Mixed reactions as Khama plays ESP card

President Khama and Speaker of Parliament Gladys Kokorwe
President Khama and Speaker of Parliament Gladys Kokorwe

President Ian Khama yesterday shed more details on the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP), revealing that his vice, Mokgweetsi Masisi, will coordinate the programme and that P39.9 billion is available for government to tap into.

However, several commentators responding immediately after Khama’s speech said the President withheld keenly awaited details of the programme, including the targeted funding amount and timelines for objectives.

Explaining that a brochure to be released and distributed countrywide soon would carry more details on the ESP, Khama preferred to touch on targeted interventions in public works under the ambitious project.

These include tackling the backlog of public projects, fast-tracked land servicing, boosting local manufacturing, road construction, achieving food security, kickstarting rural economic activities, improved education and healthcare facilities and leveraging ICT for the creation of an “e-society”.

Specific projects identified by Khama as being under the ESP include a Kasane-Kazungula Redevelopment Project, various agricultural initiatives including the opening of a National Agro-Processing Plant in Selebi-Phikwe, decongestion of the A1 through by-passes in Francistown, Molepolole and Lobatse and others.

“ESP is being coordinated by the Vice President who is being assisted by a Cabinet sub-committee, supported by a technical committee and district development committees,” Khama told legislators.

“To strengthen the overall coordination of local delivery, district commissioners will report on progress directly to the Ministry of State President.

“In addition, the delivery of the ESP will be facilitated by a high level project implementation unit.”

Reacting to Khama’s address, Umbrella for Democratic Change chief whip, Wynter Mmolotsi, said Khama should have stated the ESP’s budget and the projects the funds would be used for.

“The country is facing a serious problem of water shortage and electricity. We therefore want to know how the government is going to fix these problems.

“We could be supporting this idea if the amount of money and projects were mentioned but we are finding it difficult to support something we don’t have an idea of,” he said.

Mmolotsi added that the opposition was concerned about government’s track record of weak project implementation. For his part, Botswana Congress Party (BCP) chief whip, Bagalatia Arone also expressed misgivings about the implementation of the ESP.

“The problem with our government is that there is always pronouncement of things but implementation is always a challenge. The only thing that I can applaud the President for is his housing appeal which I believe has helped a lot of people,” he said.

For his part, BCP spokesperson, Dithapelo Keorapetse, said the speech lacked content and was “a repeat of the usual”.

“It was the President’s seventh address, but he is still not speaking to the promises he made when he came into power. Again, 2016 is just next year but he failed to speak to the National Vision,” he said.

Keorapetse said it had been hoped that Khama would pronounce ESP figures and commit himself so that he would be held accountable at the end if the programme failed. UDC youth league president, Phenyo Segokgo, described the address as “the same book in a different cover”.

“The President makes pronouncements for some benefits for youth in business but there is no legal framework. Laws have to be passed so that the young people can rely on them when seeking help.

Business Botswana president, Lekwalo Mosienyane, expressed hope that the upcoming ESP brochure would contain timelines and concrete figures to allow the private sector to fully participate in the programme.

“The private sector’s involvement at planning stage is key, so that you do not do everything then throw it to the private sector,” he said.

“We are ready, willing and capable. From the Central Business District to the mines, we have shown bokgoni. It is only when it comes to government projects that challenges occur.

“The common denominator is government because when it is private sector to private sector projects, these are done on time, with meaningful returns on investment.”

Government may have to divulge full details on the ESP sooner than the brochure’s publication however, as UDC secretary general, Ndaba Gaolathe is scheduled to table a question on the programme, Vision 20136 and NDP 11.

Finance and Development minister, Kenneth Matambo is due to answer the question on Friday.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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