BOPEU’s new President, Masego Mogwera, has come out with guns blazing that Government cannot and must not abdicate its primary responsibility and priority.
Mogwera has pointed out that, by abdicating its priority, its primary responsibility, the Government will then have no role to play in the lives of the citizens, the welfare of the nation and the future of the country and thus its purpose and relevance will be questionable. BOPEU’s iron lady was addressing members of the media two days after the presentation of the 2017/2018 budget speech.
Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Mathambo, has during the 2017 / 2018 National Development Budget proposals in the National Assembly remarked that, “with regard to employment creation, it is important to clarify that the principal role of Government is not to create jobs directly, but to provide a conducive macroeconomic environment to facilitate the development of the private sector”.
BOPEU has come out openly to differ with the Minister of Finance on his assertions that it is not Government responsibility to create jobs. BOPEU President, Masego Mogwera has fiercely went on an outrage that “BOPEU vehemently rejects this preposition and characterize it as an abdication of state responsibility”. The statement by the Finance Minister is a departure from the stance of Government in the 2016/17 Budget.
Further the stance of the Minister of Finance on job creation is contrary to Government’s international obligations under the DECENT WORK COUNTRY PROGRAMME, entered by and between the Government of Botswana and the International Labour Organization (ILO) on the 17th of February 2011 where amongst other things, employment creation was identified as Botswana’s top priority.
It is for this reason that during the last national budget speech, Government remarkably outlined some of the economic activities undertaken by Government with potential for creating employment such as infrastructure backlog eradication, road networks and maintenance, wildlife and tourism initiatives among others. Mogwera thus lamented that, “it was therefore utterly shocking and devastating to hear Minister Mathambo abdicating the Government from its number one responsibility. And one may wonder what will be the role of Government if it is abdicating itself from its number one priority”?
BOPEU’s iron lady further contents that, the 2017/18 budget speech statement on the role of Government in job creation and the 2016/17 budget speech employment creation strategies depicts what she terms “glaring contradictions”. She further contents that the 2016/17 Budget approach to job creation by Government was very commendable despite the lack of specific and measurable targets and sustainability of the jobs alluded to.
The approach resonated well with listing job creation as a national priority. In BOPEU’s view, Government should have endeavoured to improve this approach rather than opting to eliminate it and deciding to occupy the back seat to watch as business ‘presumably’ takes place.
When this publication quizzed Mogwera whether there is a distinct difference between job creations and creating an environment for equitable job creation she hit back that, “Government’s effort to provide a conducive environment to facilitate development of the private sector is not a new phenomenon and has never seen the light of the day. The promised improvements in ICT, electricity and water supply and land policing and servicing among other things as efforts to create a conducive business environment are not justifiable and adequate for job creation initiative.”
Though BOPEU iron lady concurs that Government should create a conducive environment for the private sector to create employment, she is however of the firm view that Government has a direct responsibility in job creation without necessarily ballooning the wage bill by identifying strategic sectors such as tourism and mining with a potential for employment creation. And she emphasises that Mathambo must be clear if this new view is his or it’s a collective Government view because it is a total deviation from last year’s budget and economic plan.
To further compound this contradiction, Government has further committed itself to employment creation in the context of the NDP 11 theme; ‘inclusive growth for realization of employment creation and poverty eradication’. This theme was aptly crafted and befitting to national priorities.
Impressively in good accord with the NDP 11 theme, the 2017/18 Government has set a timeline target for the eradication of abject poverty by December 2017; a commendable approach which Mogwera says should have been adopted for employment creation as well. Mogwera is firm that it is for this reason that BOPEU leadership has resolved to call on Government to retract the statement and reconsider its position in so far as job creation is concerned.
BOPEU has also indicated that it has made some proposals in light of the 2017 / 2018 national development budget and will be sending them to Government for consideration. Amongst these proposals is that Government should assume a leading as opposed to a back-bench role with job creation. “We believe that Government should lead job creation initiatives by identifying appropriate and strategic industries to leverage on and inject capital for job creation initiatives” noted Mogwera.
It is BOPEU’S assertion that in this way Government, nurtures small businesses with growth potential to expand into big businesses and in turn create employment opportunities for local people. This ‘hand-holding’ and ‘incubation’ of small and medium scale businesses is necessary where local business have persistently failed to position themselves as engines of growth.
Mogwera continued to tell this publication that they believe that small and medium sized businesses contribute immensely to self-employment and improvement of household incomes and livelihoods and hence setting clear targets is the sure way to working within the ambit of strategy monitoring and evaluation, a commendable new national priority government has identified in the 2017/18 budget. “The Government must take a leading and direct role in employment creation. In our view, job-creation is government responsibility”, Mogwera emphasised.
BOPEU’s new President has also indicated that they are once more sending a proposal to Government that as part of exploring various alternatives to job creation, Government should put in place tax incentives to encourage local companies to employ more graduates. This is not the first time that BOPEU has made this proposal to Government and BOPEU seems to be hell bent on pursuing this proposal until it sees the light of the day. This proposal was first made by BOPEU after the 2015 / 2016 budget speech during their then breakfast budget speech review.
It is through this proposal that BOPEU is asserting that through the Government should set a specific number of employees that should any local company employ, such an employer would be entitled to tax exemption. In essence, the more graduates a company employs, the more tax exemption it enjoys. In this sense, in their feat to avoid tax, local companies will be encouraged to employ more graduates.
This can help circumvent the rampant crisis of graduate unemployment and this is what Mogwera asserts is amongst the many ways of direct job creation by Government that Mathambo’s 2017/2018 seeks to abdicate the Government from as a number one priority and primary responsibility. Mogwera further contents that, in doing so, the Botswana Government as a signatory to the International Labour Organisation’s Decent Work Country Programme, should take all necessary measures to ensure that jobs created are decent.
Decent and sustainable jobs are emphasized in the Decent Work Country Programme of the International Labour Organization which Botswana Government’s international obligations under the Decent Work Country Programme, entered by and between the Government of Botswana and the International Labour Organization (ILO) on the 17th of February 2011 where amongst other things, employment creation was identified as Botswana’s top priority.
Former Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Member of Parliament for Gaborone North, Haskins Nkaigwa has confirmed his departure from opposition fold to re-join the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
Nkaigwa said opposition is extremely divided and the leadership not in talking terms. “They are planning evil against each other. Nothing much will be achieved,” Nkaigwa told WeekendPost.
“I believe my time in the opposition has come to an end. It’s time to be of value to rebuilding our nation and economy of the country. Remember the BDP is where I started my political journey. It is home,” he said.
“Despite all challenges currently facing the world, President Masisi will be far with his promises to Batswana. A leader always have the interest of the people at heart despite how some decisions may look to be unpopular with the people.
“I have faith and full confidence in President Dr Masisi leadership. We shall overcome as party and nation the current challenges bedevilling nations. BDP will emerge stronger. President Masisi will always have my backing.”
Nkaigwa served as opposition legislator between 2014-2019 representing Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) under UDC banner. He joined BMD in 2011 at the height public servant strike whilst Gaborone City Deputy Mayor. He eventually rose to become the mayor same year, after BDP lost majority in the GCC.
Nkaigwa had been a member of Botswana National Front (BNF), having joined from Alliance for Progressives (AP) in 2019.
Botswana has received assistance worth over P100 million from Japanese government since 2019, making the latter of the largest donors to Botswana in recent years.
The assistance include relatively large-scale grant aid programmes such as the COVID-19 programme (to provide medical equipment; P34 million), the digital terrestrial television programme (to distribute receivers to the underprivileged, P17 million), the agriculture promotion programme (to provide agricultural machinery and equipment, P53million).
“As 2020 was a particularly difficult year, where COVID-19 hit Botswana’s economy and society hard, Japan felt the need to assist Botswana as our friend,” said Japan’s new Ambassador to Botswana, Hoshiyama Takashi.
“It is for this reason that grants of over P100 million were awarded to Botswana for the above mentioned projects.”
Japan is now the world’s fourth highest ranking donor country in terms of Official Development Assistance (ODA).
From 1991 to 2000, Japan continued as the top donor country in the world and contributed to Asia’s miracle economic development.
From 1993 onwards, the TICAD process commenced through Japan’s initiative as stated earlier. Japan’s main contribution has been in the form of Yen Loans, which are at a concessional rate, to suit large scale infrastructure construction.
“In Botswana, only a few projects have been implemented using the Yen Loan such as the Morupule “A” Power Station Rehabilitation and Pollution Abatement in 1986, the Railway Rolling Stock Increase Project in 1987, the Trans-Kalahari Road Construction Project in 1991, the North-South Carrier Water Project in 1995 and the Kazungula Bridge Construction Project in 2012,” said Ambassador Hoshiyama.
“In terms of grant aid and technical assistance, Japan has various aid schemes including development survey and master planning, expert dispatch to recipient countries, expert training in Japan, scholarships, small scale grass-roots program, culture-related assistance, aid through international organizations and so on.”
In 1993, Japan launched Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) to promote Africa’s development, peace and security, through the strengthening of relations in multilateral cooperation and partnership.
TICAD discuss development issues across Africa and, at the same time, present “aid menus” to African countries provided by Japan and the main aid-related international organizations, United Nations (UN), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.
“As TICAD provides vision and guidance, it is up to each African country to take ownership and to implement her own development following TICAD polices and make use of the programmes shown in the aid menus,” Ambassordor Hoshiyama noted.
“This would include using ODA loans for quality infrastructure, suited to the country’s own nation-building needs. It is my fervent hope that Botswana will take full advantage of the TICAD process.”
Since then, seven conferences where held, the latest, TICAD 7 being in 2019 at Yokohama. TICAD 7’s agenda on African development focused on three pillars, among them the first pillar being “Accelerating economic transformation and improving business environment through innovation and private sector engagement”.
“Yes, private investment is very important, while public investment through ODA (Official Development Assistance) still plays an indispensable role in development,” the Japanese Ambassador said.
“For further economic development in Africa, Japan recognizes that strengthening regional connectivity and integration through investment in quality infrastructure is key.”
Japan has emphasized the following; effective implementation of economic corridors such as the East Africa Northern Corridor, Nacala Corridor and West Africa Growth Ring; Quality infrastructure investment in line with the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment should be promoted by co-financing or cooperation through the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Japan.
Japan also emphasized the establishment of mechanisms to encourage private investment and to improve the business environment.
According to the statistics issued by Japan’s Finance Ministry, Japan invested approximately 10 billion US dollars in Africa after TICAD 7 (2019) to year end 2020, but Japanese investment through third countries are not included in this figure.
“With the other points factored in, the figure isn’t established yet,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
The next conference, TICAD 8 will be held in Tunisia in 2022. This will be the second TICAD summit to be held on the African continent after TICAD 6 which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016.
According to Ambassador Hoshiyama, in preparation for TICAD 8, the TICAD ministerial meeting will be held in Tokyo this year. The agenda to be discussed during TICAD 8 has not yet been fully deliberated on amongst TICAD Co-organizers (Japan, UN, UNDP, the World Bank and AU).
“Though not officially concluded, given the world situation caused by COVID-19, I believe that TICAD 8 will highlight health and medical issues including the promotion of a Universal Health Coverage (UHC),” said Hoshiyama.
“As the African economy has seriously taken a knock by COVID-19, economic issues, including debt, could be an item for serious discussion.”
The promotion of business is expected to be one of the most important topics. Japan and its partners, together with the business sector, will work closely to help revitalize private investment in Africa.
“All in all, the follow-up of the various programs that were committed by the Co-Organizers during the Yokohama Plan of Actions 2019 will also be reviewed as an important item of the agenda,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
“I believe that this TICAD follow-up mechanism has secured transparency and accountability as well as effective implementation of agreed actions by all parties. The guiding principle of TICAD is African ownership and international partnership.”
Directorate on Intelligence Services (DIS) Director General, Brigadier Peter Magosi is said to be hell-bent and pushing President Mokgweetsi Masisi to reshuffle his cabinet as a matter of urgency since a number of his ministers are conflicted.
The request by Magosi comes at a time when time is ticking on his contract which is awaiting renewal from Masisi.
This publication learns that Magosi is unshaken by the development and continues to wield power despite uncertainty hovering around his contractual renewal.