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Gaolathe opposes Masisi proposed civil service wage bill cut

Minority leader in parliament and Gaborone Bonnington South legislator, Ndaba Gaolathe has contended that there is no compelling evidence that can suggest that Botswana is in a desperate anomaly that requires it to cut off the size of its civil service as International Monetary Fund (IMF) suggests.

Recently, new president, Mokgweetsi Masisi told the international media that it is not his desire to grow the public service any bigger, and that if anything it is his desire to trim the civil service so “we are more efficient, we are leaner, meaner, and we can do business and we are more attractive to the private sector for them to invest”. Gaolathe has however warned that there could be danger in doing so because there is no evidence that indicates that if Botswana was to cut its wage bill, it would translate into growing economy that will create jobs for the populace.

“On the contrary, there is a danger that a poorly managed wage cutting exercise could be detrimental to the economy via the demand, productivity, expectations and income channels,” Gaolathe told WeekendPost this week. Gaolathe, a graduate in Economics and Finance, who once worked for government think tank, Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) argued that it is noteworthy that there are several metrics for evaluating the wage bill, other than simply the amount of money in Pula terms that goes towards the wage bill.  

He indicated that various metrics exist including wage bill as proportion of GDP/output; wage bill as proportion of Government revenue, wage bill as proportion of Government expenditure, wage bill as proportion of national wage bill of all sectors including private sector.
“I have looked at some of these metrics juxtaposing them against many other countries, whether developed or undeveloped countries,” Gaolathe stated.  

“The evidence is not compelling as to suggest that Botswana is a desperate anomaly or that if Botswana was to cut its wage bill, it would translate into growing our economy or boosting employment for the majority of our people.” According to Gaolathe, the more important consideration before the Government of Botswana cuts its wage bill is to identify exactly what its economic agenda is and how it hopes to achieve it.

“Such an economic agenda also acts as a reference point for guiding the human and other resource requirements for achieving objective targets on national income/output and employment levels.  Currently we are not aware of a clear economic agenda with clear output/income and employment levels targets without which it does not make sense cut Government wages, before we even understand what we are trying to achieve,” he said.

There is evidence that wage levels have been eroded by rising costs of living over the years, according to Gaolathe, without any meaningful Government wage adjustments, something that he said is contributing to low morale within the public service, and possibly declining productivity as well. Gaolathe criticised government policy when it comes deployment in key portfolios in the civil service, as he argued that there is a clear failure to employ the best talent, who would in turn transform the country.

“Apart from low wages and declining morale, it is also evident that Government is failing to attract the best and brightest personnel to jobs that potentially impact economic growth and overall national prosperity.  So to cut wages even before you are able to get the basics right, of getting the best and brightest in the right places, could prove suicidal to the quest of building a viable economic foundation for prosperity,” he revealed.

He added that there is also the question of managing the cyclicality of any economy and that effectively the Government of Botswana has cut wages abruptly in past years including the early 1980s, first part of the 1990s and in much of the recent decade (nominal wage freezes are equivalent to real wage cuts), from this experience we know the associated effect it has on exacerbating /extending economic recessions.

“ In others words, wage cuts would not and are not new; also wage cuts if not complemented by a raft of complementing progressive policies have no positive impact on national income, employment levels or prosperity,” he observed. With a crystal clear economic agenda, it is possible to map a human resource plan for the civil service that takes into consideration both the fact that Botswana needs to grow the economy and that it also needs to manage cost.

“This plan could focus on improving our processes, adopting new ways of doing things without necessarily cutting costs, but significantly upping output relative to cost.  This would constitute a much more superior strategy than one alleged to be emanating from the world bank of a clear cut wage reduction.

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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.

Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”

Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.

On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.

He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”

President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.

“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”

When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.

“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”

He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.

“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:

He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”

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Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.

“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”

In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.

It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.

Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.

President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”

In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”

He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.

“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”

Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”

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Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV

24th March 2023

Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.

“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”

Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.

“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”

He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.

In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.

Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.

Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”

“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”

Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.

“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”

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