NATIONAL BUDGET, WATER, REVENUE SOURCES, OUR NATIONAL VISION CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES!!
Like the annual state of the nation address by the president, the annual national budget presentation by the minister of finance and development planning is something that, not only the nation looks forward to with anticipation, but the world at large has great interest in it.
The nation wants to know what developments have been completed and what new developments will be taking place in the country, when and at what cost and how they will benefit from such developments. They want their fair share of the national cake.
The business community wants to see what is planned so that they can prepare themselves to participate in a meaningful way.
Some years back the government workers had particular interest in the budget presentation as their annual salaries and benefits increments were announced during this presentation. These days with the bargaining council in place it is not clear how the salaries and benefits of government employees are catered for in the budget as these are now ‘negotiables’. The global business leaders and multinationals want to see if there are opportunities for potential investment to grow their business interests in the country.
While the ordinary people in the streets and villages do not really care much because they do not really understand the implications on their lives except perhaps the pensioners on tandabala who will be hoping for some increase on their paltry monthly allowance.
The budget normally contains what they call recurrent budget and development budget. In the language that I understand, the budget contains working costs and capital costs.
The working costs or recurrent budget is for the day to day running of government operations. It must include salaries and benefits for all government employees, including old age tandabala pensioners; running of all government facilities, offices including maintenance of such facilities and offices. This budget should be predictable and easy to come up with annually.
The capital or development budget normally should contain working capital, which is capital for on going projects. This should also be predictable and should only change due to approved changes of scope and or unpredictable changes in prices. The second part of the capital or development budget should be on new developments from the national development plan or new compelling opportunities.
So why should budget preparation be so onerous? Why should it be so secretive? Why can’t the nation be involved through Kgotla type meetings? Obviously government will be duty bound to priritise and then explain the priorities to the nation during the budget speech. From time to time they will be need for chopping and changing items from the budget due perhaps to financial limitations to support the required budget, but this should be transparent and presented clearly by the minister.
It is my belief, my deep conviction that any nation that wants to be amongst the top performers in the world must have a long term vision for the country as well as a transparent long term national development plan to anchor that vision.
The annual budget then becomes just a formality to explain where the country is against its development plans and what adjustments are necessary to stay on course towards their vision.
It is therefore not clear why government has to go to parliament during the year; each year seeking supplementary budgetary allocations, which runs into billions of Pula. Is someone sleeping on the job and allowed to do so relentlessly, year on year? Should we not keep on probing our budgetary systems and questioning their usefulness with a view to improve? I think we must as a matter of urgency reconsider our budgetary approaches and systems.
The other side of the budget coin is the sources of funds that will support the work to be done. Where will the money come from? We should have a good idea where the money will be coming from. This is where the ministry should be spending most of its time, determining and scrutinising all the sources and ensuring that every ‘thebe’ is accounted for from each source; tax collection for instance, are we collecting all the taxes? Are we getting all the royalties from our minerals? Are we getting all we should be getting from our diamonds? Are we getting what is really due to us from all our mineral reserves and other sources? Are they any financial leakages in our systems? Corruption and inefficiencies must be major sources of such leakages.
Let us check and improve our revenue collection systems. Let us make these systems transparent so that the nation at large can also help. Involving the nation meaningfully is the only way we can genuinely “move Botswana forward’.
Moving on, I would like to acknowledge that, it is going to be a very difficult budget presentation for the minister of finance and development planning this year. I would also like to offer some suggestions to help the minister to come up with an extraordinary budget proposal to mitigate the dire situation ahead of us because of two main dangers facing us head on; drying water sources as well as drying revenues from our mining sources. These are real dangers that have potential to bring our economy to its knees fast.
There can never be any development and no meaningful budget in this country when all our water sources and mining revenues are drying up. The water situation in the country is dire and poses a real threat to the future of our nation. Without water needless to say there is no life. Water is life in the literal sense (no water you die) but also in the business sense (no water, no business, no development and no future).
If ever there was ever a need for an economic stimulus package (ESP), it is now for the provision of adequate water supply for all our national needs. With the current challenging weather situation, those northern dams will dry up just like the Gaborone dam has dried up.
Unless the good Lord opens up the flood gates of heaven to fill our ‘dying’ rivers and dams, we will have to come up with emergency plans fast for sustainable water supply.
Bringing water from Chobe has been talked about for decades and the ‘pipeline’ seems to be very very long, the water from the Lesotho high lands also has even a longer ‘pipeline’ that will take ages to arrive in Botswana. But we must also be mindful of the lessons from the past; that we must have enough of our own to satisfy our own national needs and even more for export. This is a basic prudent planning lesson I leant at secondary school and unfortunately as a nation we fail to learn. Even in Setswana we have an expression for this ‘motho o kgonwa ke sa gagwe’, meaning you should rely on your own resources.
Mr. Mokaila must dig into the pages of the national water master plan of 2005 and come up with an emergency plan to get some of the projects detailed therein expedited. We must as a mater of urgency determine where adequate ground water is situated, whether potable or non potable; any water can be treated and cleaned up for potable use?
Where is all the water that flows annually from the Okavango Swamps? Where is the water that flows annually from the Nata River? Where does the Makakaraga potable ground water come from? We need answers before the country dries up? I am convinced that we have adequate underground water sources. God did not create our country without a plan for our survival in it. Even in a desert we can survive; ask Dubai, Chile, Israel and others!
The use of waste water which was also part of the national water master plan of 2005 must be expedited. There has been a lot of talk about this but no visible action. By now they should be no such a thing as waste water in Botswana. All the water that is used must be recycled back into the water supply systems without any hesitation or questions. It is an international norm, practiced over many decades if not centuries. We need some action on this from Mr. Mokaila and his team. We cannot continue to talk without taking any action.
Let us hope that the minister of finance will announce some far reaching measures that will address the water situation countrywide before we all perish from thirst. I would like to end by saying that a nation without a vision is a lost nation.
We had a brilliant vision inappropriately coined ‘vision 2016’. This was a beautiful vision for the country. It has not been achieved and we are now spending millions to come up with yet another vision that will not be realised (talk of wasteful expenditure). Vision 2016 should be our national vision until it is achieved then we can come up with another vision if necessary.
What is required is a national development plan with milestone for achieving our vision. It will be a step by step approach towards that vision, the vision cannot be achieved over night and in many cases it will never be fully achieved. It should not be time bound like an objective or plan.
For instance ‘an educated and informed nation’ is a vision that will always be there as long as the nation is in existence. A vision should not die if it is a good one. What changes should only be development plans to help get the nation closure and closure to that vision. A vision is a long term aspiration, a mental picture of what we want to be as a nation.
This country needs a visionary leadership that will see beyond its lifespan; visionary leadership that will consider the nation first and personal gains as secondary; selfless visionaries, who will be able to listen to all the voices from their people, act decisively and lead their people to prosperity and self actualisation. It is time for the people like ‘madam speaker sir’ to be listened to, it is time for people like the ‘first people of the Kalahari’ to be listen to and not to be panel beaten into submission.
We need leaders who will judge their people not by who they know but what they can do to advance the fortunes of their nation. We need leaders with pure hearts who will do only what is right regardless of partisan dogma.
Without visionary leaders, our country will be driven into the abyss and perish as prophesied by King David who said a ‘nation without a vision will perish’. Our leaders should engage the nation on this budget and the national vision in a meaningful and untraditional way. We need to address the water situation like yesterday. We need to re-assess how Debswana is managed so that we can begin to get more from our diamonds to support our economy. We must expand our maginations!
This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.
The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.
The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.
Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.
We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.
More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.
The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the market.
Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.
We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?
Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?
Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?
They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?
What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?
They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?
We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?
To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?
Batswana must be made aware that the end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.
For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with the arduous imperative of analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.
Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.
Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute in Botswana is overdue.
If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.
Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.
Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.
Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication
Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.
Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.
Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.
Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.
The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.
So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.
The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.
We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.
They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.
As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.
Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme. WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org
The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.
As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.
I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.
I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?
Counting the cost of sexual harassment
Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.
It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.
Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.
The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.
Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.
By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.
Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org