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PSBC pulls out of BOPEU, BOFEPUSU case

A new scuffle has ensued between the Public Service Bargaining Council and the Botswana Federation of Public Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) following the decision of the former not to oppose the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) application at the Industrial Court.

The Council is said to have met its attorney on 26th February 2016 to discuss the Interim Order issued by the Industrial Court Judge President on the matter and determined a way forward. Weekend Post  has learnt that the Council believes that it was clear from the Interim Order that the admission of the trade union party was inconsistent with the PSBC Constitution hence it was not advisable for the Council to continue opposing the BOPEU application.

However BOFEPUSU holds a different view. According to our sources, the trade union party holds steadfastly that the PSBC passed a resolution to oppose the BOPEU application before the Industrial Court. This publication further gathered that the resolution was signed by both parties, and the General Secretary to the PSBC, and was filed with the Industrial Court.

The Council attorney who opposed the BOPEU application with all his energy a fortnight ago is said to have advised that he has put forward all that could be said and in light of the interim order, nothing more can be said on the 7th March 2016.

However, BOFEPUSU is adamant that the resolution to oppose BOPEU has never been cancelled or varied or amended by another resolution. The trade union party is further of the view that a decision not to oppose the BOPEU application will be flagrantly unlawful and a clear sign of insubordination on the part of the Council.

BOFEPUSU wants the PSBC to continue taking part in the proceedings – opposing BOPEU – until the final resolution of the matter.

BOPEU had approached the Industrial Court last month in a bid to have rival BOFEPUSU removed from the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC). The development followed BOPEU’s recent resolution taken at its congress at Palapye to withdraw its affiliation from the Federation, BOFEPUSU. Consequently BOPEU also pulled out of the joint agreement with BOFEPUSU at the Bargaining Council and therefore is currently not part of PSBC as they had prior communicated to the latter.

Last month the Industrial Court agreed to temporarily interdict the PSBC from proceeding with the 2016/17 salary and conditions of service negotiations, pending the conclusion of the matter on March 7.

In the matter, BOPEU had prayed that the court declare that BOFEPUSU (as a federation) is not entitled to be admitted into the membership of the Bargaining Council.

BOFEPUSU comprises of Botswana Teachers Union (BTU), Botswana Sectors of Education Trade Union (BOSETU), and Botswana Manual Workers and Botswana Land Board and Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU).

A Gaborone based attorney Martin Letsweletse Dingake last week stated that the interim judgement by Justice Tebogo Maruping of the Industrial court in “is the beginning of the end for the public sector unions”.

He said it was important to note that our law on industrial relations as regards to the public service is still being shaped. “The dispute provides an opportunity for the parties to shape this aspect of the law,” Dingake said.

“There is a greater possibility that the membership and composition of the PSBC could be set aside. That is the last order any of the parties would want. So we are likely to go back to the pre 2008 days before the new Public Service Act,” he said. 

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Cabinet tiptoes on GBV Ministerial Committee

29th September 2020
Minister Annha Mokgethi

With Gender Based Violence (GBV) cases worsening by the day, cabinet is still moving at a snail’s pace in setting-up an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) as agreed by parliament last month.

Parliament made a resolution that the President should set-up a Special Inter-Ministerial Committee of inquiry on GBV, rape and other sexual offences as a matter of urgency. The establishment of the IMC is aimed at dealing with GBV by gathering information and making recommendations that would assist in amending the current laws.

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Botswana’s development agenda in jeopardy

21st September 2020

Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.

The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.

The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh

The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.

It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.

The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.

Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.

Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.

For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.

Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.

The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.

The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.

In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.

This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.

The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.

These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.

Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.

Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.

According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.

It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.

Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.

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OP leases Orapa House

21st September 2020
Orapa House

Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.

For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.

However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”

The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.

“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.

These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.

“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.

With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.

The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.

Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.

The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.

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