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Political parties ponder unemployment

While the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) argues that it is doing its best to support job creation, opposition parties believe government is getting it wrong.

Political analyst, Mokaloba Mokaloba says the country needs to fix skills mismatch to solve the problem.

He also believes government should in a short term come up with interventions to support those hard hit by the COVID-19. pandemic

 “The government should first empower its own people. Batswana have been bystanders for a long time in the economy and there should be direct political will to deal with the problem. The political and economic environment should also be made friendly to emerging Batswana entrepreneurs. Thirdly, there is need to relook at the education and job market of the country. We should address the mismatch between these two. And as short term stop gap  in the meantime, social protection, economic protectionist measures and subsidies should be availed to those hard hit by the economic turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mokaloba said in an interview on Wednesday.

However, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa said the problem of unemployment precedes COVID-19.

“It is deeply structural and has never dipped below 17% on the narrow definition that does not include those who have given up hope of finding a job. Include those and unemployment could get close to 30% of the labour force.

COVID-19 has certainly aggravated the problem of unemployment but more than that, it has exposed the limitations of planning and decision-making in government. The government has never had a viable strategy for economic transformation and job creation; hence the persistence of joblessness at rates above 17%. Confronted with COVID-19, government focused on the health aspects to the exclusion of the economic dimension,” Mohwasa said in an interview.

He added the COVID-19 response has to take on board the impacts of the containment measures on the economy and livelihoods.

In addition, Mohwasa said the restrictions on travel and movement must be eased based on common sense and science so that people may engage in their livelihood pursuits without undue restraint.

He continued: “For instance, insist on people who travel across zones being tested rather

than ban movement altogether. The government should also provide economic relief to households. That no assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on households has been undertaken yet is an unfathomable dereliction of duty on the part of government. Households need relief because people have lost jobs, assets and livelihoods. What should be happening is that the Competition and Consumer Authority should be monitoring price movements and looking out for evidence of unfair business practices, for example coalition, and price gouging. What we have also seen is a situation whereby, though prices have risen as a result of increase in VAT, the percentage increase in prices has not been proportional to the VAT increase.”

On the other hand, the BDP spokesperson, Kagelelo Kentse said the issue of unemployment is a serious concern to all citizens, the ruling party included.

“It is not a political issue. We therefore need to all stakeholders on board being government, private sector and the international investors.  We need to all come together and look at how we can unlock and create sustainable jobs, we need a Jobs Summit. As the President Mokgweetsi Masisi has alluded there is a need for a mindset change so that we can achieve economic transformation. There is Lots of potential in value-chain development, digitalisation, agriculture and ICT. As you might be aware in our 2019 manifesto we made serious commitment with regards to jobs unlike others we ensured that we were reasonable because we are ruling and therefore accountable. There is a time to account so you don’t make nilly willy promises. We are still committed to this more so that its our youth who are most affected, they are roaming the streets and drowning into debt, we feel the pain as the BDP,” Kentse said.

  Efforts to get comments from Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) were not successful. AP secretary general, Phenyo Butale had promised to respond to the questionnaire but never did.


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