The term, 'passive institutions' was a new one to me and I was intrigued to know not what it meant, which was obvious, but about the number of outfits in Gaborone should be so described. So I asked the individual who had used it at the recent conference on Gaborone - not wishing to embarrass him I will leave him anonymous - and was startled to learn that in his view, Gaborone is decorated, with institutions and parastatals that contribute almost nothing to the nation, but at considerable cost.
Name some, I asked, and was immediately pinned to the wall by a first, instant listing of deadbeat outfits, heavily and privileged staffed but achieving virtually nothing; and then by a separate listing of overlapping, duplicating, competing, funding institutions.
Not so long ago Jerry Gabaake delved into this morass and discovered that there are something like 50 parastatals of one kind and another, many of them totally unknown to the general public but which are, collectively, soaking up public funds on a giant scale. In the last thirty or so years, have any of them been examined, found wanting and dumped? Or have the numbers been steadily rising as new ones are annually added to the pile?
I imagine that many people will have their own ideas about those outfits which most deserve to be discarded as being too passive ever to recover and I hope that they will use my e-mail address below so that later I can provide feedback on a topic which urgently needs public attention. For myself, I have no idea why we need a hugely costly Botswana Bureau of Standards and very little idea what value to the country is the Food Technology Centre in Kanye. But that leaves another fifty or so institutions and parastatals about which many people will have strong views.
If many of those parastatals drift along from one year to another without discernible upward movement - with guaranteed government funding, there can be no downward movement! - the stability of recent inflation and cost of living index figures must have struck many as truly extraordinary. Costs may be going through the roof but each month there is a barely perceptible change in the figures, a regular 0.02 percent increase in the rural areas and 0.01 in the urban centres which is very much in line with the daily weather forecasts, mild but warm, no cold, no heat, no rain, no wind, no nothing. Just a mild, soporific variation from day to day, month to month.
Clearly these figures represent very good news for those responsible for economic planning because they provide evidence of considerable expertise, and must come in very handy when trying to attract outside investors to come here. On the other hand, most people can only view such figures with enormous scepticism. The last few months have seen tremendous price increases, not least with fuel, but the figures reflect nothing of the kind. How can this be?
I am not about to suggest that the career pros responsible for producing these figures are doing a Zim on us but I do believe that they should come clean and tell everyone what factors they include when arriving at their supposedly conclusive figures, and what they omit.
But let's think about our cash. Not so long ago, there was a one-thebe coin, which could be blown away when placed on the open palm of the hand. There was a two-thebe coin and there were one and two and five Pula notes. Now, the five and ten thebe coins are almost obsolete and the P100 has the value of the old P10 note.
What ten Pula could buy a short time ago now costs you P100 or P200. Bring me a P25 coin next year and I will not need a Nigerian con man to place it on the palm of my hand, and like the old one thebe coin, blow it away.