civil servants to do business. Yet that is exactly what this government has decided to do in the face of evidence of increasing rent seeking behaviour. Civil servants can now legally play the conflicted roles of regulators and players at the same time. It would serve Botswana better to pay civil servants well and keep them out of business.
Unemployment, Poverty and Inequality
21. We have depression level rates of unemployment. About one in five active job seekers cannot find a job. A further 13% have given up hope of ever finding a job, taking the expanded rate of unemployment to 33%. Amongst the youth, three in five are jobless. A growing number of them have tertiary qualifications. The job search period now runs into years and is still growing. Mean real formal sector wages have been declining over the last 10 years. In fact, job quality is deteriorating in terms of pay, security and conditions of service. This is the life story of the average civil servant (teacher, soldier, policeman/woman, or clerk) and a majority of those in the private sector (shop assistants, security guards, clerical staff, and entry level professionals). And labour’s share of national income continues to decline, in part because of the legacy of a deliberate policy of wage restraint, and in part because of entrenched labour market inefficiencies.
22. At the last count, 19.3%, of Batswana, approximately one in five, subsisted below the poverty line. The odds that one is poor are worse in rural Botswana, especially in Ngamiland, Kgalagadi and the western parts of the Kweneng district. If were we to disaggregate poverty data along ethnic lines, we would also realise that poverty has distinct racial and ethnic dimensions, that it is fundamentally a problem for black people, and that amongst them, certain groups, especially people of San origin, endure poverty far more extensively and intensely than others.
23. I raise the questions of race and ethnicity partly because we must know about the injustice our economy visits upon particular population groups, but also because our discomfort with diversity, despite pretensions to the contrary, denies us the invaluable lessons we must learn about our different population groups in order to build a truly prosperous, united, and multicultural society that embraces diversity. I wish we could insist, with one voice, and with every fibre of our collective being, that no demographic group that suffers deprivation must remain invisible to us. To build an economy and a society of inclusive prosperity, one that leaves no one behind, our institutions and statistical systems must become adept at identifying the vulnerable amongst us.
24. According to the 2014 IMF Country report on Botswana, the country’s income inequality, with a Gini Index in excess of 0.64, is one of the highest in the world. In fact Botswana is ranked the most unequal country in the world, and has the second highest income inequality in the SADC region after Namibia. Inequality may not only compromise growth but it also makes growth less inclusive and less efficient in reducing poverty.
Investment and Growth
25. Today, business confidence is low and despite the large amounts of resources we pump into promoting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) through the Botswana Trade and Investment Centre (BITC), our foreign missions and other avenues, we are struggling to attract significant amounts of FDI outside the resource sector. This not a problem of the recession, weak commodity markets or the laziness of Batswana as some lazy thinkers have suggested. It is a problem of deficiencies in the incentive regime. We are trying to encourage foreign and domestic investment into a hostile entrepreneurship ecosystem, polluted by amongst others, imperious leaders who create uncertainty by acting and speaking out of turn on serious matters, weak investor protection, high costs of enforcing contracts, unnecessary red tape, an immigration policy and procedures that make it difficult for firms to attract the talent they need to compete, grow and create quality jobs for Batswana, rent seeking regulation, government inefficiency and a failing education system.
26. Who wants to invest in a country in which expatriates can be deported without trial; regulation is significantly rent seeking; regulatory processes are slow and costly; ministers can do business with government and find nothing wrong with inviting civil servants to follow suit; a minister can demand citizen equity participation as a condition for the renewal of a firm’s licence even though no law empowers him to do so? Our economy, Madam Speaker, is being suffocated by state lawlessness, inefficient regulation and general government inefficiency.
27. Only last week, the former Vice President, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, told a Private Business and Growth Award (PBGA) audience that “… economic growth is of little value unless it addresses economic diversification, poverty eradication and employment creation”. I will phrase this sentiment as the global development community, and indeed every serious nation, does. There can be no development without growth but growth delivers more development when it is inclusive and sustainable.
28. The levels of poverty, joblessness, inequality and exclusion that we see today, are a result of policies and strategies that entrench economic, social and political exclusion. Inclusion requires policies and strategies that do three things efficiently:
a) empower people and communities by building their agency and enhancing their access to productive resources and opportunities;
b) expand opportunity and ensure equitable access thereof; and
c) c) provide social protection, both to meet the needs of the indigent and to provide a platform for reintegrating those who subsist at the margins of the economy into the economic mainstream.
29. Our challenge today is to build a globally competitive, inclusive, diversified and resilient economy. In this regard, we must ensure that our policies and strategies nurture inclusive markets and that we dispense with the curious but toxic mix of Victorian capitalism and Stalinist centralisation that characterise our economic management under President Khama. Economic inclusion requires that we recognise all stakeholders in the economy - government, business, local government, communities and civil society. It further requires that we recognise the role each plays in building inclusive and resilient prosperity and accord each an opportunity to be heard in the formulation of our development policies and strategies, and that regardless of the political power they wield, or lack thereof, the interests of each are protected on the basis of international best practice.
30. In this SONA address, the President adopts the reckless position that we can spend our way to prosperity. We believe, and business, independent experts and international agencies such as the World Bank and the IMF have advised, that regulatory reforms are necessary to improve the ease of doing business. In its uncontested sphere of competence, regulation, the government must be mindful of how its action or inaction hurts enterprise and job creation. As I have argued, our priorities on regulatory reforms should, from the perspective of all stakeholders, revolve around ensuring unfettered rule of law; policy clarity, coherence and certainty; strong investor protection; efficient and ethical government; high regulatory efficiency and quality; efficient and inclusive markets and both creativity and innovation. Sadly, the SONA has no agenda for regulatory reform.
31. Economic inclusion and broad-based growth require political inclusion and a plurality of leadership. The rhetoric of working together that the President uses is out of sync with the divisiveness and centralisation of power that characterise his government. He does not know how to mobilise local government, the private sector, civil society and academia to become effective partners in the development of our nation. And yet building effective coalitions for development - of empowered local government, empowered institutions, empowered civil society, and an empowered private sector and free media - is just what we need. My heart goes out to the many capable women and men who have been denied opportunity to serve merely because they did not demonstrate loyalty to the President and his party.
32. I will suggest, Dr. President, that you put merit front and centre in appointing people to positions of responsibility; that you develop a decentralisation policy that empowers local government and communities; that you review our settlement policy to ensure that we do not fragment markets and make service provision unnecessarily costly, and that we harness the power of urbanisation; that you review the immigration policy to ensure that it becomes the strategic tool that other nations understand it to be; that you review land and mineral policies to ensure that communities share equitably in the benefits of resources they host. It cannot be right that the tourism resources of Maun/Chobe create enormous wealth for outsiders whilst the people of Chobe remain poor. Nor can it be right for our mining communities, who bear the external costs of mining, to derive no direct benefit from mining activities. If the Government does take the lead on these issues, proactively, the people shall ultimately force its hand.
33. We should also invest efficiently in infrastructure. High speed internet access and e-government are absolute imperatives for a competitiveness-minded economy. Why is it taking us long to achieve this objective? The water and energy crises must end. And please, take responsibility for the failures of your government. Today’s water and energy crises betray an inexcusable lack of foresight and failures of planning and management that I can’t find words to describe. We need blue prints for water and energy security that we can believe in, and a strategy for making solar energy an option for households and firms so that as a nation, we reduce our dependence on fossil sources of energy and reduce our carbon footprint as our contribution to ensuring a safer environment for posterity.
34. The unity and stability of this nation depend not on the lack of differences but rather its ability to develop an economy that works well for all, an economy that creates opportunities in abundance, and is driven by the skills, hard work, enterprise and ingenuity of its youth. Yet, in one critical respect, we are letting ourselves down. We have an education system that is in perennial crisis and is failing our children. We will give the Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP) a chance but it will not resolve the problems that have long festered, unnecessarily it should be said.
35. It is telling that the President says nothing about the long standing management challenges at the Ministry of Education and Skills Development and the long running conflict between his government and teachers. These lie at the core of the sector’s paralysis. We cannot deliver quality education without attending to the concerns of teachers. We urge serious engagement with teachers as stakeholders in the education of our children, including on the ETSSP, to ensure that their issues are objectively dealt with and our children’s education receives the necessary focus from all. Quality education demands well trained and motivated teachers (and we know that the conditions teachers work under are less than ideal), properly equipped classrooms, efficient governance of schools and the system as a whole, and effective learner assessment.
36. We have an urgent responsibility to re-engineer our development policies and strategies to promote inclusion: to make sure that markets work better for everybody, especially poor people and poor communities; to ensure that SMEs are not constrained by unnecessary and inefficient regulation; and to do a better job of empowering individuals and communities to be viable agents of their own development. If inclusion is our objective, we cannot have approaches to poverty eradication that, rather than empower people to participate in the mainstream economy, trap them in low level subsistence, or those that separate communities from their resources.
The Economic Stimulus Package (ESP)
37. I have listened to the President carefully in order to appreciate his rationale for his Economic Stimulus Package (ESP). I have found none, and increasingly, it looks like a grand design for looting. To be sure, I have no problem with building classrooms that are overdue, constructing necessary roads, and maintaining existing infrastructure. My problem is the basis for the stimulus and the context in which it is introduced.
38. First, the President does not seem to understand what an economic stimulus does. By nature, economic stimulus programmes are short term measures intended to moderate slumps in the economy and minimise pain such as loss of jobs. Ours is sold, even before its details are known, as “… a holistic action plan for achieving the goals of stimulating economic growth, accelerated job creation and … economic diversification”. ESPs do not do that. This is lazy and irresponsible. If the President wants economic transformation, he should invest time, effort and resources in developing a transformation programme based on solid evidence and analysis, and in the context of the overdue National Plan 11.
39. Second, the ESP is premised on the patently false diagnosis that the economy’s most urgent need is an injection of money. Feedback from local business, the World Bank (Doing Business Report) and the World Economic Forum (Global Competitiveness Report), to which the government is tone deaf, suggests that the real priority should be creating a good entrepreneurship ecosystem, beginning with efficient and high quality regulation. That begins with unfettered rule of law and confidence by investors that they can trust the courts to protect them from arbitrariness and abuse by even the state itself; policy clarity, certainty, consistency and coherence; strong investor protection; efficient enforcement of contracts; and efficient government. A Business Botswana executive remarked after the budget speech that business does not need money from government, what it needs most is a reduction of the burden of regulation.
40. Third, the context in which the ESP is introduced is not favourable. The government is presently unable to deliver its development budget. So money is not really a problem. Furthermore, there is a surfeit of evidence that the government lacks project management capacity, thanks to the corrosive effects of patronage and cronyism. We have Morupule B, the Palapye Glass project, BMC and many others. It is therefore reckless to pour billions of Pula into a delivery system that is unable to spend the resource and in a context that suggests project management and fiduciary failures will be extensive. Those schooled in fiscal management advice that substantial fiscal space could be created simply by raising government efficiency rather than raiding our reserves and expanding debt.
41. Fourth the manner in which the ESP was introduced and its communication managed does not inspire confidence. It is a sign of the insanity of our times that:
(a) the Minister of Finance, should I say MFDP, is substantively a spectator in the conceptualisation, communication and management of the ESP;
(b) The ESP was announced before its details could be worked out, which essentially means that the executive arrived at a decision to draw down on our reserves and expand our debt burden without adequate prior analysis and advice by competent institutions.
42. Fifth, the decision to make a special procurement arrangement for the ESP is a warning no responsible legislator should ignore. I cannot find words to describe how this horrifies me. Procurement is always an area of high risk for rent seeking and corruption, yet the executive seems to have taken the view that the controls that were put at great cost to the nation are an inconvenience. How exactly do they want to disburse the ESP? The ESP is not dealing with emergencies such as floods, runaway veld fires or Ebola. Any procurement can, and should, be planned for efficiently through established laws and institutions. Nothing about the ESP obviates the need for credible, transparent and accountable disbursement of the considerable resources it will have to deliver. I therefore reject in the strongest terms the decision to channel public funds and resources through the President’s High Level Project Implementation Unit and a Cabinet sub-committee headed by the Vice President.
43. Madam Speaker, in the period 2008-2014, Dr. Ian Khama’s Government spent over P340 billion in Government expenditure. In that time, it consistently failed to fully spend its development budget and unemployment remained above 17% increasing to 20%, or 33% if we include the discouraged job seekers. How then can we say that the economy’s problem is money? Face up to it Dr President, the biggest problem for the economy today is our government, its inefficiency and mismanagement. We cannot use money to compensate for that. We must knuckle down to do the hard job of meaningful economic reform and restructuring.
44. Throwing billions of Pula into a system devoid of accountability will encourage corruption and wastage on a grand scale. We should therefore not be surprised when Botswana emerges from the ESP more dysfunctional than it is at present.
Corruption, Corruption and More Corruption
45. In my response to the 2014 SONA, I demonstrated to this house, that this President and his Government preside over the worst kind of corruption and Government waste. This country is losing billions of Pula every year because of the actions of a corrupt political, business and administrative network of patronage and cronyism. The nation knows too well the sad stories of Morupule B, the Palapye Glass project, Botswana Meat Commission, the acquisition of P4 million’s worth of shares for free in a leading retailer by a senior civil servant who was at the time charged with investigating the same retailer and many others, for which no one has to date been held to account.
46. The private press has done an excellent job of lifting the veil on these acts of corruption and mismanagement of public resources. I extend both gratitude and comendation to them and their informers for their courage and patriotism. Every time a journalist removes the veil on corruption, he/she takes a serious risk because those behind corruption are ruthless.
47. But things are getting worse. Corruption is now institutionalised culture. A new phrase has entered our lexicon, “Go ja sengwe”. The phrase is thrown around carelessly without understanding but it is the single most powerful indicator of the extent of the reach of corruption. The head is rotten. The body is now also in an advanced state of decay. In every institution where regulatory power is vested in individuals, from the highest office to the lowest, everybody wants “Go ja sengwe”. We now have the curious situation in which increasingly, a few civil servants are counted amongst our richest Batswana. The tone was set at the top. And we - those in opposition and business - have been warning the government that burdensome regulation creates incentives for rent seeking and obstructs business, especially Small and Medium Enterprises.
48. Last year, I stated in this house that for the past 16 ½ years, when President Khama worked either as Vice President responsible for Project Implementation and as President, the country has lost billions of Pula through wasteful spending and corruption. Not a single major project in the past seven (7) years has been delivered within budget, on schedule and to specification. They have all had cost overruns and inexplicable defects. And then the President turns to the nation and says “Batswana re jelwe”. He blames everybody but his government. It was their duty to procure competently and manage projects effectively. They failed, for the most part because they never sought the most able vendor. Their interest was always in the vendor who will pay them.
49. So, when the President gleefully quotes a raft of reports that say he is governing well, he is essentially giving us the middle finger, for he knows he is getting away with corruption and mismanagement. Even more tragic, he assumes the role of a leader without ambition, who sees excellence in terms of beating hopeless competitors rather than in how he measures against achievers. We in this house can chose to be complicit in this government’s corruption by doing nothing, or we can promote and support regulatory reforms that promote transparency in government, curb the incidence of insider trading and conflict of interest, protect whistle blowers, raise standards of accountability, and empower law enforcement agencies to deal decisively with this scourge.
50. Corruption and wasteful expenditure cost us dearly. They steal our dreams of quality education and decent jobs for our children, and hopes for good health, decent housing, quality basic services, and safety for our persons and our property. It is estimated that the government loses P5 billion and P10 billion per year to corruption and negligence. That’s between P2, 500 and P5, 000 per citizen per year!
51. A UDC government will not shy away from reforms that ensure unfettered rule of law, raise government efficiency and limit opportunities for rent seeking and corruption. We will not allow those who hold public office, politicians and civil servants alike, to do business with the government. Rather, we will enact legislation on disclosure of assets and interests for politicians and civil servants that sets strict thresholds and requirements for compliance and the disclosure of interests in entities that do business with the Government.
52. We will support the use of lifestyle audits to ensure that public officials are able to account for their wealth and to reduce the spectre of public servants and politicians benefiting inappropriately from their positions. There still are questions regarding who benefited from the sale of Orapa House, Okavango Diamond Company and BDF Procurement. These and other questions will be answered fully when the UDC assumes Government in 2019.
Citizen Empowerment Act
53. Honourable Speaker, Botswana has at different points in time introduced several policies and programmes to empower citizens to participate in the economy. These include the Financial Assistance Policy (FAP), Small Medium and Micro-Enterprises (SMME), Local Preference and the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA). CEDA, in particular, provides financial support to citizen owned companies. For the most part, these programmes have not achieved the level of impact desired in terms of economic transformation, genuine and sustained citizen economic empowerment and employment!
54. Part of the problem is the corruption and mismanagement I have spoken to at length. Our meddlesome and control minded executive exerts undue influence on the operations of these initiatives. And they largely remain unaccountable to Parliament. For instance, the 2010 CEDA Forensic Audit has not been shared with Parliament despite numerous requests to that effect and notwithstanding the serious allegations that prompted it. The other part of the problem is the absence of legislation on citizen empowerment. I accordingly urge the Government to develop a comprehensive Citizen Empowerment Law to promote and entrench the active participation of Batswana in their economy. We will not be the first country to do so and we will not be the last, nor would we opt for an approach that denies us the benefit of expatriate investors and experts.
Education and Skills development
55. When all is said and done, our competitiveness will rest on how well our education system prepares our children to compete as global citizens in an increasingly interconnected world. So far, the education sector is in crisis. It has money but it is not giving us value for money. The teachers are unhappy, the students are unhappy and the results are poor.
56. The government has responded to the crisis in education with the Education Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP). It is a five year plan that does not have an Implementation Plan. It succeeds a Revised National Policy on Education (RNPE) that has only been partially implemented in 21 years. The lack of an implementation plan makes us wonder whether it will not suffer the same fate as the RNPE. Our position as the UDC is that the RNPE was a good policy that was let down by lack of implementation. The proliferation of policies that are not implemented is not productive.
57. We will support the continued generous support of the education sector but we insist on a greater focus on end results, in particular, a competitive human resource base for Botswana. Thus we encourage investment in the welfare and development of teachers, and in teaching facilities and equipment. We further urge effective stakeholder engagement to bring stability and proper focus to the education sector. The Minister must engage the unions and resolve long standing issues such as Levels of Operation.
58. The UDC believes in the philosophy of Education with Production, on which the RNPE was anchored. It is our intention to make education hands-on, experiential and productive. This thread runs through the education systems of all the countries reputed for the high quality of their education systems. For instance, Germany and Zimbabwe follow one variant or another of the Education with Production philosophy.
59. I would like to conclude by reminding this house that hallmark of good government is accountability and that the basis for accountability is good monitoring, evaluation and reporting systems that are acted upon. This government is failing because it does not believe in accountable governance.
60. The President strode into office in 2008 promising delivery. His government made a slew of promises to be met by 2016, including full employment, zero poverty and inclusive prosperity at the upper middle income level. Today, at the end of 2015, the President does not see the need to give a blow by blow account of what national targets we achieved, which targets we did not achieve and the lessons we learn. He gives us yet another set of promises and announces the launch of another visioning process.
61. We need to institutionalise project management in government, not to establish a Project Implementation Unit. We also should institutionalise results based monitoring and evaluation as integral components of management for results. And we need to be transparent about our failures and hold those who fail the nation to account.
62. Today, the President’s five D’s can be summed up in one word D, DISASTER. This presidency was not about delivery, discipline, development or dignity. His Vice President is a man who entered cabinet as an Assistant Minister with one brief, Poverty Eradication. He is yet to deliver a National Strategy on Poverty Eradication that he promised parliament many times. He is yet to deliver a credible poverty and monitoring information system. He gives the nation a spin on poverty.
63. And now we have the ESP. May God help us all
Our proposals First things first: Fix the Power and Water situation
64. It is clear to us that without water and power, nothing else is possible. So fixing the water and power problem not just for the short term, but for the intermediate and long term is our highest priority.
We will: a) Invest adequately in the full infrastructure of water and power eco-systems
o Resources should be adequate as proportion of national budget/GDP
o Stronger investment in key infrastructure including new technology grids, significant waste-water treatment capacity, comprehensive sewerage/sanitation systems especially in low income high density areas such as Mogoditshane, Bophirima, Morula, Manaka, Kgapamadi, Peleng
o This means Botswana should spend at least P140 billion over the next 10 years in both water and power systems with much of that investment emanating from the private sector through Private Public Partnerships (PPPs)
b) Create a predictable environment for independent power producers
o A major component of this is to establish a water/power regulator immediately, with a view to be fully operational by April 2016
c) Establish Sound, transparent and competent governance in the power and water sectors
o Enact legislation clearly stating the role of various stakeholders in the power sector and water sector value chains
o Break-up the BPC and Water Utilities monopolies
e) Encourage innovation in the power/water sectors
o Subsidies to solar power and possibly bio-fuels
o Private homes should be able to add to grid or switch away from grid
o Invest intensively in new technology grid infrastructure
o Small villages that are outside grid should be allowed to be serviced by smaller solar IPPs with local ring
f) Cultivate better relations with South Africa/Eskom and other countries
o Eskom needs power and Botswana should exploit the opportunity
o Botswana should secure more from shared water resources in accordance with Helsinki rules and SADC protocol on shared Water Courses
65. Our key targets in the power and water sectors will include:
o Additional new capacity of 600 MW within next 8 months (excluding Morupule B)
o Additional 3000 MW within two years (a good share for export)
o Additional large injections of power for export over next five years/10 years and insurance of power security for next 30 years
o Extensive waste-water treatment plants and world-class sewerage/sanitation systems in most areas including low income high density areas
o Extensive water pipe network system that will ensure multiple water connections to multiple water sources flowing to all key centers in Botswana
o Ensure water security for next 40 years
66. Second, we will develop robust capacity and capabilities for the conception, development and management of large infrastructure projects and will develop systems for the efficient coordination of key institutions. We will
o Develop fully a national performance measurement regime and system with targets
o Publish regularly the performance of key projects and institutions against targets on a regular basis
o Agree on a project management architecture in the Government system that is well-linked and aligned with management/implementation capacity across all stakeholders within and outside the Government system
o Rigorous and continuous training within and outside the Government system in areas that enhance the capacity for the management of large scale infrastructure projects
o Instill a culture of meritocracy by appointing and rewarding on the basis of merit to create a culture of meritocracy and excellence in the system
67. Third, we will manage the economy more creatively, and with a higher sense of urgency. We will:
o Focus more aggressively on the beneficiation of diamonds and minerals in general by taking steps for citizens and foreign investors to find and develop new opportunities along the value chain of the mineral sector. This will include a greater emphasis of training and attraction of investors in areas relating to mineral processing, diamond polishing, diamond sales, diamond finance, mineral trading and jewelry manufacturing. This alone can produce hundred of thousands of jobs over the next 8 to 10 years. This is something that requires a new a comprehensive beneficiation law.
o Restructure sectors that are constrained by archaic or restrictive laws. This includes the repealing of the BMC monopoly to allow the participation of other players in the meat value chain under the guidance of a regulator. We believe this will create thousands of jobs in the meat industry. The other sectors to benefit from this approach is the energy and water sectors both of which can yield thousands more jobs. Botswana has sufficient gas, coal, solar and water resources to keep her fully occupied provided the right technologies and systems are put to bear to generate immense wealth
72.Fourthly, we will discover, nurture and deploy our local human resources more creatively, fairly and balance this with an overhaul of the immigration system and approach to attract the right type of immigrants who can assist transform not only our economy but assist enhance the skills of our people
We intend to:
o Put to an end a culture of “jobs for friends” or “tenders to friends”
o Transform our education system into one that is primarily managerial, technical and production-focused, it will also emphasise the creative arts
o Put to an end the unexplained deportation of expatriates
o Identify key skills and quantum of skills required from outside to make immigration of those with such skills swift and almost automatic in some cases
o Provide proper incentives (and remuneration) for the right skills and behaviours in the public sector including for teachers, health professionals and civil servants at large
o Cultivate a happy and productive environment for workers through a disciplined and fair working conditions and relations
o Instill a culture of continuous training and excellence including the appointment to assignments based on merit
68. Fifthly, we would significantly strengthen Parliament to pursue its legislative and supervisor role over the executive more effectively
This means a number of steps:
o Legislation to make Parliament independent with its own Parliamentary service that reports to the Speaker and not to the Office of the President
o Adequate budget to establish a Budget/Economics office to provide professional analysis for the public and members of Parliament independent of the Executive
o Strengthen the professional capacity that supports the various committees
69. This would change how Government works, and would offer the country high accountability within the system and much higher quality in the delivery of services and projects by Government
70. Fifth, we will ensure the Executive has the capacity to facilitate Private Public Partnerships across all sectors. Currently, a small unit within the Ministry of Finance is expected to oversee or coordinate PPPs across Government, but the truth is the unit is far from adequate for the task. This lapse in our system probably denies Botswana additional internal and foreign investments running in the billions each year, and therefore costs Botswana tens of thousands of jobs each year. A well developed PPP implementation capacity would offer Botswana a platform to achieve the following much more effectively:
o The servicing of thousands of plots for ordinary Batswana at much lower cost than current cost, and at higher speed
o Superior medical health facilities and superior service standards in the delivery of health services
o Timely delivery of water and power projects, along the various value chain
71. Sixth, we will create a seamless ecosystem for the nurturing, development, funding and management of indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs, a better coordination of Government’s interventions in research and development, training of skills, management of major pension funds/Government funding schemes, Government-owned companies and cross-fertilization among schools and industry
We would do this through:
o A loose umbrella coordination body for research and development, entrepreneurship and Funding under which CEDA, BITRI, Public Officer’s Pension Fund, Universities, major corporations and other stakeholders will be participants
o Legislation to ensure investment in viable outputs of Research and Development, collaborative/incubator businesses attached to major corporates, experimental production initiatives by agricultural colleges, universities and departments of secondary schools working in areas or sectors in which Botswana has a reasonable chance of major success (energy including solar, mineral beneficiation, beef processing, agro-business and other foods, medicines, materials manufacture, agricultural production and tourism, financial services, the creative sectors/technology)
72. Seventh, we will enhance the resilience of communities by changing our planning system to make it more de-centralised in some areas so that communities are able to make choices and pursue their own priorities. We will do this by encouraging communities or constituencies to establish community trusts that reflect their priorities in which Government will invest money based on their performance and how much those communities are also able to contribute to their own trusts.
73. Eighth, we will invest in establishing an education system for People Living with Disabilities, which system will give them the power to achieve anything they wish to without any sense of inhibition. We will also offer special interventions for women to improve their chances of breaking into the areas and sectors where they have been made to believe they cannot make it.
74. Dr. Ian Khama’s SONA does have flashes or parts of our proposals and indeed it does make proposals on some important major infrastructure projects, all of which have been in the pipeline for a while now. Still, the Government deserves some credit for this. However, the Government must take responsibility for the negligent action of failing to prepare the post-2016 vision on time. It must also take responsibility for failing to prepare the eleventh Development Plan in time for its unveiling which was supposed to form part of this year’s SONA in preparation for its roll-out as of March 2016. This is reflective of a Government that is sluggish if not irresponsible. This is why we refuse to believe that what the President presented is any form of stimulus. It was simply a presentation in dribs and drabs of what should have found its way to the NDP 11. This is a “Stop Gap Plan” and in Setswana “Nama o tshwere”. What Botswana needs is what I have just presented, a plan to transform our economy and the way we do things as a country. This is what the UDC will fight for and hope to achieve one day.
75. As you all now realize, the UDC offers hope for this country and all its people. It offers big dreams; dreams of immensity; dreams of intensity. We offer what that literary genius, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, described so beautifully as an energy and novelty that belongs to us in its entirety and with which we ourselves are sufficient. It cannot be domesticated by imperial voracity, or by the brutality of the internal oppressor, or even by our own immemorial fears of translating into words our most cherished dreams. It is the total expression of a creative vocation and a creative capability that justify and demand of all of us a profound confidence in the future.
76. This is, in critical part what we mean by MOONO.
77. It remains for me to thank you all for the privilege of your attention.