5 changes Mokaila envisages at MTC
The recently appointed Minister of Transport and Communications, Kitso Mokaila, is already making his presence felt in the ministry. Just hardly under a month in office, the former Minerals Minister wants a string of changes in his new ministry, previously handled by Tshenolo Mabeo.
According to information gathered by WeekendPost, Mokaila was quoted proposing reduction in aviation prices to make air transport an affordable mode of mobility. In an interview with this publication, Mokaila who is one of the six Specially Elected Members of Parliament said that aviation plays a critical role in economic diversification undertakings.
“We should have flying fares very affordable to even ordinary middle income upcoming business people,’’ Mokaila noted. Such, according to him, will harness domestic investments and small medium enterprises and go a long way in promoting tourism and much needed foreign direct investment.
“By 2036 we want to have achieved a high income status as a country thus we have to encourage and enhance business in all possible ways and the aviation sector is no exception,’’ he said. The minister also asserted that the move would also see train fares reduced to promote more BR Express utilization which he noted will reduce congestion in road transport hence reducing road accidents.
At the Aviation Pitso, a fortnight ago, the unstoppable transformer went on to reveal his intensions to ban importation of Japanese, Indian and Singapore cars in Botswana. Speaking at the Transport Pitso in Selebi Phikwe last week, Mokaila told attendants that cheap imported Asian cars are to blame for the alarming rate of road accidents, car theft, and pollution to the environment.
“When I made these suggestions while I was still Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism I was accused of having been bought by motor businessman, Satar Dada, but this time around I’m positive I will be successful,’’ Mokaila told WeekendPost on Friday. He added that “these imports have more environmental effects than mines and pollute factory industries.” “These cars have bad effects on the environment; their emissions contribute to global warming.”
However, Mokaila’s proposition has since its national publication attracted scrutiny and realized a different reception. Renowned Human Rights lawyer and social justice activist, Kabo Motswagole observed the move as a knockout punch for low income earners.
“A ban on such as the one proposed can only mean that those within a certain income bracket would be able to afford cars, particularly South African imports,” he said.
“It is very sad that this kind of law would be introduced in one of the most unequal societies in the world,’’ lamented the Gaborone based lawyer. Former Miss Botswana Judge who is a Policy specialist at Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Cultural Development, Lawrence Ookeditse was not in support of the proposal.
“I think the Minister would not be addressing the real issue. We have to craft our transport and communications policies in such a way that they promote ease of doing business and consequently job creation,’’ Ookeditse said.
He said that Botswana currently has no Motor industry to protect by abolishing foreign imports.
“It would be a very wrong amendment to adopt. There is no tangible motor manufacturing sector to protect. Such protectionism then will be misguided and indeed influenced by the other car dealers,’’ said Ookeditse.
The outspoken job creation activists further advanced his argument by lashing out on government car supply tender beneficiaries as the influencers behind this move.
”Those who have won tenders to supply government with vehicles are resting on their laurels waiting for the next tender – they are not now using their money to build up car assembly plants – or at least manufacture just wipers, starring covers, something which would create employment for our youth, ’’ he explained.
Meanwhile in Phikwe, the National Truck Association called on decision makers to regulate entering of foreigners in the logistics and freight business. Speaking at the Transport Pitso, a representative from the Botswana Trucks Association revealed that currently foreigners who come to Botswana on totally different work permits get established here and enter into freight business, coming in with huge financial muscle and connections from their home countries hence posing unfair competition.
“We have foreigners who come here as doctors, economists and with other expertise, but after establishing themselves they start crossing over into our business and the government licenses them, which is wrong! We want government to regulate this business and it should fully benefit Batswana,’’ an attendant decried.
The two day Transport Pitso which was held under the theme ‘Safe Transportation-Key To Unity and Prosperity’ created a platform for transport stakeholder to dialogue with the decision makers. Various transport associations pleaded with government to support them with financial assistance for them to carry out their mandate in promoting safe roads and business friendly transport services. Minister Mokaila stressed the need for united efforts in doing away with road accidents that claim lives.
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Batswana owe banks P79 billion
The Minister of Finance, Peggy Serame, has disclosed that the total bank credit extended by commercial banks amounted to P79 billion, out of which P53.4 billion was retail loans and advances to households.
Parliament was informed this week in response to a question by the Member of Parliament for Selibe-Phikwe West and Leader of Opposition (LOO), Dithapelo Keorapetse.
“As at 31st December 2022, loans and other advances extended to households by banks constituted the largest share of bank-lending at 67.6 percent, the majority of which was unsecured personal loans at P36.2 billion (67.8%),” said Serame.
She added that the total household Debt to GDP ratio was 21.9%, while the total private business credit to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio was 10.8%.
On the other hand, it was noted that outstanding mortgage loans extended to households were P14.2 billion (26.6% of household debt) or 5.9% of GDP. Overall, total bank credit as a ratio of GDP stood at 32.7 percent.
It was acknowledged that there are 10 deposit-taking banks in the country, that is, nine commercial banks and one statutory bank (Botswana Savings Bank). This statistics excludes the National Development Bank (NDB), which is a development finance institution. The nine commercial banks include an indigenous bank, Botswana Building Society Bank Limited (BBSBL), which was issued with a commercial banking license by the Bank of Botswana in October 2022.
Still in December 2022, it was recorded that there were 376 non-bank lenders in Botswana consisting of 246 micro lenders, 66 finance companies, three leasing companies and 61 registered pawnshops.
According to Minister Serame, the loan book value representing the principal amount lent by these entities to individuals and to small, medium and micro Enterprises (SMMEs) is collated by the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA), which at 31st of December 2021, the loan book values were P5.6 billion for micro lenders, P1.6 billion for finance companies, P225 million for leasing companies and P14 million for pawnshops.
Government policy is that price control is not effective or desirable, and, as such, interest rates are not regulated. Non-regulation may, among other things, result in an increase in non-interest rate fees and commissions, reduced price transparency, lower credit supply and loan approval rates.
“It is important to note that, from a macroeconomic perspective, household debt in Botswana is neither a pandemic nor considered to be excessive. Indeed, the Bank of Botswana’s periodic and continuous assessments of household debt, including through the annual Household Indebtedness Surveys, suggest moderate household indebtedness and therefore, is of no apparent risk to the safety and soundness of the domestic financial system,” said Serame.
She also alluded this assessment is validated by the recently concluded Financial Sector Assessment Programme (FSAP) on Botswana undertaken by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group.
Keorapetse however rebuked the issue of debt not being excessive and noted the Minister thinks it’s fine for Batswana to be debt burdened in a way that their debts diminishes their quality of life.
“A significant portion of Batswana’s salaries go to servicing debts and because she doesn’t see this as a challenge, there can never be any intervention from her side. There is no price regulation on interest, which can go up to 30%+ a month. Since President Masisi ascended to the high office in 2018, 2 384 Batswana were put in prison for failure to pay debts, that is 467 Batswana every year. So, for us, debt problems are big and concerning,” said Keorapetse.
He said they are worried because Batswana are drowning in debts because of relative poverty, slave wages and unemployment/underemployment, they buy basic needs and services with borrowed money and noted predatory and unethical lending has become a major problem in Botswana’s financial sector.
How to fleece P14 million from Chinese investor
The modus operandi of how five men allegedly swindled a Chinese national P14 million last week continue to unravel. Highly placed sources from the intelligence, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) revealed to this publication how the whole scam was concocted.
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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
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.”