“The Mid-Term Review (MTR) of National Development Plan 11 (NDP 11) comes at a critical juncture in the Botswana’s development. The momentum that has carried the country forward following many years of diamond-led growth is now slowing down on the backdrop of challenges in the global economic environment”, reads Mid-Term Review of the National Development Plan 11 Draft prepared by the Ministry Of Finance and Economic Development.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka and his new permanent secretary Dr Wilfred Mandlebe are poised to give the country a new direction to deal with the challenges identified. According to the draft it is widely acknowledged that national social and economic transformation is necessary. “To this end, this MTR has come at an ideal time as it has assisted in identifying and analysing critical issues that need to be addressed, in order to transform Botswana’s economic and social development path going forward.”
NDP 11 is the first of three NDPs that will cover the Vision 2036 period, and hence the draft suggests that it is crucial in setting the growth and development path to be followed through to 2036, and achieving the Vision’s varied objectives for improving social and economic well-being in a sustainable manner.
“It also comes at a time when the world has embarked upon the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its associated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This MTR is therefore anchored on refining the course set out at the beginning of NDP 11 which was crafted along the pillars of Vision 2036 as well as the SDGs deliverables.”
According to the Ministry of Finance officials Botswana’s main challenge is that of subdued economic growth mainly as a result of impaired global demand for diamonds as its major export commodity. Recent average annual GDP growth rates measured over five-year periods have been around four (4) percent, far below the double-digit growth rates that Botswana enjoyed during the era of rapid diamond-led growth in the first 25 years after independence.
The draft review states that in order to sustain the growth momentum, government spending was increased even as diamond-led growth slowed down. “Such expenditure, was necessary to enhance transforming Botswana’s growth model to one driven by diversified, and export-led goods and services. Such a transformation is essential in unlocking the country’s growth potential while at the same time creating sustainable jobs. Linked to this, is the current shift in Government emphasis towards a knowledge-based economy that encompasses the production of many types of goods and services that can potentially support export-led growth.”
Finance officials posit that the transformation agenda needed to achieve faster economic growth requires that all sectors of the economy actively participate in economic activities. In so doing, it is important that emphasis be put on implementation efficiency and effectiveness. “This applies to both the choice and implementation of projects, and to operational aspects of public sector service delivery.
Public spending has been high in Botswana over many years, and while there have been some important achievements as a result, there has also been examples of not achieving value for money. Hence, structural changes in the economy associated with the move away from diamond-led growth means that the public sector will be expected to “do more with less”.”
Private sector must come to the party
There are also obligations on the private sector to deliver more and better. In many respects Botswana’s private sector is far too dependent upon government, notes the draft MTR. “It is up to the private sector to demonstrate more initiative, especially with regard to competitiveness and productivity that can underpin a pivot towards export markets rather than mainly servicing domestic demand. This requires a refocusing of domestic investment as well as attracting much higher levels of inward foreign direct investment.”
The MTR comes at a time when expectations amongst Batswana are high. “This is because the country has just successfully had a peaceful general election, and the 12th Parliament is convening with many new Members. In the road to the elections commitments to effective and impactful delivery were made, and it is essential that results are achieved that have a positive and widespread impact on the lives of Batswana. It is also essential that actions are taken that will, on balance, contribute to advancing the overall national transformation and socio-economic development in the longer term.”
The draft further narrates that currently the challenge of transformation is made more difficult by the external environment that in many respects has higher levels of uncertainty than at any time since the global financial crisis and recession a decade ago. Since that time, global growth has been volatile and
The need for Transformation
“The period of mineral-led growth that transformed Botswana from a low-income to an upper-middle income economy is now facing challenges. However, the search for a new, sustainable growth model continues. While the economy has become more diversified over the past two decades, this has not yet reached sustainable diversification levels. The economy is currently characterised by low annual growth rates and not enough opportunities for employment and income-generation for citizens are being created.
The economy also remains too dependent on government spending, and limited foreign direct investment (FDI), that yields a narrow export portfolio. Hence, the transformation to a sustainable post-mineral growth pattern remains a priority in the medium to long-term,” reads the MTR draft.
The draft notes that while the exact nature of sustainable post-mineral growth will evolve over time, a number of pre-requisites and desirable characteristics can be identified for the objectives of higher, more labour-intensive growth to be realised. These include: Increased openness and greater integration with regional and international markets for goods, services, labour and capital; Improved productivity and efficiency, leading to greater effectiveness and competitiveness; Shifting the drivers of growth towards exports of goods and services, and away from dependence on government and the small domestic market; Making use of Botswana’s high level of investment in education to support the transition to a knowledge-based economy; Improving economic opportunities for citizens; Reversing the decline in inflows FDI; and Improving the business environment to encourage diversified investment portfolios.
The Changing World of Diamonds
“Diamonds have long been central to Botswana’s economy as the largest contributor to; GDP, export earnings and government revenues. However, Botswana is now a mature diamond producer – having been doing so for almost 50 years – which means that diamonds are no longer a major driver of growth, although they continue to play an essential role in providing the foundation for the economy, government spending and the balance of payments. Domestically, the maturing of diamond mining poses challenges in that production is at a plateau, rather than growing, while costs of production are increasing as mines get older and deeper.
The global context for diamond mining is also changing dramatically. Since the global financial crisis (GFC) and recession of 2008-9, diamond prices have been volatile, and on a general downward trend, in contrast to the historical experience whereby diamond prices were expected to trend upwards. The relationship between rough and polished diamond prices has also changed, leading to squeezed margins and instability amongst mid-stream participants (diamond traders, cutters and polishers).
Other key changes involve the availability of finance, and the nature of the consumer and consumer tastes. Perhaps most significantly, the entry of low-cost lab-grown diamonds (LGDs) has transformed the supply-side, and undermined the rarity of (natural) diamonds. Finally, automation and artificial intelligence is affecting all stages of the diamond value chain, covering mining, extraction, sorting, valuing, and cutting and polishing. The diamond industry is going through a period of unprecedented change and disruption, which Botswana has to deal with, states the MTR draft.
Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).
Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model. BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.
“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.
Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.
Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board. However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.
He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.
“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).
“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.
“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.
Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.
“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.
“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.
WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs. High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.
The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.
“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.
As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.
“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.
Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.
“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.
The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.
“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.
BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.
“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.
Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.
In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.
“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.
The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.
“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”