Government censured for financing unemployment

Government has been accused of funding unemployment through failure to properly handle and manage the issue.

Some of the interventions meant to combat the matter were condemned for exacerbating unemployment, particularly among the youth demographics.

Selebi-Phikwe West legislator, Keorapetse Dithapelo said this yesterday during the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) appearance.

He cited the National Internship Programme (NIP) as an example that fueled the status quo, especially youth unemployment.

The youthful parliamentarian charged that the initiative has since metamorphosed into cheap labour for the business community.

“The issue of unemployment is not handled properly. Programmes such as the NIP are now being used by the private sector, and parastatals to exploit our graduates because government is footing the bill,” he said.

He proposed an employment tax incentive for the business community as an arsenal against youth unemployment.

Moreover, he strongly opposed the categorisation of Ipelegeng beneficiaries as employed, as well as computing them as such when gauging employment rate in the country.

For his part, permanent secretary in the finance ministry, Solomon Sekwakwa said initiatives such as NIP were just temporary measures meant to alleviate unemployment, not really addressing the bigger issue.

Just like NIP, he said, tax incentives to address the situation were bound to be exploited too.

Sekwakwa said while a good idea, the employment tax incentive could disadvantage the other demographics due to the pursuit of a healthier bottom-line by the business community.

“While the overall intent is appreciated, let us bear in mind that these are people who can explore the system to maxim profits.

“But a mix of approaches could help address unemployment,” he said. However, Sekwakwa could not specifically state whether inputting Ipelegeng beneficiaries as employed was proper or not, as that depended on the methodology in use.

National unemployment is reported at 20 percent as informed by universal measurements, explained Sekwakwa.

However, Tati East Member of Parliament Guma Moyo vehemently contested the statistics on grounds that they ignored critical issues.

He concurred with Keorapetse, questioning the treatment of Ipelegeng as formal employment.

At the end of the first quarter, Statistics Botswana (SB) announced the scheme had boosted employment figures.

The report indicated government’s short-term employment support scheme for able-bodied low-skilled workers, which employs over 50,000, contributed to an increase in local government employment.

SB stated that local government recorded the highest increase in employment of 9.6 percent, followed by parastatal organisations with 7.7 percent.

The statistics body reiterated that the increase in local government employment was due to a high increase in the number of Ipelegeng employees, which was 15.2 percent. The statistics are for the period 2012-2013.

“Overall formal sector employment increased by 2.5 percent from 389,665 in September 2012 to 399,530 persons in September 2013,” the report said.

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