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.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.