Simplify the budget speech for every citizen

This is the beginning of yet another series; this one is on the recently delivered budget speech by the Honourable Minister. There are things in which a lot of Batswana have been closed out of engaging with, from lack of understanding or lack of appreciation.

The budget speech is one of these. There are few things that bring us together as a nation, besides our patriotic undying support of the Zebras and our commitment to “go tlaa siama.” Perhaps we are more aware than we give ourselves credit for, of our capacity go siamisa. It is from this perspective that this series is authored.

As with every instance where things outside of the general knowledge of this columnist are discussed, a disclaimer is made. Without claiming imposter syndrome, particularly because knowledgeable or not, the state of the country, including its economy and budget is of great concern to all its citizens, here goes: The author of this piece is neither an economist nor a politician. The views here expressed are therefore limited to a social justice perspective and as such take certain and very specific needs into consideration, operating from a view that demands and insists on inclusion and intersection.

The budget speech this year was handed down in early February 2019, as usual – a form of intention setting for the country’s government, of resolutions and goals hoped to be achieved with what she has in her pockets. It was the first of it’s kind offered under the leadership of the current President, His Excellency Mokgweetsi Masisi. So it was necessary that the priorities of His Excellency be highlighted at the introduction of the speech: good governance and respect of the rule of law. It is the definitions or really the characteristics of these that we concern ourselves with for this read.

Good Governance has certain characteristics, which may be summarised as follows: accountability and transparency of the leadership, which endeavors to be effective and efficient, following the law. In good governance, the leadership undertakes to be consensus oriented in allowing civic participation in national issues as well as being responsive. Most importantly, the leadership promises to be equitable and inclusive.  Policies and decisions would therefore be made from the citizen’s input. This means matters of concern to citizens are taken into great consideration, policies are implemented to deal with them, and the public service enforces and reflects these.

Since the coming into leadership of the current administration, the phrase ‘the rule of law’ has become rather popularly used, moreso, to my recollection than previously. The rule of law, similar to good governance demands accountability of all institutions and persons, to laws that are publicly known, equally enforced, and independently adjudicated, in a manner consistent with international human rights standards and practices.

The law is supremely held and fairness therein is demanded in such a system of governance. There is an expectation of separation of powers, transparency in procedure and law, as well as clarity and thereby avoidance of arbitrariness.

These two “cardinal principles” demand clarity, transparency, dialogue, debate and open ended conclusions, taking into consideration the above, that citizen participation in leadership be of paramount consideration, with an emphasis on terms such as inclusive, equitable and fair.

Over the past week, economists, finance specialists and politicians have had their go at the budget speech, questioning, congratulating and unpacking, as it were. Social justice practitioners have publicly, had little engagement with the speech and proposals therein made, perhaps mainly because it is easy to assume that in a state of capitalism as the one we live in, things like the budget speech are actually elitist, and far beyond the comprehension of many who should otherwise engage with it, and therefore, making it not only inaccessible, but just another thing, in a squadron of factors and considerations that deeper entrench the separation we have from our leadership. This, I suspect, is the case because the privilege to be able to understand and interpret the speech, is not one enjoyed by most. 

The series is not advocating, per se for the Minister to make simple or de-codify, the budget speech. It is, however believed that in order to adequately claim fair inclusion, there has to be public understanding and engagement with the speech. It would be beneficial to put the two cardinal considerations to the proposals made, and those unmade, with specific regard had to the concerns that Batswana might have, today, to see how representative of the needs of the country, the exercise is, and whether it actually addresses these. In the next pieces, we will dive into the contents of the speech.

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