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The President must focus on service delivery and overregulation

The other day, some friends and I were discussing the cost of overregulation to our development goals.

There is nothing as hard as getting some really basic services from government; Batswana are suffering. I will give an example; someone I know has been trying to get a Day Care Centre licence in Tlokweng for three years now. At first she was to learn that applications for Day Care Centre licences had been closed. In essence, if you wanted to participate in that sector, you had to wait for the council to open for applications.  I mean, what serious country allows that? What serious country closes a business sector indefinitely? Some flimsy reason was given as to why the same decision had been taken.

You guessed wrong;  it had nothing to do with child abuse or ensuring that protective measures are in place for child safety.  It was a purely bureaucratic reason regarding planning or change in policy. This Motswana had saved some money. She had consulted widely in the sector as regards regulatory requirements and had recruited staff who would to be on standby pending the granting of licences after full compliance. Of course no one had told her the sector had been closed for applications and that the Tlokweng Council did not know when they would reopen for the same. It would be years before they did.

In the meantime, she had renovated the rented house for the project at significant costs, and lost money in rentals and now she had to wait, not knowing when the council would have a lucid interval. In the meantime she had to pay rent at over P6000 per month and pay for security. She bled hundreds of thousands in sunk costs. It would be years before the  council reopened for applications and the bureaucracy kicked in again. It has been many months and the poor Motswana is still being sent from pillar to post. Remember that this is a sector reserved for Batswana.  How sad!

For the entire period that this person could not obtain a licence, many Batswana were robbed of employment.  Add others, similarly circumstanced, and you can understand exactly how much the economy lost on account of some ridiculous decision by a district council. In Botswana, to get any significant service or licence to do business, you must literally suffer. 

I remember helping a  client years back with another unfortunate matter. This client had a property in Gaborone which she wanted to convert into a lodge.  She was rejected because the road into her lodge was less that the required number of metres in width.  Not that two cars could not use the road at the same time; far from it. It was just

another ridiculous regulation coined by some bureaucrat over tripe and fatcakes and credited to them as a PMS achievement. 

A little over a year back, I was applying for a Unites States VISA. I had to do everything online and it was so painless. The system handheld me through every stage. Save for a few papers I was asked to bring for the interview, all was done online. The system would not allow me to move on to the next stage unless I had fully complied. When I was done it offered me alternatives as to when I thought my interview could be and I made my choice. When I appeared on the day of the interview everything had been neatly arranged. After talking to the unsmiling lady who interviewed me through the glass window at the embassy, I thought she would tell me when to come for a decision as to whether I would be granted a visa. Instead, she looked at me and without leaving her station, told me that they were happy to grant me a visa and when I could come to collect my passport! Just one visit and it was all done. In my beloved country one would have had to leave forms at the reception and told to keep checking.  Then they would be told that the application would have to go through some committee or board which would deliberate over it. They would be told that the chairperson of the board had suffered a bereavement of their favourite cat and would be informed after the cat had been cremated. By the way, I am still waiting for a Landboard to transfer a field to me.  Yes, I said transfer, not allocate. Six months has already passed. My business plans are on hold; and so is employment creation.

I am well aware that the President has hinted that he intends to deal with the problem of overregulation. I would really like to know of the extent he intends to go and the urgency with which he intends to proceed.  Batswana are really suffering. Batswana need to be free to do business in their country and the authorities must exist to help them and not to frustrate them. 

The sooner the President knuckles down to the job the better.  These frustrations have a direct relationship with economic maladies such as corruption. When people can’t get their way to legitimate business they resort to improper means. In the end, the cost of doing business goes up and palms are greased.  Corruption grows, unemployment continues, livelihoods suffer. Please do something Mr. President.

Chief On Friday




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