The three year Botswana government Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) has started in earnest, the ESP Coordinator from the Office of the President; Goitsemang Morekisi told a seminar room full of Small, Micro and Medium Enterprise (SMME) owners in Gaborone on Thursday. Morekisi was facilitating a seminar to unpack the famed programme for SMMEs at the Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) Pitso and Seminar.
Among the major highlights of the programme to date, Morekisi said most of the projects that are locked in for the programme have begun. “Land servicing projects have started. Contractors are on site for classrooms and teachers’ quarters backlog eradication projects. Tenders have been awarded for roads and the road that links Phakalane and Gaborone has been launched. All the other roads slated under the programme are at design phase,” she explained.
The ESP was formulated after the country’s pace of economic activity slowed down in 2015 owing to a weakened global demand for diamonds. “The decline in mining receipts, coupled with a decline in revenues from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), has led to a fiscal deficit of about 1.4 percent of GDP and a lower external current account surplus,” a team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) visiting Botswana in December 2015 observed. The programme targets the tourism, agriculture and construction sectors which are touted to have a domino effect on all the other sectors of the economy. The programme was devised to stimulate economic activity, diversify the economy and accelerate job creation.
According to Morekisi, various government revenue inflows are used to finance the programme. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Solomon Sekwakwa had explained to this reporter soon after the ESP was launched in October 2015 that the programme would be funded through options which give the most value to government. “It could be treasury bills, bonds, external borrowing, or raising taxes,” he had suggested. Moatlhodi Sebabole, an economic analyst, had at the time corroborated Sekwakwa that there were many funding options available to government.
“Given our low debt to GDP ratio, we still have room to borrow. At 17 percent against the maximum debt threshold we have set ourselves of 40 percent, we can still borrow, either domestically or externally. Our friends in the SADC have their maximum debt to GDP ratio threshold hold of 60 percent,” he had explained. Sebabole had further suggested that given the low interest environment, government could issue bonds to finance the stimulus package. “They could re-issue one of the bonds, worth P1.6 billion, that’s maturing soon,” he had quipped.
This reporter had asked Sebabole if the slated sectors of the ESP could indeed sustain long term economic development and he was matter of fact in his response: “For the stimulus program to churn sustainable growth, it should be government facilitated, private sector led, export orientated, and it should create jobs,” he had said.
According to the Morekisi, close to P4 billion has already been allocated for the projects under the ESP with P1.4 billion released at the program inception, and P2.4 billion budgeted in the 2016/17 government budget. However, the ESP Coordinator could not readily say what the job creation target for the programme was. “We have target figures for ancillary jobs, the immediate ones that will be created during construction. GICO [Government Implementation and Coordination Office] and Statistics Botswana are working to establish baseline data for later evaluation,” she responded to a question from this reporter.
Quizzed on how they are tapping into massive financial resources under the care of pension funds, whose fund managers have often decried lack on investible projects in Botswana, Morekisi said the idea had crossed their mind. She said they as government were open to proposals from investors, both local and foreign, for partnerships using the Public Private Partnerships model. “Then the private sector can tap into those financial resources, not us as government. We have other ways of raising money, but we want the private sector to lead the way,” she said.
Botswana government has a weak project management capacity as demonstrated by many projects that were delivered late, with huge cost overruns and in some instances to poor quality standards. Quizzed how government was delivering an accelerated infrastructure development programme while it has been failing in recent times, Morekisi responded that government organs with a mandate to supervise project implementation like the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) and Department of Buildings and Engineering Services (DBES) were capacitated to deliver.
The ESP Coordinator encouraged SMME owners not to judge the programme, but rather find out how they can make it work. She further challenged the private sector to deliver, apportioning some of the blame of failed projects on them.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.