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BOPEU President takes government head on!

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.

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Mowana Mine to open, pay employees millions

18th January 2022
Mowana Mine

Mowana Copper Mine in Dukwi will finally pay its former employees a total amount of P23, 789, 984.00 end of this month. For over three years Mowana Copper Mine has been under judicial management. Updating members, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) Executive Secretary Kitso Phiri this week said the High Court issued an order for the implementation of the compromise scheme of December 9, 2021 and this was to be done within 30 days after court order.

“Therefore payment of benefits under the scheme including those owed to Messina Copper Botswana employees should be effected sometime in January latest end of January 2022,” Kitso said. Kitso also explained that cash settlement will be 30 percent of the total Messina Copper Botswana estate and negotiated estate is $3,233,000 (about P35, 563,000).

Messina Copper was placed under liquidation and was thereafter acquired by Leboam Holdings to operate Mowana Mine. Leboam Holdings struck a deal with the Messina Copper’s liquidator who became a shareholder of Leboam Holdings. Leboam Holdings could not service its debts and its creditors placed it under provisional judicial management on December 18, 2018 and in judicial management on February 28, 2019.

A new company Max Power expressed interest to acquire the mining operations. It offered to take over the Mowana Mine from Leboam Holdings, however, the company had to pay the debts of Leboam including monies owed to Messina Copper, being employees benefits and other debts owed to other creditors.

The monies, were agreed to be paid through a scheme of compromise proposed by Max Power, being a negotiated payment schedule, which was subject to the financial ability of the new owners. “On December 9, 2021, Messina Copper liquidator, called a meeting of creditors, which the BMWU on behalf of its members (former Messina Copper employees) attended, to seek mandate from creditors to proceed with a proposed settlement for Messina Copper on the scheme of compromise. It is important to note that employee benefits are regarded as preferential credit, meaning once a scheme is approved they are paid first.”

Negotiated estate is P35, 563,000

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Councilors’ benefits debacle-savingram reveals detail

18th January 2022

A savingram the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development sent to Town Clerks and Council Secretaries explaining why councilors across the country should not have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term has been revealed.

The contents of the savingram came out in the wake of a war of words between counselors and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. The councilors through the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) accuse the Ministry of refusing to allow them to have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term.

This has since been denied by the Ministry.  In the savingram to town councils and council secretaries across the country, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Molefi Keaja states that, “Kindly be advised that the terminal benefits budget is made during the final year of term of office for Honorable Councilors.”  Keaja reminded town clerks and council secretaries that, “The nominal budget Councils make each and every financial year is to cater for events where a Councilor’s term of office ends before the statutory time due to death, resignation or any other reason.”

The savingram also goes into detail about why the government had in the past allowed councilors to have access to their terminal benefits before the end of their term.  “Regarding the special dispensation made in the 2014-2019, it should be noted that the advance was granted because at that time there was an approved budget for terminal benefits during the financial year,” explained Keaja.  He added that, “Town Clerks/Council Secretaries made discretions depending on the liquidity position of Councils which attracted a lot of audit queries.”

Keaja also revealed that councils across the country were struggling financially and therefore if they were to grant councilors access to their terminal benefits, this could leave their in a dire financial situation.  Given the fact that Local Authorities currently have cash flow problems and budgetary constraints, it is not advisable to grant terminal benefits advance as it would only serve to compound the liquidity problems of councils.

It is understood that the Ministry was inundated with calls from some Councils as they sought clarification regarding access to their terminal benefits. The Ministry fears that should councils pay out the terminal benefits this would affect their coffers as the government spends a lot on councilors salaries.

Reports show that apart from elected councilors, the government spends at least P6, 577, 746, 00 on nominated councilors across the country as their monthly salaries. Former Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso once told Parliament that in total there are 113 nominated councilors and their salaries per a year add up to P78, 933,16.00. She added that their projected gratuity is P9, 866,646.00.

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Households spending to drive economic recovery

17th January 2022

A surge in consumer spending is expected to be a key driver of Botswana’s economic recovery, according to recent projections by Fitch Solutions. Fitch Solutions said it forecasts household spending in Botswana to grow by a real rate of 5.9% in 2022.

The bullish Fitch Solutions noted that “This is a considerable deceleration from 9.4% growth estimated in 2021, it comes mainly from the base effects of the contraction of 2.5% recorded in 2020,” adding that, “We project total household spending (in real terms) to reach BWP59.9bn (USD8.8bn) in 2022, increasing from BWP56.5bn (USD8.3bn) in 2021.”  According to Fitch Solutions, this is higher than the pre-Covid-19 total household spending (in real terms) of P53.0 billion (USD7.8bn) in 2019 and it indicates a full recovery in consumer spending.

“We forecast real household spending to grow by 5.9% in 2022, decelerating from the estimated growth of 9.4% in 2021. We note that the Covid-19 pandemic and the related restrictions on economic activity resulted in real household spending contracting by 2.5% in 2020, creating a lower base for spending to grow from in 2021 and 2022,” Fitch Solutions says.

Total household spending (in real terms), the agency says, will increase in 2022 when compared to 2021. In 2021 and 2022, total household spending (in real terms) will be above the pre-Covid-19 levels in 2019, indicating a full recovery in consumer spending, says Fitch Solutions.  It says as of December 6 2021 (latest data available), 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose, while this is relatively low it is higher than Africa average of 11.3%.

“The emergence of new Covid-19 variants such as Omicron, which was first detected in the country in November 2021, poses a downside risk to our outlook for consumer spending, particularly as a large proportion of the country’s population is unvaccinated and this could result in stricter measures being implemented once again,” says Fitch Solutions.

Growth will ease in 2022, Fitch Solution says. “Our forecast for an improvement in consumer spending in Botswana in 2022 is in line with our Country Risk team’s forecast that the economy will grow by a real rate of 5.3% over 2022, from an estimated 12.5% growth in 2021 as the low base effects from 2020 dissipate,” it says.

Fitch Solutions notes that “Our Country Risk team expects private consumption to be the main driver of Botswana’s economic growth in 2022, as disposable incomes and the labour market continue to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
It says Botswana’s tourism sector has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the related travel restrictions.

According to Fitch Solutions, “The emergence of the Omicron variant, which was first detected in November 2021, has resulted in travel bans being implemented on Southern African countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. This will further delay the recovery of Botswana’s tourism sector in 2021 and early 2022.”  Fitch Solutions, therefore, forecasts Botswana’s tourist arrivals to grow by 81.2% in 2022, from an estimated contraction of 40.3% in 2021.

It notes that the 72.4% contraction in 2020 has created a low base for tourist arrivals to grow from.  “The rollout of vaccines in South Africa and its key source markets will aid the recovery of the tourism sector over the coming months and this bodes well for the employment and incomes of people employed in the hospitality industry, particularly restaurants and hotels as well as recreation and culture businesses,” the report says.

Fitch Solutions further notes that with economies reopening, consumers are demanding products that they had little access to over the previous year. However, manufacturers are facing several problems.  It says supply chain issues and bottlenecks are resulting in consumer goods shortages, feeding through into supply-side inflation.  Fitch Solutions believes the global semiconductor shortage will continue into 2022, putting the pressure on the supply of several consumer goods.

It says the spread of the Delta variant is upending factory production in Asia, disrupting shipping and posing more shocks to the world economy. Similarly, manufacturers are facing shortages of key components and higher raw materials costs, the report says adding that while this is somewhat restricted to consumer goods, there is a high risk that this feeds through into more consumer services over the 2022 year.

“Our global view for a notable recovery in consumer spending relies on the ability of authorities to vaccinate a large enough proportion of their populations and thereby experience a notable drop in Covid-19 infections and a decline in hospitalisation rates,” says Fitch Solutions.
Both these factors, it says, will lead to governments gradually lifting restrictions, which will boost consumer confidence and retail sales.

“As of December 6 2021, 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose. While this is low, it is higher than the Africa average of 11.3%. The vaccines being administered in Botswana include Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson. We believe that a successful vaccine rollout will aid the country’s consumer spending recovery,” says Fitch Solutions.  Therefore, the agency says, “Our forecasts account for risks that are highly likely to play out in 2022, including the easing of government support. However, if other risks start to play out, this may lead to forecast revisions.”

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