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Positives from the budget but…

Publishing Date : 12 February, 2019

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The national budget delivered by Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Kenneth Matambo this week has some few positives, but generally there is no radical departure from the previous budgets. Government budgeting has continued with its conservative approach, and there is largely no expectation that it will address some of the most pressing issues.

 This is so because the budget’s first point of departure as a norm should be the National Development Plan, which gives the framework in which all budgets within that plans falls. Currently we are under the National Development Plan 11, which was adopted in 2016, and it will be followed by the Mid-Term review, were they could be some alterations. But this does not take away government’s responsibility or obligation to deliver a budget which seek at best to address immediate problems faced by the citizens.

Government initiatives such as Ipelegeng, National internship and Constituency Development Fund which form part of the government’s social welfare programmes are to continue under the current budget. But several experts, mainly those free of partisan bias are asking the question: Are these projects worth all the money? Former cabinet ministers David Magang and Daniel Moroka have come out to strongly speak against these programmes because they are unstainable, and the money could be invested somewhere else where permanent jobs can be created.

The most obvious problems facing the country are unemployment, especially among young graduates; plummeting elementary education results as well as inequality. One of the major problems facing this country, especially in the capital city and other urban areas is housing problem. This problem emanates from the growing population and government failure to provide a sound public housing policy.  The budget does not speak much of the aforementioned problems but there are some positives.

The most common concern raised by legislators in response to the 2019/2020 Budget Speech is that there is a crisis resulting from government’s inability to monitor and deliver projects on time.  This lack of capacity, as it has proved in the past will cost government dearly and sabotage its economic aspirations. One of the reason why Botswana’s economy has become lacklustre is because of lack of agility. The minister of Finance raised this concern of slow or lack of implementation in government ministries, including in areas of land acquisition.

Government has committed to roll-out implementation of the National Monitoring and Evaluation System to ensure that resources are used to deliver on their intended outputs and outcomes. This is also coupled with another commitment to set-up Project Management Office to ensure effective implementation of projects.These are welcome initiatives, if they are to be implemented as promised.

Our ranking in international reports such Doing Business Reports as well as the The Global Competitiveness Report should serve as a reminder of what we need to do if we are to attract huge investment. It is of course not surprising that at least Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Bogolo Kenewendo is happy with the announcement that government will deal with legislation that will ensure that Botswana is no longer considered almost a “tax haven “because of its lax tax laws.

We need a complete overhaul to address basics such as the necessary infrastructure for business dynasim. Some of the projects that have been budgeted for the next financial year are of paramount importance and commendable especially improvement of road infrastructure in Gaborone. Minister Matambo mentioned that the budgets placed focus on high impact infrastructure development; human capital development, in technical and vocation education as well as the national ICT backbone.

Such investments are necessary as a government for the basic purpose of ensuring a competitive and growing economy which can create jobs. With the Rural Electrification Programme, government has done extremely well in this regard by ensuring that even people in small rural areas do have access to electricity.

Such commitment should be seen in other necessary infrastructure as well, such as the internet. If government can have as committed project as the Rural Electrification Programme in ensuring internet access to vast majority of the citizens, we will definitely move miles in doing business. In today’s world, internet have become a necessity for doing business but today in Botswana internet access is a huge impediment to doing business, mainly because at national level we have not invested in the necessary infrastructure.



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