Mmegi Online :: State of the Nation Address 2017 [full text]
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State of the Nation Address 2017 [full text]

State of the Nation Address delivered by President Ian Khama on November 6, 2017 at parliament.
By Ian Khama Mon 06 Nov 2017, 17:34 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: State of the Nation Address 2017 [full text]








1. Madam Speaker, before beginning, I would kindly request that we observe a moment of silence in remembrance of all those who have departed during the last year.

2. Madam Speaker, Honourable Members, the opening of this Assembly is an annual opportunity for us to reaffirm our collective values and aspirations, as well as interrogate the ongoing performance of our public institutions, as we work to better the lives of Batswana.

3. Today we can take comfort in the fact that through our complementary efforts, as the executive and legislative branches of Government, we have over the past years been able to make substantial progress towards promoting the well being of Batswana. Notwithstanding challenges on the way, our nation has continued to move forward along the path of democratic development.

4. While a journey towards a more perfect society in an imperfect world can never be complete, our own progress continues to be marked by measurable milestones contained in our long-term vision, national development plans and goals for sustainable human development.

5. Madam Speaker, the launch of Vision 2036 has provided us with a refined roadmap to meet our 21st century objectives. At its core, the Vision recognises that our country’s outstanding economic, social, environmental and governance issues are interconnected, as defined by its four pillars. In this respect I am honoured that Cabinet appointed me to serve as the Vision Champion, a commitment I look forward to pursuing in the coming years.

6. It should be noted, however, that Vision 2036 has not been conceived as a Government agenda. It is rather a blueprint for national progress that requires participation and partnership from all individuals and sectors of society.

 

Economic Outlook

7. Turning to our immediate economic outlook, in the aftermath of the 2015 recession, we have experienced a welcome recovery in domestic growth, which according to current medium term projections is expected to continue.

8. National Accounts data released by Statistics Botswana in April 2017, confirmed that our economy grew by 4.3% in 2016. As was anticipated in my previous address, this growth was driven by non-mining sectors such as Trade, Hotels & Restaurants and Transport & Communications industries, which registered an increase of 13.5% and 5.6% respectively. A key factor in boosting the hotel and hospitality sector in recent years has been the growth of downstream diamond industry activities following the relocation of the Diamond Trading Company from London to Gaborone in 2012.

9. Notwithstanding the negative effects of the BCL liquidation, contraction in the mining sector was also significantly reduced last year to 3.7%, as opposed to the 19.6% we suffered in 2015.

10. In line with these trends, domestic growth is currently projected to reach 4.7% in 2017 and 5.3% in 2018. This positive outlook, which builds on our average 3.9% growth during NDP 10, is expected to be sustained by further improvements in the Mining; Trade, Hotels & Restaurants; Transport & Communication; and Water & Electricity sectors. The projected expansion of the Water & Electricity sector, largely resulting from an additional unit at Morupule B power station and the restoration of Morupule A, is further expected to boost other sectors of the economy.

11. It is also anticipated that diamond production will increase, mainly due to a recovery in global demand, particularly in the advanced economies.

12. According to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) most recent World Economic Outlook report, released in October 2017, global economic growth is projected to increase from 3.2% in 2016 to 3.6% in 2017 and 3.7% in 2018. Despite this modestly positive outlook, medium term downside risks remain, including prolonged policy and political uncertainty in both advanced and emerging economies.

13. Advanced economies are now expected to grow at 2.2% in 2017 and 2.0% in 2018, improving on the 1.7% attained in 2016.

 

Inflation, Trade & Foreign Exchange Reserves

14. Madam Speaker, it is heartening to note that the inflation rate has been, and is expected to remain at the lower end of the Bank of Botswana's medium-term objective range of 3 – 6%. Since the beginning of this year the rate hovered between 3.1% and 3.5%.

15. I am further pleased to report a positive trend in our balance of trade. According to Statistics Botswana, total imports for 2016 were valued at P66.9 billion, against P73.2 billion recorded in 2015, representing a fall of 8.6%. Total exports for the same period were valued at P80.3 billion, an increase of 26.5%, compared to P63.5 billion recorded in 2015. As a result, our trade balance was in surplus of P13.5 billion in 2016, resulting in a balance of payments surplus of P2.8 billion, in contrast to the deficit of P0.57 billion that was recorded for 2015.

16. As of the end August 2017, our foreign exchange reserves were valued at P 76.6 billion, which is equivalent to 17 months of import cover. Of the total reserves, the Government Investment Account amounted to P32.1 billion. Our exchange rate policy continues to support competitiveness of local industries in both domestic and international markets by maintaining the stability of the Pula against a basket of leading currencies.

 

2016/2017 Budget Outturn

17. Turning to the budget, the overall fiscal balance for the 2016/17 financial year was in surplus of P 1.12 billion, instead of the P 1.10 deficit that had been projected. As Government we shall strive to always avoid deficit spending, which if unchecked will erode our foreign exchange reserves and impact negatively on our international sovereign credit ratings. In this respect our prudence was last month rewarded by Standard & Poor’s (S&P) who upgraded our outlook to “stable”, while reaffirming our “A-/A2” credit rating with specific reference to our fiscal management, as well as improved expectations for sustainable economic growth.

 

Economic Diversification Drive (EDD)

18. Madam Speaker, over the past six years, the short term component of the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) has resulted in a substantial increase in Government procurement from local manufacturers and service providers, amounting to a cumulative total expenditure of P13.93 billion as of March 2017, which constitutes 52% of our total procurement for the period.

19. Implementation of the EDD medium to long term strategy for incubating local production has continued to focus on the leather, dairy and textiles sub-sector strategies.

20. Government support for dairy production is evidenced by our allocation of land to farmers, which has been accompanied by increased milk production. As of March 2017, local production stood at six million litres or about 10% of annual national milk demand, meaning that there is further opportunity for domestic producers.

21. Government, in partnership with the European Union (EU), has implemented a Private Sector Development Programme to address enterprise capacity constraints. Since June 2017, one hundred enterprises had benefited from this initiative.

 

Investment Promotion

22. Madam Speaker, since its inception in 2012 the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) has attracted a total of P10 billion worth of foreign and domestic capital investment, resulting in the creation of 8,831 additional jobs. The total business expansion investment level stood at P618.6 million in 2016-17 compared to P377 million reported in 2015/16.

23. The Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) has, despite two periods of recession, also experienced growth, with its total investment assets increasing from P1.2 billion to P2 billion over the past decade. This growth has supported over 5,000 jobs across various sectors of the economy.

24. Through its transformational programme the BDC has re-positioned itself for further growth, with over a thousand new jobs having been created since 2015 from new investments.

 

Enabling Business

25. Madam Speaker, in April 2017 Botswana was ranked number one in the Africa Investment Index by Quantum Global Holdings. But, the value of such accolades will be undermined if we fail to improve our associated Ease of Doing Business Rankings. Efforts are thus underway towards further enhancing the business environment through the implementation of a doing business reforms road map, with an accompanying Regulatory Impact Assessment Strategy. As part of this process, in August 2017, Government, in consultation with Business Botswana and other stakeholders, took the decision to lift a wide range of onerous tender compliance certification processes.

26. Government also continues to leverage ICT to improve the provision of services. To this end, a One Stop Service Center has been set up.

27. The Companies Act and the Registration of Business Names Act have been reviewed to enable online registration. These measures should improve turnaround times for company registration from days to hours.

 

Special Economic Zones

28. Madam Speaker, Government is continuing with the setting up of the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA). We have developed and now implementing the Authority’s structure, business development and marketing strategies. We have also commenced the domestic and international marketing of SEZA sites.

 

Entrepreneurship Development

29. Entrepreneurship promotion and Small, Medium and Micro-Enterprise (SMME) development remain critical components of our overall industrialisation programme. Besides generating jobs and income, SMMEs enhance production supply chains alongside larger firms. The Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) thus continues to develop and implement programs to promote SMME growth.

30. Over the last three years, LEA has developed 1834 business plans of which 245 worth P96 million have so far been approved. LEA has further capacitated 17,040 entrepreneurs, through business mentoring, coaching, technical and business training. In addition, a total of 25,529 aspirant entrepreneurs were trained, of whom 24,352 were youth.

31. LEA is also offering incubation programmes to provide emerging entrepreneurs with business operating space and training. In this regard, the existing incubators, namely the Leather Incubator in Gaborone, Light Industrial Incubator in Francistown and Pilane Multi-Purpose Incubator, were fully occupied by the end of March 2017.

32. The Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) has been steadfast in carrying out its mandate to support citizen business start-ups. Since 2008, CEDA has funded 4,006 enterprises with a total value of P 3.1 billion, generating 18,738 jobs. During the 2016/2017 financial year, the Agency funded 717 new enterprises with a total value of P434 million, generating 3,071 jobs.

33. CEDA beneficiaries have notably included 1,188 youth entrepreneurs with total funding amounting to P585 million. During 2016/17 financial year, the Agency financed 189 youth owned businesses with loans amounting to P80 million.

34. The Agency has also been proactive in supporting women owned enterprises, which over the past two years have received P366 million, which constitutes 44% of total CEDA funding. CEDA also continues to explore innovative avenues for financial inclusion, such as Mabogo Dinku, which since its inception in August 2016 has assisted 450 beneficiaries.

35. Government, through the Technical Devices Fund levy, has invested in the creative industries as an engine for job creation, poverty alleviation and economic diversification. Since May 2013, a total of 41 projects have been funded to the tune of P34.8 million. These projects cover different sectors of the creative industry including book publishing, film and video production, capacity building and training, theatre performances, music and software development.

 

SPEDU Region

36. Madam Speaker, Government came up with a Response Strategy that will guide the Strategic approach to revitalise the economy of the SPEDU Region. The Strategy calls for the establishment of the region as a Special Economic Zone catering for, among others, renewable energy generation, recycling and distribution of green technology components, manufacturing, agriculture and tourism. The latter will include an International Convention Centre that will position the town as a prime destination for events and conferences.

37. Implementation of the Selebi-Phikwe Revitalization Program has further resulted in 12 key projects in ICT, manufacturing and agricultural sectors, which have the potential to create 1,540 jobs once fully operational, with a total investment of P277 million. In the process, SPEDU has experienced increased interest among additional potential investors, with the goal of creating 6,800 jobs over the next three years.

 

Cooperative Development

38. Botswana’s 265 cooperatives have long supported economic and social development, especially in the rural areas. In recent years we have witnessed a shift from the traditional form of Co-operatives like consumers/retail to emerging forms in such areas as estate development and crafts. Government continues to support the resuscitation and revamping of co-operatives in line with the Co-operative Transformation Strategy.

 

Economic Stimulus Programme

39. The Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) remains a Government priority with an allocated budget of P2.2 billion. ESP achievements during 2016/17 included the award of majority of projects to citizen contractors, the completion of projects and employment creation. Significant progress has been made in the overall execution of ESP projects as over 80% of the 2016/17 planned projects have been started and some completed covering the maintenance and expansion of Senior and Junior Secondary Schools; as well as backlog eradication in provision of classrooms, teachers quarters and ablution blocks in 139 primary schools country wide. Other projects include the construction of 30 Customary Courts; and minimal and peripheral land servicing just to mention a few.

40. There has been significant progress in the construction of houses for health care workers with 127 houses currently being constructed. This translates into a total of 41 contractors having been engaged; thus meeting Government’s objective of employing as many small contractors as possible throughout the country. Twenty-seven clinics will be constructed across the country and are now at design stage. We are also constructing three Agricultural Service Centres.

41. At the end of March 2017 the total number of citizens employed under ESP stood at 20,287. The implementation of ESP projects is also further boosting job creation through procurement of local products and services.

 

Research, Science, Technology and Innovation

42. Madam Speaker, in line with Vision 2036, investment in research, science, technology and innovation will be a key factor in our transformation into a knowledge based economy. Government’s ongoing support for research and innovation has included the establishment of the Innovation Fund, capacity building for tertiary education institutions through the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) Research Grants.

43. Since its 2012 establishment, the Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI) has developed and adapted technology solutions. An example is Kgalagadi Sand Building Block that enables the construction of buildings without the use of river sand. Five building block depots have so far been established with the intention of rolling-out of this technology to other locations.

44. BITRI is also developed Seding solar lights, which are providing street lighting to remote villages. BITRI has further opened a Centre for Material Sciences, which utilizes nano-science technologies. The Centre will serve the region by providing testing services to industry, while serving as a home for cutting edge research.

45. We have also ventured into advanced technologies such as radio–astronomy through our participation in the Square Kilometre Array project, which aims to develop the world’s largest radio telescope by 2024. High powered laboratory equipment has been installed at BIUST as part of this project, which will develop local capacity through the training of post graduate students and staff.

 

Public Infrastructure

46. Government remains committed to transforming the local construction industry for greater competitiveness. As such three regulatory bodies within the sector were established, namely the Engineers Registration Board, Architects Registration Council and the Quantity Surveyors Registration Council to ensure professionalism in the sector.

 

Minerals

47. Madam Speaker, the minerals sector remains a principal source of revenue and primary sector for the growth and diversification of our economy. Government will therefore continue to promote mineral beneficiation to maximise value addition.

48. Copper and nickel prices continued to be unstable in 2016-17, creating uncertainty for potential investors. By the end of June 2017, the average price of nickel was 7% below the same period in 2016. More encouraging is the fact that copper prices have improved by 19% when compared to the same period in 2016.

49. The prolonged non-profitability of BCL Limited led to it being placed under final liquidation in June 2017. Tati Nickel Mining Company meanwhile remains under provisional liquidation. Boseto Mine which was acquired by Khoemacau Copper Mining also remains under care and maintenance. Mowana Mine has been acquired by new investors, who started operations in April 2017.

50. Madam Speaker, I am pleased to report that there are more positive developments in the energy minerals sub-sector. For instance, A-Cap Resources was granted a mining licence in September 2016 for uranium at Serule, while Sese Power Subsidiary, was granted a mining licence for coal at Sese in January 2017.

51. Although sales for rough diamonds improved during 2016 and 2017 demand remains both sluggish and volatile, resulting in the continued closure of marginal mines, such as Lerala and BK 11. The polished diamond market is also relatively depressed with negative repercussions on local diamond manufacturing.

52. We do, nonetheless, remain committed to creating an enabling environment that will catalyse and sustain our diamond beneficiation initiatives and are thus formulating a new diamond beneficiation strategy, which will be concluded by the end of February 2018.

 

Agriculture and Food Security

53. Madam Speaker, Government promotes agriculture through programmes such as the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD) and the Livestock Management and Infrastructure Development (LIMID).

54. This year, in spite of the negative effects of cyclone Dineo in some areas, the outlook of the agricultural sector remains positive largely due to above average rainfall and the increased adoption of technologies by farmers across all sectors. The drive to commercialise and diversify our agriculture, through programmes such as the National Master Plan for Arable Agriculture and Dairy Development (NAMPAADD) has resulted in many farmers engaging in commercial agriculture.

55. We have also experienced positive developments in response to the effects of climate change; with farmers adopting technologies and conservation measures that include the planting of drought resistant crops.

56. With the return of relatively good rains, there has also been a significant increase in the uptake of the ISPAADD programme, with the number of participating farmers rising to 100,250 farmers in 2016/17, a 34% increase from the previous financial year. This was accompanied by a noticeable increase in the total area planted, to 384,250 HA, which is 32% above the previous cropping season.

57. Madam Speaker, there has been a corresponding improvement in the domestic food security. The harvest of major cereal crops (i.e. maize, millet and sorghum) was estimated at 175,000 metric tonnes in 2016/17, a notable improvement from 2015/16 harvest of 54,000 metric tonnes.

58. In the livestock subsector, the LIMID programme has been expanded to cover different packages including small stock, Tswana chickens, guinea fowl, fodder production, water reticulation and development of animal handling facilities such as loading ramps and kraals. Since its inception, the total number of beneficiaries for LIMID has increased, reaching 34,653 by July 2017. In terms of gender, 64% of LIMID beneficiaries are women.

59. For areas where rain fed agriculture has proven to be unfeasible, Government in 2014 introduced the special ISPAAD programme, whose total number of beneficiaries currently stands at 345.

60. One of the major threats to livestock sector over the years has been the sporadic outbreaks of the Foot and Mouth Disease. Incidences of the diseases within the green zone occurred in 2007 in Ngamiland, in 2011 in the North and Central districts and again in 2013 and 2017 in Ngamiland.

61. It is pleasing to note that after many decades of absence of the disease in zone 3b, which is in the Nata area, the World Organisation for Animal Health General Assembly in May 2017 approved Government’s application for the recognition of the zone as FMD free without vaccination.

 

Tourism Development

62. In an attempt to increase citizen participation, Government has reviewed the Tourism Act of 1992 and the Tourism Regulations of 1996 to accommodate the reservation of some licence categories for citizens. Reserved activities include; guesthouses, bed and breakfast, mobile safaris, motorboats, tourist transfers, camp and caravan sites and mekoro. This has led to an increase in the number of citizen operators from 290 in 2007 to 1015 in 2017, with another 252 currently being joint ventures, while 245 operators are non-citizens. The number of licensed operators is envisaged to grow at a rate of 11% annually. Expansion and localisation is estimated to have generated some 60,000 jobs.

63. Tourism continues to show resilience, with the country experiencing an increase in tourist arrivals to around two million. This has been accompanied by increasing international recognition of Botswana as a premier tourist location as is reflected in such accolades and achievements as:

• Lonely Planet’s designation of Botswana as its number 1 “must see” country in 2016.

• New York Times listing of Botswana among its Top 5 destinations

• Gold Medal award for Best Innovative Marketing Campaign and Quality Standard for Race for Rhinos, by Best Initiative Directions;

• Our 1st Position in the Economist Mega-fauna Index; and

• Positive response to Botswana Tourism’s increased sponsorship of premier events from 9 to 35 in the last five years.

64. The dams’ tourism initiative is progressing with Strategic Environmental Assessments for the proposed developments for Thune, Letsibogo and Shashe Dams at the final approval stage. It is expected that 889 jobs will be created through this initiative.

65. Government continues to promote the country as a destination of excellence through enhanced marketing including increased representation at international tourism trade shows. In March 2017, Botswana became the first sub-Saharan African country to partner with ITB Berlin, the world’s premiere and largest tourism trade show, whose opening ceremony performed by 35 local youth reached a global audience.

66. This coming month Botswana will be hosting the UN World Tourism Organisation Conference on Sustainable Development, to be followed by the Giants Club Summit in March 2018.

67. Government remains committed to the diversification of tourism through support for events such as Khawa Dune Challenge and Cultural festival, The Makgadikgadi Epic, Race for Rhinos, Gaborone International Air Show, the World’s Strongest Man and the Toyota 1000 Kalahari Botswana Desert Race, among others. We are also providing financial and operational assistance to 20 annual local events, which have steadily grown in terms of their turn out.

68. To further expand opportunities, Government is also developing community monuments and heritage sites. To this end, access has so far been developed into 100 heritage sites around the country.

 

Wildlife Management

69. Madam Speaker, human-wildlife conflict has escalated as a direct consequence of the good rains that were received over much of the country at the beginning of 2017.

70. While the elephant represents one of our conservation successes with over a third of the continental population found within the country, they have been expanding their range into areas where they have not been observed in many years. To help drive them from community and farming areas additional material resources, including aircraft and capture equipment, are being procured; in addition to measures such as the electrified Makgadikgadi fence. An additional 100 posts have also been secured to strengthen the Problem Animal Control Unit.

71. To further minimise the movement of elephants and other wildlife into communal areas, over the last decade, 36 boreholes have been drilled and/or rehabilitated into solar powered pumps in national parks and game reserves. Under ESP, a further twenty-two boreholes will be drilled and equipped.

72. Efforts to boost our rhino population have intensified in recent years with numbers increasing by over 100%. Concern has, however, been expressed regarding the decline of certain species of wildlife such as tsessebe, springbok, wildebeest and lechwe. A hunting moratorium was instituted in 2014 to allow us to better understand the causes of the decline and to take the necessary measures to reverse this trend.

73. Madam Speaker, international production houses such as Disney, National Geographic and BBC World are increasingly filming in our wilderness areas. A total of 148 filming permits were issued between the years 2012 and 2016. There are currently 56 environmental filming permits which are active across the country.

74. To increase benefits from wildlife and to further diversify the economy, Government is facilitating Community Trusts to take part in the game ranching industry, as well as tourism.

 

Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

75. Madam Speaker, because of its high impact role as an enabler of development, government will continue to invest in the ICT sector, while speeding up the delivery of e-services. ICT connectivity is therefore being continuously rolled out, with an additional 37 villages connected through broadband fibre since my last address. In the process broadband telecommunications infrastructure has been extended into areas such as Kgalagadi, Okavango, Chobe and Bobirwa sub-district. Since my last address, the Gaborone, Francistown, Lobatse, Mogoditshane, Palapye, Selebi Phikwe, Tshabong, Bobonong and Serowe connections have been completed and are in the process of connecting 1,276 commercial and Government premises. In addition, BOFINET is in the process of implementing rollout plans for Gaborone and Francistown with intention to cover all commercial and Government premises in the two cities with high speed broadband connectivity.

76. Government also continues to partner with BotswanaPost in various areas such as welfare payments through its branch network and the provision of online financial and registration services. We have built two new and refurbished four existing Post Offices.

77. Regarding National Registration, the current registration stand at 1,995,887 people issued with Omang cards.

78. In 2010 Government began issuing e-passports with enhanced security features. As of the beginning of this year a total of 858,872 e-passports have been issued. The introduction of the e-passport coincided with the computerisation of border control functions. This system is linked with other security systems such as INTERPOL to alert officials when a wanted person tries to cross into the country.

79. The process of computerising ports of Entry/Exit is on-going. During the 2015/16 financial year we began to computerise the border posts of Pont’s Drift, Platjan, Pandamatenga, Bray and Middlepits. Automation of the remaining eight border posts will be done during the current plan period.

 

Broadcasting and Online Communication

80. The Department of Broadcasting Services is currently implementing Phase 2 of its Digital Migration Project to enable other ministries to disseminate information to the public through Botswana Television. Ten companies have been engaged by Btv to produce local content

81. The department will be upgrading television studios to High Definition to enhance its signal quality and programming. Three more offices will be opened in Shakawe, Goodhope and Kang during the coming financial year. Btv Channel 2 is to be commissioned during 2018/19 as a Sport and Entertainment channel that will include performing arts, fashion design, TV reality shows etc. International companies have partnered with local companies for implementation of Upgrading of Television Studios, and Data Broadcasting for skills transfer to citizens.

82. BTV and Radio Botswana have also increased their online footprint, while Government continues to reach out to hundreds of thousands of Batswana and international followers through our expanded social media. In March 2017 BWgovernment was ranked as the world’s 5th most active Government Facebook page based on its total number of independently monitored interactions.

 

Transport

83. Madam Speaker, In 2016 Botswana Railways (BR) re-launched its passenger train Service “BR Express” between Lobatse and Francistown, while refurbishing its Lobatse, Gaborone and Francistown stations. This month BR will also be receiving eight new locomotives from the U.S.A.

84. Madam Speaker, road accidents continue to be an issue of concern. During 2016 there were a total of 450 deaths, while so far we have recorded 328 fatalities as of 30 September 2017. In response, Government through the Department of Road Transport and Safety (DRTS) and with the support of the National Road Safety Committee, continues to intensify collaboration with youth groups in the area of road safety awareness as they are the most vulnerable group.

85. There has been measureable progress with regards to the commencement and completion of Government transport projects. Government also has made progress in implementing ESP in the road sector, which incorporate plans to decongest areas of priority and stimulate local economic activity by constructing and upgrading identified roads. We also continue to undertake periodic maintenance in order to preserve the roads through reseal/overlay, while generating 352 jobs in the sector as of September 2017.

86. Madam Speaker, a tender for the construction of 3 interchanges along the Western Bypass road has been advertised, while work on the Greater Gaborone Traffic Signals Improvement and Centralized Traffic Control project has commenced.

87. Preparation of the National Multi-Modal Transport Master Plan and Greater Gaborone Transport Master Plan is expected to be completed by August 2018. These plans will provide a framework for future integrated transport development both nationally and within Greater Gaborone.

 

Aviation Sector

88. Madam Speaker, construction of the Kasane Terminal building was completed in June 2017, while refurbishment of the old building is scheduled for completion by the end of the year. The Maun Terminal building is still at tender stage and is expected to be completed by year 2021.

89. Following the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) validation mission and security audits in 2015-16 there has been increased international confidence in our aviation industry. Consequently, CAAB continues to receive applicants for entering the air transport market. We are scheduled for a further full audit under the ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme in May 2018.

90. Despite its fleet challenges, the national airline has continued to maintain its on-time performance on departures at a rate over the international standard of 80%. A total of 238,390 passengers were carried during 2016/2017 financial year. This figure is 2.6% above the number of passengers carried during the corresponding period in 2015/2016.

 

Health and Wellness

91. Madam Speaker, with respect to health and wellness Government continues to focus on its priority areas of organisational transformation, access to sustainable quality health care service and prevention with emphasis on primary health care. With regards to organisational transformation, a new functional structure has been introduced to create a leaner health care system. District Health Management Teams (DHMTs) have been rationalised from 27 to 18 and will be empowered and resourced to drive comprehensive and integrated service delivery through revitalisation of primary health care, incorporating Community Health Workers. This approach will enable Batswana to take greater responsibility for their health and wellness.

92. Government is also strengthening the capacity of its health care work force. To address the problem of shortage of skilled health professionals, a five year training strategy and yearly training plans have been developed for the training and maintenance of professional skills. We continue to absorb output from our local training institutes such as the medical school and Institutes of Health Sciences.

93. In the past decade, Government has made strides in improving access to health services and notable achievements include the following:

• 84% of the population is accessing basic health services within 5km radius due to construction and upgrading of clinics and hospitals.

• Thirty-one clinics and health posts were constructed or upgraded, including 10 clinics that were donated by the private sector and non-government institutions.

94. Government continues to improve access to care by constructing clinics and hospitals through the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP).

95. Five basic specialists’ services are currently offered in all district hospitals. Recent years has further witnessed the introduction of new speciality services. Other areas of progress include the extension of hours of service with 49 clinics now offering 24 hours services, up from 12 in 2008.

96. The Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital is expected to open its doors at the beginning of next year. When fully operational the facility will offer quaternary care and will be a centre of excellence in such areas as radiation oncology and organ transplant.

97. Government has further developed national health quality standards for medical facilities and services. These standards provide a yardstick by which facility performance can be measured to identify strengths and areas for improvement.

98. Government is working to improve availability of medicines and medical supplies at both Central Medical Stores (CMS) and its facilities. At the end of August 2017, the average availability of vital drugs at our facilities stood at 86.4%.

99. The impact of road traffic accidents has led to the establishment of National Emergency Medical Services (EMS), with eight centres established and functional since 2012. This has led to an increase in the number of patients that are being promptly seen, reducing mortalities.

 

Public Health Interventions

100. Government remains committed to providing child survival programs to guarantee optimal child health through integrated management of childhood illnesses, expanded programme on immunizations and early child development programs. In line with the World Health Organization targets the immunization programme has maintained coverage above 90% for over a decade for most of the antigens. Immunisation is one of the most cost effective public health interventions in saving children from vaccine preventable diseases. Since 2010 Government has introduced several new vaccines in response to the existing and emerging threats.

101. Primary Health Care has been at the core through implementation of Community Support Strategy to promote community involvement in achieving vaccine coverage. These concerted efforts resulted in the following achievements:

• Reduction in Infant Mortality Rate from 76/1000 live birth to 17/1000 live births;

• Reduction of Under-five Mortality Rate (U5MR) from 51/1000 live births to 28 per 1000 live births; and

• Reaching the elimination phase for both Neonatal Tetanus and Measles.

102. Our country’s last reported case of indigenous polio was in 1989 and imported polio in 2004, with no further cases reported since then. Since 2000 there has been a 99% reduction in cases of malaria from 17,555 to 716 cases in 2016, with a 94.6% decrease in deaths from 56 in 2000 to 3 in 2016.

103. Government also continues to implement various nutrition interventions. In 2015, Government developed a National Nutrition Strategy to prioritise efforts to reduce malnutrition and diet related conditions such as overweight and obesity. The Vulnerable Group Feeding Programme, Direct Feeding Initiative, Infant and Young Feeding as well as programmes to treat malnutrition, and establishment of centres for Child and Adolescent Nutrition in Gaborone and Francistown have all contributed immensely to combating childhood malnutrition.

104. Government monitors nutritional status of children under the age of five attending Child Welfare Clinics through a decentralised national nutrition surveillance System. To date 230,000 under-five children are enrolled in the system receiving monthly growth monitoring and promotion, infant young child feeding counselling and food ration. Since 2009, Government has also implemented an annual Vitamin A supplementation program for all children from 6 to 59 months.

105. Government has established Port Health Services at 12 points of entry for inspection of conveyances and goods of public health importance so as to keep them free of sources of infection or contamination and for screening of travellers to ensure that they are free from infectious and/or quarantinable diseases. This has enabled us to control public health threats, as was evident with the Ebola outbreak in 2014, where there were no cases reported in Botswana.

106. In response to the increasing incidence of cervical cancer, Government, in collaboration with the US Centre for Disease Control, has introduced new screening and treatment method for pre-cancerous lesions of the cervix.

107. In recent years the impact of tuberculosis (TB) was worsened by the increase in HIV infection. With the introduction of TB/HIV co-infection treatment guidelines in 2010 and increased ARV coverage, TB notification reduced from 510 per 100,000 population in 2008 to 250 per 100,000 in 2015. With Treat All Strategy, the notification rate is anticipated to further reduce.

 

Non Communicable Diseases

108. The burden of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers, and chronic respiratory diseases is significant and rising in Botswana. Deaths due to NCDs exceed those due to TB, malaria and HIV combined. These conditions not only kill, they are potentially debilitating.

109. According to a 2014 national survey to assess the burden of NCD risk factors in Botswana, 31% of Batswana are overweight, 18% smoke, and 20% do not engage in enough physical activity. Of the 44% of Batswana who consume alcohol over half were further reported to drink heavily. Furthermore, many Batswana are unaware that they have NCDs. We found that 11% of Batswana had raised total cholesterol and many of them had not been diagnosed or managed at facilities. Furthermore, over 70% of cancers are diagnosed at advanced stage, which significantly lowers the chances for cure and long term survival.

110. Government has intensified the fight against NCDs and their risk factors. The 2017-2022 NCD Strategy that is under development emphasises a multi-sectoral approach to NCDs as these diseases are influenced by individual lifestyles. The role of the individual and communities cannot be overemphasized in the fight against NCDs, by choosing a healthy lifestyle to reduce risk factors of NCDs such as avoidance of tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, other substances, unhealthy diet, and inadequate physical activity.

 

Reducing Substance Abuse

111. In addition, Government is reviewing the Control of Smoking Act of 1992, in order to strengthen its protection of citizens. Inter-sectoral implementation of the alcohol campaign involving Government Ministries in addition to the traditional NGO implementing partners has enhanced targeted interventions to address the issues of alcohol abuse among the youth, who are the most affected by substance abuse. In this respect Government has started training Chairpersons of Parent Teachers Associations at regional and national levels on issues of alcohol abuse in schools; student character building boot camps have been held with extensive alcohol and drug associated harm reduction contents. Youth Consultative forums have also been conducted with a national media campaign targeting the youth on alcohol and drug abuse; enforcement of traffic regulations has been strengthened and alcohol detection vehicle (the Booze Buses) are being increased to ensure safety on our roads.

112. An evaluation of the National Alcohol Campaign has also been completed which found that the share of expenditure on alcohol and tobacco has decreased at national level, albeit increased in rural areas. While 60% of Batswana have indicated reduced drinking, drinking levels nonetheless remain high with about 18% being binge drinkers. In terms of social impact the study further confirmed that alcohol abuse continues to have a negative health impact, as reflected, in part, in the high cost of treating associated injuries, which were estimated at P3,580,849 for the 2016/17 financial year. In addition, alcohol abuse is associated with increased domestic violence, theft, assaults, road traffic accidents, rapes and murder. Alcohol abuse further contributes to teenage pregnancies and STIs including HIV/AIDS, as well as the failure of some to adhere to their ART and TB treatment.

113. Given such findings, the study underscored that the Public Education Campaign on Alcohol Consumption should be continuous and more focused on the long-term health consequences of drinking. Additional findings included the need for a more comprehensive advertising ban on alcoholic beverages and the lowering of breath and blood alcohol content limits for drivers under the Road Traffic Act. There was also an indentified need for the National Alcohol Policy to incorporate implementation plans, M&E and functional institutional frameworks.

114. The findings further confirmed that the alcohol levy has coincided with decrease in the household expenditure on tobacco as well as alcohol at the national level. Since its inception the levy has raised just over 2.6 billion pula.

115. Sustainable health financing remains key factor in achieving health targets and outcomes. Government has completed two rounds of the National Health Accounts which tracked the magnitude and flow of health sector expenditure for the periods 2007/2008 to 2009/2010 and 2013/2014. The results reveal that Government dominates in the financing of health services at 65% of the Total Health Expenditure. During the same analysis period, donor funding declined from 12% to 7% of the total health expenditure, while private sector financing increased from 21% to 28%. The results also show that spending on preventive care has increased from 9% to 20%.

116. Direct out of pocket health payments by households continues to be low at 4% which indicates that relative to most countries Government provides strong financial protection for its population in line with our commitment to universal health coverage.

 

HIV/AIDS

117. Government commends all stakeholders who have contributed to the fight against HIV/AIDS. The treatment programme continues to be one of our success stories with the country having adopted Option B PLUS in 2015 in an effort to eliminate Mother to Child transmission of HIV, Treat All in 2016 whereby all HIV+ infected persons are put on treatment irrespective of a CD4 threshold.

118. The Botswana AIDS Impact Survey (BAIS V) is about to commence with a target for completion of mid 2018/2019. Its aim is to update the existing HIV and AIDS data. This survey will be combined with a first ever TB prevalence survey for Botswana to inform the country on the current burden.

119. Botswana is committed to the UNAIDS targets of 90-90-90 and ending AIDS by 2030. In view of this, Government will continue to support HIV/AIDS interventions for the country to reach epidemic control. As a country and with support from development partners, we have invested a lot in the fight against HIV/AIDS and now is the time to explore and implement innovative interventions to stop the spread of new HIV infections. I have no doubt that as a country we can achieve that. It just needs a collective effort from us all.

120. Botswana has been receiving support from Partners over the past years. I would like to express our gratitude to PEPFAR, Global Fund, EU, CDC, USAID, UN Family, SADC, academia and other partners for the support they continue to grant the country. We cannot do this alone without their support. With a fragile economy like ours, we still need the support of development partners both financially and technically, and I therefore urge development partners to continue working with us.

 

Housing

121. Government continues to recognise adequate and affordable housing as a basic need in the context of our implementation of the National Housing Policy’s Low-Income Housing Programme. This programme contains three components – Self Help Housing Agency (SHHA) Home Improvement, Turnkey Development Scheme and Integrated Poverty Alleviation & Housing Scheme. In addition Government continues to roll out housing schemes like Public Officers Housing Initiatives, Housing Scheme for Public Officers D4 and below, BHC housing and Third Party Projects, Instalment Purchase Scheme and Youth Housing Scheme.

122. Between March 2008 and March 2017, a total of P 190.8 million has been disbursed through the SHHA Home Improvement Loan Scheme to fund 4,947 beneficiaries. This financial year 2017/18 an additional P30 million will be loaned to an estimated 500 beneficiaries. With ESP support the SHHA Turnkey Development Scheme has award contracts for the construction of 2,615 units. Of these, 1,838 have been completed and handed over and 777 are at various stages of construction.

123. Integrated Poverty Alleviation & Housing Scheme currently has a total of 19 commercial brick moulding projects nationwide. Four additional projects have since been designated.

124. The Public Officers Housing Initiative has awarded 465 units with 258 units already completed and 207 housing units are at various stages of construction. In addition the Housing Scheme for Public Officers D4 and below programme commenced in August 2016. So far 203 units have been started on site with 63 completed and handed over.

125. Government has also introduced the Instalment Purchase Scheme (IPS) to promote home ownership amongst citizens who are renting BHC houses. The Youth Housing Scheme has also been introduced. So far 372 out of 750 IPS and Youth Housing units have been awarded to citizen contractors.

126. In terms of shelter provision for the disadvantaged members of the communities, Government aims to have provided decent shelter to all deserving beneficiaries by the end of 2019. A target has been set to deliver 1,000 housing units annually, for both RADP and Countrywide destitution housing. For Financial year 2017/18 alone, a total allocation of P90 Million Pula has been planned to construct 1,025 houses which are at various stages of construction.

127. Resources have been committed to construct 3,938 destitute houses since the 2009/10 financial year. Government is also engaging other partners to complement its efforts in providing basic shelter to the disadvantaged members of our society. The Presidential Housing Appeal for the needy has received contributions from the private sector, individuals and public officers to support this initiative. This has greatly assisted in providing shelter and dignity to the needy. So far 781 homes have been completed, while 19 are under construction. Let me therefore take this moment to profoundly thank the individuals and institutions who have generously supported the Appeal.

128. Since April 2009, Government has further directed Ministries to reserve 15% of the budget for minor maintenance of government facilities for youth companies and youth with vocational skills in construction. Since its inception, this reservation programme has awarded P 230 million maintenance works to youth construction companies. A database of youth contractors is being maintained and shared with

Banners

stakeholders on a quarterly basis with a view to expose youth contractors to the opportunities. Currently the number of Youth contractors registered in the database is 462.

 

Remote Area Development Programme

129. Government has achieved very good progress in the upliftment of the lives of our remote area communities under the Affirmative Action Framework for Remote Area Communities that was approved in July 2014 together with its ten year implementation plan. Significant progress has been noted under the areas of provision of shelter, tertiary education, and economic empowerment initiatives among others. Government is further committed to the development of RADP farms, including the fencing of the ten existing ones.

130. Government is currently sponsoring a total of 1,659 RADP benificiaries in different tertiary institutions. Another 21,058 have engaged in formal or temporary employment through our affirmative action measures. In other areas 2,949 RADP constituents have directly benefitted from the Poverty Eradication Programme, 2748 from ISPAAD and 1,361 from LIMID. This financial year an additional 352 housing units are under construction, on top of 20 units being completed from the previous year.

 

Ipelegeng

131. Over the course of the last decade, the Ipelegeng programme has provided temporary relief to vulnerable groups amongst rural and urban communities through labour intensive public works providing short-term employment to over 60,000 people on a monthly basis. In the process it has contributed to various construction and maintenance projects of essential public facilities. The programme has also supported the implementation of initiatives such as Crime Prevention and Special Constables by the Botswana Police Services, Wildlife Volunteers and development of Monuments initiatives as well as Immigration Volunteers.

 

Community Development

132. During the current financial year, Government introduced the Constituency Community Development Programme with a total budget allocation of P570 million, translating into P10 million per constituency. This initiative was introduced to economically empower communities, create employment and provide services like basic infrastructure and small projects that could not ordinarily be accommodated in both the District Development Plans and National Development Plan. This initiative is further intended to promote community empowerment by strengthening the process by which citizens take the lead in initiating and proposing solutions to local challenges.

 

Social Protection

133. Madam Speaker Government has committed to the protection of vulnerable members of our society through the provision of social protection programmes. To this end, these programmes assist different categories of vulnerable people such as Destitute Persons, Orphans and Vulnerable Children, Community Home-Based Care Patients, World War II Veterans, Old Age Pensioners and People with Disabilities. The beneficiaries continue to receive services that improve quality of their lives, food security and ensure dignified living.

134. The Supplementary Feeding Programmes are provided in 755 Primary Schools with an enrolment of 354,317 pupils and 575 health facilities with a total of 297,775 beneficiaries.

135. The pre and primary schools’ menu has been revised into a full school feeding programme. Provision of the new menu will commence in the upcoming financial year with local sourcing supporting our EDD initiatives.

136. Government continues to purchase agricultural produce for Primary Schools. This provides a market for the improvement of the livelihoods of subsistence farmers. Funds are disbursed to Local Authorities to help facilitate procurement of fresh agricultural produce from local farmers. Since its inception to June 2017, the initiative has benefited 15,246 subsistence farmers at the cost of P26.9 million.

 

Poverty Eradication

137. Government has put in place a number of strategies and initiatives to address the 6.4% of our total population facing abject poverty. Some of these newly introduced initiatives which among others include Small and Medium Scale Enterprises in the areas of eggs and poultry, fish farming and cluster gardens around identified water sources, have reached a significant number of the targeted beneficiaries. So far 51,794 beneficiaries have qualified with 45 packages and small and medium scale machinery available to choose from.

 

People with Disability

138. During National Development Plan 11, the Government will continue to implement the Disability Economic Empowerment Programme. The programme determines the extent to which people with disabilities are accessing economic empowerment programmes as well as to develop strategies that promote the uptake.

 

Rural Development

139. The Rural Development Council continues to drive rural enterprise development through funding support and coordination of community projects. The objectives of the RDC projects are to catalyse development, local economic activity and job creation in the rural areas.

140. Development partners, such as World Food Programme have been working with the RDC Secretariat to link farmers to the market and produced a draft report on Early Warning Indicators for drought and vulnerability assessment.

 

Gender

141. As we reflect on the progress we have made in attainment of gender equality and women empowerment, we have seen in the past 10 years increasing women’s participation in various spheres including trade, work, leadership and political voice. Botswana currently leads the SADC Region with 43% of women in Government Executive positions. In June of this year, The African Union conferred Botswana with an award for attaining gender parity in basic education.

142. In 2015, Parliament approved the National Policy on Gender and Development. This was followed by establishment of the National Gender Commission which monitors implementation of the Policy. To date, the Commission has been capacitated on gender mainstreaming to equip them with skills to effectively deliver on their mandate.

143. The above was followed by commitment of resources to the National Gender Machinery which increased from an annual budget of P18 million to P48 million, the bulk being P30 million going to the Women Economic Empowerment Programme. This augmented the 10% Alcohol Levy dedicated to the Programme. To date, over 708 businesses comprising 1, 416 individuals have benefitted from this Programme at a total of P134.3 million.

144. Following review of the Programme in 2015 to address public concerns; the Programme received an overwhelming number of applications which could not all be accommodated in the 2017/2018 budget. This resulted in suspension of receipt of applications in February this year. Resumption of funding will as such be based on availability of funds. Government continues to support women in business to access the market through National Women’s Expositions.

145. Gender Based Violence remains a challenge in the Country. Following the 2012 Gender Based Violence Indicator Study, Government developed a referral system which was piloted in Maun/Shorobe and Mochudi/Artesia. The Pilot was concluded in July this year and results are that: about 2,700 community members were reached with GBV messaging in the pilot areas; over 200 service providers were trained and 20 institutions sensitized on GBV.

 

Basic Education

146. Madam Speaker, our country has, indeed, made good progress in the realization of the Millennium Development Goal of universal access to Primary Education, with 96% of children now entering Primary School. We now need to focus on quality basic education and lifelong learning. Government in partnership with the private sector has made big strides with the introduction of Pre-primary Education in an effort to ensure learner readiness at Standard 1. Our efforts have seen an increase in public primary schools offering reception classes from 382 in 2016 to 471 in 2017. There has also been an increase in enrolments from 16,536 to 20,361. As such approximately 38% of the standard 1 intake in 2018 will have benefited from pre-schooling.

147. The introduction of Pre-primary Education is part of a much larger education sector reform. Government is currently implementing the Education Sector Strategic Plan (ESSP)(2015-2020) designed to transform the education sector. One of the major challenges is the provision of a learning environment that caters to students of varied potentials, interests and career inclinations. To address this challenge Government has embarked on several far reaching reforms in the curriculum which include a multiple pathways approach to secondary education and an outcome based approach to assessment. The resulting expanded curriculum will allow learners to choose between academic, professional and technical pathways. The first phase of the implementation of the Multiple Pathways Programme is scheduled for January 2019.

148. To better equip children with 21st century skills, Government, in conjunction with stakeholders, has increased the use of ICT in schools. In 2016/17 Government, in partnership with Mascom, has provided an additional sixty Schools with ICT gadgets and also connected them to the internet. We have further commenced Phase II of the project which will see the supply of ICT gadgets to an additional 152 Primary Schools, 70 Junior Schools, and 10 Senior Secondary Schools by the end of 2018 with electrification support.

149. Mascom and Bofinet have also committed to connect an additional 210 schools to high speed broadband internet. The joint initiative has so far connected internet to 140 Junior and 25 Senior Secondary Schools. The Universal Access Service Fund has further provided connectivity to 74 schools.

150. We also continue to address welfare issues surrounding education, such as the provision of housing for staff.

 

Tertiary Education

151. The Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology was established in October 2016 with a responsibility to facilitate human resource development and coordinate research, science technology and innovation with a view to transform Botswana into a knowledge-based economy. This will require improving quality and relevance of education and training, performance in research and innovation, as well as to promoting public safety and security in the use of nuclear technologies.

152. A National Human Resource Development Strategy has been developed. Since its approval in 2009, some elements of the strategy have already been implemented, including the establishment of the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) and Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA).

153. There has been a significant increase in local tertiary education enrolments, which have risen from 31,129 in 2007/08 to 56,447 in 2016/17. This growth can be largely attributed to Government’s decision to sponsor students in local private tertiary institutions, thus reducing the high cost associated with the external placements. This in turn has further resulted in a rapid expansion in the skills base of our graduates that should not only translate into improved service delivery, but also lead to a reducution in our expenditure on allowences such as overtime and scarce skills. The heretofore high levels of expenditure on these allowences should now be mitigated by absorbing these graduates, along with accelerated localisation.

154. During the past decade Government has also implemented various projects that facilitate improvements in provision of access to tertiary education. These include the establishment of the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), which produced its first graduates in November 2016.

155. The Botswana College of Open and Distance Learning was established with the mandate of making education accessible to out-of-school youth and adults through the provision of education by open and distance learning mode. In July 2017 the College was transformed into the Botswana Open University.

156. As I noted last year, Government is financially constrained to keep up with the exponential growth in demand for tertiary education sponsorship amid competing priorities. We have thus started to explore options for sustainable funding.

157. In 2015/16 Government initiated the Target 20,000 programme for rapid up-tooling and re-tooling of unemployed youth. A total of 9773 were enrolled in the programme, of which 3,217 have successfully completed while 4,981 are still progressing.

 

Skills Development

158. Madam Speaker, as a way of assuring quality of graduates from the Brigades, government has re-introduced the concept of Training-with-Production in the Brigades’ system. Furthermore, the government would capacitate Brigades in order to train up to National Craft Certificate (NCC) level thus doubling up the current enrolment capacity of apprentices.

159. As a way of strengthening institutional capacity to empower the youth with globally competitive vocational skills, government has rationalised the functions of Madirelo Training and Testing Centre (MTTC) and Construction Industry Trust Fund (CITF) to form a Rapid Skills Development Centre (RSDC).

 

Youth Empowerment

160. Madam Speaker, our youth currently face serious challenges including unemployment and involvement in irresponsible behaviour. To this end Government continues to develop and empower the youth through various interventions to ensure they improve their livelihoods, while contributing to our national development.

161. Government annually allocates P 120 million for the youth to set up businesses and create jobs for themselves and the nation at large. In the last financial year 2,701 applications were received from young people and 1,032 were funded to the tune of P107.7 million. These projects created 2,290 jobs. For the second year running, a Youth Business Expo which attracted about 300 exhibitors was hosted to expose youth entrepreneurs to their potential market.

162. YDF implementation is being reformed to improve its delivery. Interventions include simplifying application forms, continuous appraisal and adjudication of proposals and SMS notification to clients on application processing among others.

163. Government continues to engage young people to develop employment readiness skills and work ethics. The Botswana National Service programme’s current enrolment is 100% against a target of 15,000. Enrolment levels in the Internship Programme as of the beginning of September 2017 stood at 3,287 against a target of 6,000.

 

Library and Archives Services

164. Madam Speaker, our libraries are knowledge centres for citizen empowerment and community development. The number of people who visited libraries on average is 290,000 per year. Currently 74 out of 105 public libraries have internet connection, with a total 612 computers and 70 tablets and kindles available for public access to electronic information. Over 69,000 people have benefited from basic ICT skills training at libraries.

165. The Robert and Sara Rothschild Family Foundation continues to generously support the construction of local community libraries for which we are grateful. The programme’s 15th Library out of a targeted 20 is under construction at Hukuntsi and should be operational by March 2018. Government’s contribution in this programme is staffing and other resources.

 

Water

166. Madam Speaker, to achieve long term water security, Government is implementing the Botswana Emergency Water Security and Efficiency Project. The project will improve water availability and waste water management in 60 settlements.

167. The construction of a pump station near Serorome Valley on the NSC-1 Scheme is ongoing with completion expected in April 2018. This will increase the flow of water from Letsibogo and Dikgatlhong Dams to Mmamashia Water Treatment Works from 66 million to 116 million litres per day, which will augment the supply of water throughout the South-East. The second phase of the North–South Carrier Pipeline from Palapye to Mmamashia is expected to commence in November 2017, with the entire project is scheduled for completion in November 2020.

168. The groundwater component of Masama West Well field was completed in March 2017 with the associated infrastructure component, which has the capacity to inject up to 30 Mega Litres (30,000,000 CM3) of ground water from the boreholes into the North South Carrier a month.

169. The design for the upgrading of the Gaborone Water Master Plan was started in June 2017. This will be part of the design and implementation of the water transfer pipeline from Mmamashia Water Treatment Works to Gaborone Water Treatment Works, which, upon expected completion in 2018, will be capable of transferring water in either direction when the need arises.

170. Along with Namibia and South Africa, we have undertaken an assessment of the Stampriet Trans-boundary Aquifer System, on the basis of which we are implementing the Matsheng Groundwater Development project that will develop sufficient potable groundwater to supply Kgalagadi North as well as villages located in the central and southern Ghanzi district.

171. Government’s committment to the provision of proper santitation services is reflected in the close to two billion pula that is being invested in the upgrading of sanitation capacity.

 

Conservation

172. The Forest Policy of 2011 continues to guide us in the management of our forest and rangeland resources. In keeping with this policy Government continues to plant trees to combat environmental degradation and contribute to the enhancement of forest carbon stock. Since NDP 10 we have planted over 2 million tree seedlings throughout the country. Looking forward, we plan to plant 3 million more trees by 2020 and 6 million trees by 2030.

173. There has been drastic improvement in how the fires are managed mainly due to the development and implementation of the fire management strategy in the collaboration with Australia through the New South Wales Rural Fire Services.

174. Botswana also continues to provide leadership in ensuring global uptake of natural capital accounting and sustainable management of natural resources through the Gaborone Declaration on Sustainability in Africa. We are currently undergoing accreditation to the Green Climate Fund working through the preparation of a Readiness program with delivery partners so as to enable access to the funding mechanism. Through the establishment of the National Designated Authority, the Green Climate Fund is expected to help Botswana respond to climate change by investing into low-emission and climate resilient development. We also hope to benefit from the Adaptation Fund of the Climate Change Convention.

175. An improvement in the accuracy of both weather forecasts and climate projections has been recorded mainly due to installation of 32 automatic weather stations countrywide. The forecasts are crucial in development planning, sectoral development of climate change adaptation and mitigation response strategies, and disaster reduction and preparedness.

 

Energy

176. Madam Speaker, you will recall that in October 2016, Government created a reconstituted Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security to give priority to green technology and energy security.

177. Self sufficiency in power supply and diversification of petroleum products are priorities for energy security. The need to increase renewal energy contributions to the energy mix is a consistent goal in an effort to develop a Low Carbon Energy Portfolio. The current maximum electricity demand for Botswana is estimated at 520 MW, which is expected to grow to 856 MW in 2025. Our installed generating capacity stands at 927 MW and comprises of the following:

• 132MW from Morupule A

• 600MW from Morupule B

• 90MW from Orapa Power Plant

• 105MW from Matshelagabedi Alstom Power Rentals plant.

178. The refurbishment of Morupule A is ongoing and Unit 1 of the plant is currently undergoing commissioning. The refurbishment of all the remaining three Units will be completed by end of December 2017. Once Morupule A is up and running, the Matshelagabedi diesel power peaking plant will be discontinued in an effort to bring down the cost of power generation in the country.

179. Remediation of Morupule B is ongoing and the contractor is carrying out remediation work which is scheduled to be completed at the end of the year. BPC will cover the power supply gap by running Morupule A and power imports from the Southern African Power Pool.

180. Work is also in progress to upgrade the existing national power supply infrastructure. This will ensure a stable supply and transmission of power, whilst creating adequate transmission capacity to facilitate exports through the Southern African Power Pool network.

 

Rural Village Electrification Programme

181. Madam Speaker, Government continues to implement the rural village electrification programme. So far, 387 villages have been electrified out of a total of 492 gazetted villages since inception of the programme. During the 2016/17 financial year, Government connected 10 new villages, while extending the network in 24 villages. During the current financial year, 15 new villages will be electrified while network extension will be done in 45 villages.

182. Madam Speaker, the National Electrification Standard Cost (NESC) continues to support and promote connection of households within 500metres from any low voltage transformer across the country. So far, 90,079 households have been connected from the 102,765 applications under the NESC programme as at February 2017. Government is currently reviewing the NESC programme in order to cater for connection of households beyond the current 500 metres limit.

 

Green Technology

183. Madam Speaker, Government has embarked on the following initiatives geared towards increasing the contribution of renewable energy to the total energy mix:

• BPC will develop and operate a 100 MW Solar Power Plant in a Joint Venture.

• BPC will build Mini-Grids in six sites covering 20 villages powered by solar. To this end, an Expression of Interest closed in July 2017 for the formation of a Joint Venture (JV) between a private company and BPC to implement the programme.

 

Oil and Gas Sector

184. Madam Speaker, Government remains committed to increasing our country’s strategic fuel storage capacity from the current 18 days to at least 60 days of national consumption. To this end, construction of the Tshele Hills Bulk Strategic Fuel storage facility (186 million litres) and expansion of the existing Francistown Government Bulk Fuel storage depot by 60 million litres are in progress.

185. An assessment of the viability of the coal to liquid gas programme for Botswana is being carried out by Botswana Oil Limited.

 

Land Governance

186. In our endeavor to comprehensively address issues of the country’s sustainable settlement planning and development, I am pleased to report that work on the preparation of the first ever, National Spatial Plan 2036 (NSP 2036) is progressing well. The NSP 2036 is a spatial strategy meant to optimize land use and infrastructure investment by comprehensively defining land capacity and capabilities, sound environmental management and key development nodes throughout the country.

187. Last year, I briefed the house on the implementation of Land Administration, Procedures, Capacity and Systems (LAPCAS) programme. To-date a total of 826,642 plots in villages across the country have been surveyed and assigned unique plot numbers. This information will support infrastructure planning and development, and improve land management. A Land Title Document has been developed with enhanced security features to improve security of our land titles. The Tribal Land Act is accordingly being amended to enable registration of Customary Land Grant in order to make it possible for holders of customary land grants to access credits and improve their economic wellbeing.

188. Government continues to prioritize serviced land in order to facilitate economic development across the country through accelerated land servicing and ESP initiatives. Government has continued to implement minimal and peripheral land servicing to achieve accessibility and potable water supply countrywide. Twenty projects covering approximately 23,996 out of the targeted 37,000 plots have been completed.

 

Bogosi

189. The institution of Bogosi fosters peace, law and order and our cultural traditions through its customary courts and coordination of community initiatives. In an endeavour to enhance the powers of Dikgosi, during 2017/18 Government elevated their positions to a higher status, which is commensurate with their responsibilities and relevance in the governance structure of the country. In this context Government is committed to extending pay to 665 Headmen of Arbitration in the coming financial year.

190. Efforts continue to be made to improve and avail resources to the Department of Tribal Administration. There has been notable progress in completion of Customary Courts over the last decade. However, office accommodation shortages for Dikgosi still persist. In an effort to improve the working conditions of Dikgosi and other officials within the Department of Tribal Administration, a total of 30 Customary Court offices were constructed in 9 Districts across the country under ESP in the 2016/17 financial year. As at September 2017, twenty-nine customary courts were completed, while the remaining one will be completed during the course of 2017/18.

 

Rule of Law

191. Madam Speaker, according to various reputable comparative indices, such as the Mo Ibrahim Index, Botswana remains not only a regional but indeed international leader in upholding the rule of law. This quality further cascades in our high scores in various additional indices measuring such attributes as peace and security, investment climate, civil liberties, and accountable governance in which, notwithstanding the naysayers, we also have maintained our high rankings.

192. As you are aware, in August 2017 the newly appointed Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) were both sworn in. It is my expectation that they will jointly work on the speeding up of hearing of cases in collaboration with the Administration of Justice. In the same vein, both are expected to continue with the programme of decentralising their services to as many parts of the country as the budget can accommodate.

193. In terms of legislation drafting, the demand for drafting of regulations, statutory instruments, enactment and amendment of laws has been growing in the recent years. This was largely motivated by global developments and emerging security challenges. In this respect it may be noted that since 2008, I have assented to a total of 172 Acts.

 

Administration of Justice

194. Both the development and recurrent budgets for the Administration of Justice has been growing over the years. This has allowed for the completion of a number of infrastructural developments including the Gaborone High Court and the Court of Appeal, as well as several magistrate courts.

195. Initiatives for quicker dispensation of justice have included special courts.

196. The Administration of Justice has also reviewed its delivery processes to expedite case disposal and turn-around times. The number of magistrates has increased from 51 in 2008/09 to 87 in 2017/18. Among other initiatives, the Administration of Justice has established a dedicated Sheriff’s office managed by a Senior Assistant Registrar to supervise deputy sheriffs.

 

 

Refugee Welfare

197. Madam Speaker, our policy regarding refugee management is set within the framework of first country of asylum and encampment. We also believe that being a refugee should not be a permanent status for any individual and therefore status reviews are conducted periodically to among other things; facilitate return to ones country of origin in accordance with the 1951 United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees.

198. Madam Speaker, the refugee population in Botswana has decreased over the years, from 3500 in 2012 to the current figure of 2137.

 

Prisoners and Rehabilitation

199. Madam Speaker, over the past ten years the Department of Prisons and Rehabilitation has seen a reduction in the number of offenders incarcerated in Prisons. The daily average population is 5% below the authorised holding capacity.

200. In a bid to improve the condition of facilities, Government embarked on the refurbishment and maintenance of Prison facilities and staff houses.

201. The Prisons Act was also amended to align it to strategies relating to offender rehabilitation, early release programmes, paroles and which include among others extra mural labour.

202. Since 2008, I have granted pardons and remission of sentences to 3,395 prisoners, whilst 114 prisoners were released on parole. I am happy to note that of those pardoned or paroled very few breached the conditions of release. For example, only 3 of those given remissions had to be taken back to Prison to complete their sentences.

 

Crime Intervention

203. Madam Speaker, the development budget of the Botswana Police Service has increased by 49% from P209 million in 2008/9 to P312 million in 2017/18. This has enabled the Service to improve its performance. According to the Global Competitiveness Report for 2016–2017, Botswana ranks high in terms of reliability of the police service. In terms of achievement by the Botswana Police in crime intervention, the areas of violent and intrusive crimes including violence against women and children shows a decline; having been reduced between 2008 and 2016 by 46%, from 26,150 incidents to 14,224. This includes a nearly two thirds reduction in burglary, thefts and robberies. With respect to what are classified as serious crimes there has been a 57% reduction in threat to kill and a 32% reduction in motor vehicle theft. There is, however, a growing trend of drug abuse for which interventions will be made to better resource the Botswana Police capability in this area. [President commends Police Service for their efforts]

204. The advent of technology and increase in the use of cell phones and computers has had a negative impact in some areas whereby technology applications such as Facebook, whatsapp and twitter have been used to abuse others, which necessitated the need to review legislation. In this regard we will be bringing to Parliament a new Cyber and Computer Related Crimes Bill with a view of among other things enabling the victims of such crimes to seek redress. The Bill will also outline our legal provisions for dealing with growing global security challenges that use cyber space to commit crime or intrude into individual, commercial or industrial interests. In this connection, Government will invest in the capacitating of the Police Service in areas of cybercrime prevention, investigations, intelligence and forensics.

205. During the period from January 2017 to June 2017, the number of road accidents went down by 13.2% with the number of people who died also declining by 11.5%. It has been established that road accidents in Botswana are linked predominantly to driver carelessness, over-speeding, unlicensed drivers and impaired driving due to alcohol consumption.

206. The growth of infrastructural facilities has included the completion of police stations. Ongoing projects include the Forensic Laboratory. In addition, planned and existing Police posts across the country are being rationalised and capacitated with a view to bring policing services closer to communities.

 

Botswana Defence Force

207. Madam Speaker, we are committed to maintaining the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) as well trained and adequately resourced military with a high state of readiness to defend the nation. In addressing national security concerns, the BDF has recognised that its most critical asset is its human resource capacity. The recruitment, training, development and retention of quality personnel are thus considered to be pivotal.

208. Alongside capacity buiding and human resource development, the BDF is pursuing programmes and projects centred on the Forces organisational development and strategic equipping. In this context, the BDF continuously seeks to achieve a sustainable balance between new procurement, refurbishment and upgrading of its equipment, driven by cost efficiency and affordability. Within these strategies the BDF will be able to acquire critical equipment. This will comprise military hardware, communication equipment, and mobility assets aimed at improving operational capability, efficiency and effectiveness.

 

Corruption Prevention

209. Madam Speaker, Botswana continues to enjoy the good ratings by different institutions such as Moody’s ratings, MO Ibrahim, World Bank and Transparency International (TI). Notwithstanding these rankings, Botswana still faces challenges of corrupt activities in various sectors of the economy such as construction and land allocation. The current corruption trends reveal the following to be problematic areas:

• Collusion between private companies and public officers

• Bribery

• Procurement especially micro

• Leakage of confidential bidding information for a benefit

• Highly inflated prices of goods and services when procured for government

210. To reduce such abuses, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), in collaboration with public institutions, continues to manage risks in key functional areas. An impact assessment study to ascertain the effectiveness of corruption prevention interventions in public institutions has been completed, whose recommendations as well as proposed monitoring and evaluation framework have been shared with the DCEC for implementation. Quality and Procedures Manuals have also been developed in order to better the corruption prevention services that the DCEC is providing to clients.

211. In 2016 the Directorate resuscitated the Boammaruri educational programme geared towards teaching primary school pupils on issues of honesty. This educational programme is aimed at catching the pupils at a tender age to mould them into responsible citizens. DCEC also developed a 13 Episode TV drama as a platform for anti-corruption education.

 

Elections

212. With the coming into force of the Electoral Amendment Act, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) mounted an extensive sensitisation campaign of key stakeholders on the new law, including all registered political parties and all councils. Community leaders and the general public in all the fifty-seven constituencies were also addressed. During this exercise, some Batswana called for the inclusion of the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) for the sake of transparency and integrity of the electoral process. Currently the Attorney General’s Chambers is drafting the Electoral (Amendment) Bill for the inclusion of the VVPAT.

213. The Commission also reviewed the number and locations of polling stations following consultations with key stakeholders and local authorities. This resulted in a reduction of local and external polling stations.

214. The IEC is further working with Government on the development of an interface between the Election Management System and Land Information System in preparation for the voter registration exercise. The system will curb instances of illegal voter registration and trafficking.

 

Ombudsman

215. Madam Speaker, during the 2016/2017 financial year, the Ombudsman received and investigated 1564 complaints, while resolving 798. The Ombudsman’s office has also focused on increasing its outreach in the context of the need for greater public awareness of its traditional role and expanded Human Rights mandate.

 

Civil Society

216. Government recognises the role of civil society in development. To this end the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Council was established in 2013 to advise Government on the NGO Policy implementation. Thus far, a Strategic Plan and Operational plan have been developed to guide implementation of the Policy.

 

Labour

217. Government continues to provide labour administration services to the nation with a view to promoting industrial harmony. These services include labour inspections, trade disputes resolution, promotion of industrial relations, as well as processing of workers compensation and work and residence permits. The labour system supports the attainment of sustainable economic growth by putting in place favourable laws, policies and regulations in line with international labour standards.

 

Disaster Management

218. Madam Speaker, recent events such as flooding and earth tremors have raised awareness about the need to prepare for natural disasters. A National Disaster Command Center is being developed and it’s currently at the design works phase with the project expected to be complete in a year’s time. The centre will play a key role as it will allow for timely and crucial decisions to be taken during disaster operations.

219. A team of Search and Rescue Technicians is currently undergoing months of training in various rescue roles, such as light motor vehicle rescue, confined space, high angle and structural collapse rescue techniques. Upon completion of their training the SAR Team will complement the efforts that will be realized through the establishment of the command centre.

 

Arts & Culture

220. Madam Speaker, Government continues to promote the diverse cultural heritage of our country through various programmes to develop the arts and crafts to a level where the arts and craft producers are able to earn income from their work.

221. The President’s Day Competitions remain a key programme in pursuit of this goal. Participation levels in the Competitions have grown from 3,274 in 2008 to 18,971 this year. The number of categories in which artists compete has at the same time increased from 25 to 58 this year. This growth has resulted in the prize money awarded to artists also rising from P1 million to P4.6 million over the same period.

222. To further promote arts and crafts, Government has taken the lead in allocating P10 million to procure art and crafts as well as performance services from local artists.

223. On the 30th September 2017 Botswana celebrated 51 years of independence under the theme: “United and Proud”. In this respect I urge Batswana to continue to use their national symbols and colours as an expression of our patriotism especially every Friday.

 

Sport Development

224. Madam Speaker, our local sports have come of age. In the last year our athletics and karate teams have performed exceptionally well bringing home medals from international competitions. Collectively, Botswana teams won a total of 194 medals in the last financial year, and 141 medals, including 48 gold, have already been won since April of this year.

225. Government has spent over P130 million on sports development this past year, against P37 million received from private sector sponsorship. Here I wish to encourage more private sector investment to at least match Government in the future. To improve performances and meet the welfare needs of athletes, Government continues to motivate athletes by paying appearance fees and performance incentives.

226. Our heavy investment in capacity building of sport administrators and development of sport infrastructure has also enabled us to host major sporting events. You will all have witnessed the recent Netball World Youth Cup 2017 where we hosted 19 countries. Similarly, we have hosted the World Baseball and Softball Conference in October 2017 and will be welcoming International Working Group on Women and the African Union Sport Council Region 5 under 20 Games in 2018.

227. Constituency Sport Tournaments continue to attract sizeable numbers of youths who benefit from both recreation and physical fitness through their participation. In the 2016/17 financial year participation levels averaged 84,000 compared to 28,500 at inception in 2008. This year athletics has been introduced as the fourth sporting code covered by the games after football, netball and volleyball.

228. The Gambling Act was passed in 2012 opening the door for a National Lottery as well as new betting activities. Once operational the lottery will further support the development of sport and recreation and arts and culture, as well as youth empowerment and local charities.

 

Botswana and the World

229. Madam Speaker, Botswana continues to play a critical and influential role in the promotion of global issues, such as respect for human rights, good governance, democracy, the rule of law, as well as the maintenance of international peace and security through regional and multilateral diplomacy.

230. Despite our developing nation status, Botswana has remained steadfast in articulating her position with regard to the violation of human rights, poor governance and lack of democratic credibility as well as fanning conflicts based on ethnic, racial and religious bias and/or territorial claims. The principal culprits have been named in the past and we will continue to do so in our press releases. The United Nations Security Council has on many occasion failed to provide the required leadership on such issues as some are part of the problem instead of the solution.

231. I wish to reiterate Botswana’s strong support for the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is the only permanent criminal international court of last resort that plays a deterrent role in preventing the commission of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. In order to demonstrate our unequivocal support for the work of ICC, Botswana recently undertook a significant step by domesticating the Rome Statute and thus making it part of our national laws.

232. Government further remains committed to ensure that the conduct of our foreign relations contributes to national development and the improvement of the living standards of all Batswana by attracting foreign direct investment and other forms of international support.

233. As an example, in terms of promoting international trade, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has been extended by 10 years to September 30, 2025 and participating countries on the extended AGOA Preferential Arrangement were expected to formulate National AGOA Response Strategies. To adhere to these requirements, Botswana completed its AGOA National Response Strategy earlier this year. The Strategy has identified sectors for potential export including the horticulture and agro-processing; handicrafts; jewellery and semi-precious stones; leather and leather products; natural products; meat and meat products as well as textiles and apparel sector.

234. With the limited financial resources at our disposal, the Government of Botswana has, over the past decade, established five diplomatic missions in Nigeria, Brazil, Kuwait, Mozambique and Germany. This has increased Botswana’s diplomatic representation abroad to twenty-two, while we maintain diplomatic ties with 167 nations around the world. In order to maximize opportunities for Botswana, my Government plans to progressively open new diplomatic missions. With expanded representation abroad, we have witnessed an increase in such activities as tourism, trade and investment promotion as well as technical assistance in terms of scholarship offers.

235. During the year under review, I undertook state visits to Germany, Sweden, Chile and Malta. I also had the pleasure of hosting a number of Heads of State.

236. Madam Speaker, Botswana has since independence remained committed to advancing the objectives of our Continental body, the African Union. Our commitment to advance the continental development agenda has been demonstrated by the following:

 Botswana has consistently honoured her assessed annual financial contribution to the African Union;

 Botswana has always responded to the international appeals for assistance to other African countries in times of natural disasters and other calamities. As would be recalled, Botswana made contribution to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea when the three countries were affected by the Ebola virus. As a result, Botswana was in 2015 given an Award by the African Union for her positive life-saving contribution during the Ebola virus crisis.

 Despite our own developmental challenges, Botswana has in the spirit of solidarity and brotherhood continued to extend humanitarian assistance to some members of our African Union family whenever they experience natural catastrophes. In the past humanitarian assistance was extended to Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and Togo.

 Botswana has also on several occasions extended humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe, when they were hit by natural disasters such as cholera, floods, famine, and foot and mouth disease.

 Botswana has also supported peace building initiatives, reconstruction and development efforts of fellow African countries. This has included extending technical support and cooperation to a number of countries, namely Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, Seychelles and South Sudan.

 Botswana played an active role in the resolution of conflicts both at military and political levels under the UN, AU and SADC mandates. These include: sending military contingents or observers to UN peacekeeping missions in Somalia, Mozambique, Rwanda and Darfur, Sudan and Lesotho; participation in peacemaking leadership role by our Former Presidents the late Sir Ketumile Masire (Lesotho and DRC) and Former President Mogae (South Sudan).

 In recognition of Botswana’s demonstrated commitment to continue contributing to Africa’s peace and stability, in April 2016, Botswana was elected a member of the African Union Peace and Security Council for a period of two years.

237. Madam Speaker, our country continues to benefit from the assistance we receive from our international partners. I, therefore, take this opportunity to once more acknowledge and thank all of the countries and international organisations, including private institutions and individuals, who have supported us over the past year.

 

Conclusion

238. Madam Speaker our progress as a nation over the years has been rooted in the fact that the goals that unite us have been, and should ever remain, greater than any differences of perspective on how we may best achieve them. Having interacted with citizens of all walks of life across our great country has, in this respect, reinforced my own faith that we as a people remain united in our diversity. I am further comforted by the talent and innovation I have so often encountered, especially among our youth. While we will undoubtedly continue to confront significant challenges, when we place the interests of Botswana first we shall find the strength to overcome all obstacles.

239. I am confident that sooner rather than later, we shall overcome such challenges as unemployment and poverty amongst our affected citizens. As I said at the beginning of this statement we also have in our revised Long-term Vision and 11th National Development Plan the signposts for our medium to long-term progress in this regard. But to achieve our vision of a better future by 2036, while overcoming our challenges, will require greater commitment and productivity from all sectors of society.

240. In today’s fast moving world our benchmarks as Batswana must also be global. We have no choice but to compete with the best in the world. This must remain a daily challenge for all of us, both inside and outside of Government, for as I said last year continued overreliance on the state is no longer a sustainable option.

241. Madam Speaker, in accordance with the Constitution, five months from now I shall be passing the baton of leadership of this great country into the very capable hands of His Honour the Vice President. I am confident that with support of members of this House and the nation as a whole the next administration will continue to build on the legacy of progress that was begun under my predecessors.

242. Let me also take the opportunity to commend you, Madam Speaker, for your calm and astute leadership of this House as well as your initiative of “Taking Parliament to the People”. Let me further commend you for your many years of devoted service to our nation. [Speaker to step down in 2019]

243. As we continue on our national journey, let us also continue to look to the Lord who makes all things humanly possible. Let us remain united under God’s mercy, for in the Book of Isaiah [41:10] God says: - “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.” May the blessing of the Lord continue to sustain us.

244. I thank you for your attention.

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