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Permit rejections rile private sector up

LEBOGANG MOSIKARE
Immigration offices.PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE
FRANCISTOWN: The pressure is on for the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) to lobby government over the high number of rejections of applications for work and resident permits renewals.

This comes after members of the business community raised issues with the government rejecting applications for renewal of such permits for their workers despite the scarcity of skilled manpower in the country.

They said this during a BITC Outreach Programme meeting on Monday that aimed to solicit ideas and suggestions from the business community about how the centre can lobby government on their behalf.

Amongst other reasons, BITC also seeks to improve the trading environment entrepreneurs.

The entrepreneurs said in some cases, their businesses suffer due to the government’s refusal to renew work permits for their workers bearing scarce skills that are not readily available in the country. They decried that the government is always raising security as the main reason for refusing to approve or renew work permits for their employees. In addition, the entrepreneurs said their companies suffer a lot financially due to government’s refusal to issue the permits--a move which would in the long run defeat government’s mandate to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) and create much needed work.

The entrepreneurs pleaded with BITC to lobby government to adopt a quota-based system of issuing the permits to their scarce skilled workers and do away with the current point-based system, which they said is forcing foreign companies to establish businesses outside Botswana

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where there are no stringent regulations.  In response to queries raised by the business community, the executive director, Strategy and Competitiveness at BITC, Keletsositse Olebile said the issue of work permits is a sensitive one that should be carefully dealt with.

He said BITC is lobbying government to adopt the quota system when issuing permits because the system has been successful in other countries.

“Some countries are succeeding because they use the quota system as opposed to the point-based system. We will continue to lobby government to change the current system as red tape is preventing some businesses to set up shop here,” said Olebile.

He said one of their roles is to apply for work permits on behalf of companies, imploring them to utilise his organisation for the service.

“Applications routed through our organisation are rarely rejected,” said Olebile, adding that companies pay consultants to apply on their behalf which comes at a cost. On other matters, Olebile acknowledged that they are facing challenges of taking their mandate to the public because they are based in Gaborone only.

He, however, said they would strive very hard to educate the public about the mandate of their organisation because they do not want to attract FDI only, but also to promote Domestic Investment (DI).



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