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Home » Columns » SONA 2017: what Batswana expect?

SONA 2017: what Batswana expect?

Publishing Date : 06 November, 2017



When, on 5th December 2016, His Excellency the President Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama presented the State of the Nation Address (SONA) to the third session of the Eleventh Parliament many Batswana’s hopes for a better life for all were raised.


This year, 2017, as President Khama delivers the SONA many Batswana’s expectations will be that the promises made in 2016 have, in the main, been met, especially because we recently celebrated fifty years of independence. Not only that. During SONA 2016, President Khama emphasized on delivery for the year 2017, perhaps because it marked the first year for the new vision, Vision 2036. He said “In achieving our vision of a better future ... it is not enough that we have sound plans and a practical as well as positive long term Vision...”


In his words, “to succeed, we must become much more urgent in our delivery. This is a daily challenge for all of us, both inside and outside Government. Overreliance on the State is not a sustainable, much less optimal path to 2036.” Of course, some will accept that such occurrences as the closure of the BCL mine have adversely affected the plans for 2017 as enunciated in the 2016 SONA. Yet, some will not accept that, arguing that these were self-inflicted wounds which cannot be an excuse for non-fulfilment of Agenda 2017.


Right at the beginning of SONA 2016, President Khama warned Batswana that the era of comfortable budgetary surpluses, driven by relatively steady mineral revenues, is behind us. This much Batswana must expect to hear this year, especially in view of the BCL closure.
Though it is still early days in relation to Vision 2036, Batswana expect to hear progress, especially with respect to the four pillars government set out to be the yard stick for measuring our progress in reaching destination 2036.


These pillars are: Sustainable Economic Development; Human and Social Development; Sustainable Environment; and Good Governance, Peace and Security. Our people, therefore, expect to hear about the strides we have made towards the realization of these ideals. In relation to the Sustainable Economic Development pillar Batswana expect to hear how their country is transforming into a high-income country, where continued growth is underpinned by a more inclusive, diversified and export led economy.


Of course, Batswana were informed that for this to happen they need to become more innovative, flexible and productive. But they also know that, in the President’s own words, for this to happen government has to provide an environment in which private sector expansion is not hampered by onerous regulation and an over reliance on the state. Batswana, therefore, expect that the President will update them on what the government has done to improve the ease of doing business in Botswana. Not only that. Batswana expect to hear what government has done to stimulate private sector growth in Botswana.


Granted, many will expect to hear how the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP), for example, has contributed to the diversification of the economy and, therefore, reduced the levels of unemployment, especially among the youth. With respect to the Human and Social Development pillar many Batswana expect that the President will update them on how we, as a nation, are building upon our legacy as a moral and tolerant society that is inclusive of all Batswana.


In this regard, the rights of the so-called minor tribes; the rights of gays, lesbians and the transgendered; treatment of those who hold dissenting political views; e.t.c will come to the fore. Yet, as we expect to hear such from the President, the question we should all ask ourselves is whether we are consistent with our longstanding traditions of mutual support for our fellow brothers and sisters. We should also ask ourselves whether we are all in a journey of seeking a harmonious future that ensures dignity for all our people by contributing to the wellness and social upliftment of the whole community, not just the privileged few.


Our people will expect the President to give them an update on how such programmes as the Poverty Eradication Programme and Constituency Funding have improved Batswana’s lives and lifted them out of the evil of poverty and squalor. As regards the Building of a Sustainable Environment pillar, which as the President said, is predicated on the optimal use of our natural resources, Batswana will expect to hear how government, for example, has assisted communities to maximize sustainable yields from our renewable resources.


In 2016, President Khama assured Batswana that by 2036 we shall have ensured that our Republic remains a bastion of freedom, security and the rule of law. This is what would be required to ensure that we achieve the pillar of Good Governance, Peace and Security.
In President Khama’s own words for us to achieve this we require both continuity and evolutionary transformation in our legal and institutional frameworks in response to changing popular expectations for a more disciplined society.


Here, government’s treatment of the private media; government’s relations with workers and trade unions; government’s use of its security forces on the citizenry; government’s respect for court judgments, e.t.c will come to the fore. Hitherto SONA 2016 President Khama renamed, rationalized and increased government ministries. President Khama said this was motivated by a need to focus more on key developmental issues as part of NDP 11, while underscoring our intention to align ourselves with a changing world.


Batswana will, therefore, be justified in their expectation that President Khama will give them a report which demonstrates that the new ministries’ performance, productivity and delivery improved, thereby justifying the expenditure that was incurred as a result of the renaming, rationalization and increase of the ministries. During SONA 2016, President Khama promised that such programmes as the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD), the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) and Poverty Eradication Programmes shall remain as priorities.


Not only that. He promised that job creation through EDD and ESP will be increasingly linked to private sector growth, with government playing an enabling role in facilitating economic growth. It will, no doubt, be Batswana’s expectation for President Khama to report on job creation percentages which are testament to this. While such programmes as Ipelegeng and Tirelo Sechaba, no doubt, provide relief for a section of our society, Batswana do not expect the numbers of people involved in these programmes to be included in job creation statistics for these are not jobs per se, but mere drought relief engagements.


During SONA 2016 President Khama promised that 2017 will see the rolling out of yet another Programme which will embrace every constituency in the country in the form of community projects. He promised that the programme, which will be overseen by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, will increase the delivery of infrastructure at local level, while providing further income generating activities and employment opportunities.


Assuming that he was referring to the Constituency Fund Programme, Batswana expect to hear about the number of long term jobs created under the programme; the sustainable income generating activities resulting from the programme as well as the infrastructure, e.g. roads built through the programme.


President Khama also informed Batswana that additional key priorities in realizing our renewed Vision are the eradication of abject poverty and citizen empowerment through expanded educational and training opportunities for the youth and marginalized, including those living in remote rural areas, as well as targeted investment.


Granted, government, led by Office of the President (OP) itself, has embarked on the Poverty Eradication Programme, but Batswana expect to hear, in real terms, the number of Batswana or households which graduated from poverty as a result of the programme. On the back of the anticipated overall domestic growth rate of 3.5% for the year 2016, President Khama informed Batswana that the BCL closure notwithstanding, government projected a 4.1% overall domestic growth rate in 2017.  


He also informed Batswana that the inflation rate is forecast to remain within the Bank of Botswana’s 3-6 % objective range. Batswana will, no doubt, expect to hear how BCL closure affected these forecasts. In particular, Batswana will want to know whether our economy is still driven by the non-mining sectors, more especially in Trade, Hotels and Restaurants, Transport and Communication and Finance and Business Services which, in 2016, contributed to domestic growth at rates of 6.8%, 6.1% and 4.0% respectively.


Batswana will also expect to hear whether or not the Agricultural sector’s contribution to the overall domestic growth rate is improving in light of the several agricultural funding programmes introduced by government. At the end of the day, though many Batswana will, no doubt, have heeded the President’s advice that the achievement of the milestones set out in SONA 2016 is not government’s task alone, many will still expect government to have taken a significant lead in the milestones’ realization.    

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