President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama is expected to deliver a State of the Nation Address on Monday. While it is customary that his address will touch on a number of issues resonating with successes and challenges in the economic and social front, the main attraction shall be the Economic Stimulus package, which was announced at a special congress of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) recently.
The State-of-the-Nation-Address marks the beginning of a Parliament session that runs from November to July the following year. The President is also expected to address poverty, unemployment, water, and electricity, among other matters. In addition the business community wants the President to touch on the issue of issuance of VISAs and work permits to foreign nationals. This has become a major concern to the business community.
Dr Khama is expected to put to rest the debate as to what the Stimulus entails – as they say the devil is in the detail. Weekend Post has gathered that committees have been set up to come up with packages for the effective implementation of the package which shall be supervised by District Commissioners who were recently transferred to the Office of the President.
At the time of the announcement, President Khama indicated that Botswana will use some of its foreign currency reserves to fund an economic stimulus program, admitting that growth in Africa’s largest diamond producer has slowed.
He said the objective of the Stimulus is “to stimulate the economy for accelerated employment creation and diversification.” Khama’s proclamation excited some but still got some jittery. Economists welcomed the move but threw in words of caution while politicians from the opposing parties deducted a knee-jerk reaction following the ruling party’s poor performance at the general elections and the continuation of a slump at bye-elections.
But one thing has echoed from all angles, “The devil is in the detail”. A lot of people are interested in the package itself, its implementation modalities, and procurement issues around it. Botswana had foreign reserves of 88.1 billion pula ($8.55 billion) as of July, according to the Bank of Botswana.
President Khama said the stimulus plan will target tourism, farming, the construction of buildings and roads and manufacturing. The committees set up to come design the Stimulus packages have been modelled on the key areas mentioned by Khama.
Forecasts indicate that Botswana’s budget will swing to shortfall of P4.03 billion in the year ending March 2016 from a surplus of P3.67 billion in the previous year, due largely to depressed sales of rough diamonds and low prices for metals.
In his words to mark belief in the Stimulus package, Khama had said: “We have now seen that if we cut projects, our economy is going to stagnate. We have built up sufficient reserves and the time has come to use these reserves.”
Politically this is seen as a move to counter a resurgent opposition, especially the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), which is seen to be winning the hearts of many, especially the youth. There was method as to why the package was introduced at a political gathering and not to wait for President to deliver the State of the Nation Address.
However Khama and his team are of the view that they are responding to the economic data, they want to create jobs and alleviate absolute poverty.
The program includes fast-tracking the provision of services to 37,000 plots of land, building 4,480 houses and accommodation for teachers and nurses.
The government plans to build 144 school classrooms and more than 90 laboratories, plus new roads in the towns of Lobatse, Molepolole and Francistown. But to some, the concern is how the jobs are going to be awarded because they are of the view that the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) procedures will be thrown out of the window.
Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi had declared at a Job Summit organised by One Source Consultancy that contractors should be onsite by November 30th this year. This gave an indication that the process is moving on fast.
PARLIAMENT TO SWEAR IN LOTLAAMORENG
Away from the much anticipated detail on the Stimulus Package the first meeting of the second session of the 11th Parliament will witness the swearing in of the parliamentary elect for Good Hope-Mabule, Kgosi Lotlaamoreng II.
Kgosi Lotlaamoreng of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) replaces former MP for Good Hope-Mabule, Mr James Mathokgwane, also from UDC, who resigned the post in May. It is estimated that the meeting will last five weeks and will end on or around December 11.
Former Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Member of Parliament for Gaborone North, Haskins Nkaigwa has confirmed his departure from opposition fold to re-join the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
Nkaigwa said opposition is extremely divided and the leadership not in talking terms. “They are planning evil against each other. Nothing much will be achieved,” Nkaigwa told WeekendPost.
“I believe my time in the opposition has come to an end. It’s time to be of value to rebuilding our nation and economy of the country. Remember the BDP is where I started my political journey. It is home,” he said.
“Despite all challenges currently facing the world, President Masisi will be far with his promises to Batswana. A leader always have the interest of the people at heart despite how some decisions may look to be unpopular with the people.
“I have faith and full confidence in President Dr Masisi leadership. We shall overcome as party and nation the current challenges bedevilling nations. BDP will emerge stronger. President Masisi will always have my backing.”
Nkaigwa served as opposition legislator between 2014-2019 representing Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) under UDC banner. He joined BMD in 2011 at the height public servant strike whilst Gaborone City Deputy Mayor. He eventually rose to become the mayor same year, after BDP lost majority in the GCC.
Nkaigwa had been a member of Botswana National Front (BNF), having joined from Alliance for Progressives (AP) in 2019.
Botswana has received assistance worth over P100 million from Japanese government since 2019, making the latter of the largest donors to Botswana in recent years.
The assistance include relatively large-scale grant aid programmes such as the COVID-19 programme (to provide medical equipment; P34 million), the digital terrestrial television programme (to distribute receivers to the underprivileged, P17 million), the agriculture promotion programme (to provide agricultural machinery and equipment, P53million).
“As 2020 was a particularly difficult year, where COVID-19 hit Botswana’s economy and society hard, Japan felt the need to assist Botswana as our friend,” said Japan’s new Ambassador to Botswana, Hoshiyama Takashi.
“It is for this reason that grants of over P100 million were awarded to Botswana for the above mentioned projects.”
Japan is now the world’s fourth highest ranking donor country in terms of Official Development Assistance (ODA).
From 1991 to 2000, Japan continued as the top donor country in the world and contributed to Asia’s miracle economic development.
From 1993 onwards, the TICAD process commenced through Japan’s initiative as stated earlier. Japan’s main contribution has been in the form of Yen Loans, which are at a concessional rate, to suit large scale infrastructure construction.
“In Botswana, only a few projects have been implemented using the Yen Loan such as the Morupule “A” Power Station Rehabilitation and Pollution Abatement in 1986, the Railway Rolling Stock Increase Project in 1987, the Trans-Kalahari Road Construction Project in 1991, the North-South Carrier Water Project in 1995 and the Kazungula Bridge Construction Project in 2012,” said Ambassador Hoshiyama.
“In terms of grant aid and technical assistance, Japan has various aid schemes including development survey and master planning, expert dispatch to recipient countries, expert training in Japan, scholarships, small scale grass-roots program, culture-related assistance, aid through international organizations and so on.”
In 1993, Japan launched Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) to promote Africa’s development, peace and security, through the strengthening of relations in multilateral cooperation and partnership.
TICAD discuss development issues across Africa and, at the same time, present “aid menus” to African countries provided by Japan and the main aid-related international organizations, United Nations (UN), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.
“As TICAD provides vision and guidance, it is up to each African country to take ownership and to implement her own development following TICAD polices and make use of the programmes shown in the aid menus,” Ambassordor Hoshiyama noted.
“This would include using ODA loans for quality infrastructure, suited to the country’s own nation-building needs. It is my fervent hope that Botswana will take full advantage of the TICAD process.”
Since then, seven conferences where held, the latest, TICAD 7 being in 2019 at Yokohama. TICAD 7’s agenda on African development focused on three pillars, among them the first pillar being “Accelerating economic transformation and improving business environment through innovation and private sector engagement”.
“Yes, private investment is very important, while public investment through ODA (Official Development Assistance) still plays an indispensable role in development,” the Japanese Ambassador said.
“For further economic development in Africa, Japan recognizes that strengthening regional connectivity and integration through investment in quality infrastructure is key.”
Japan has emphasized the following; effective implementation of economic corridors such as the East Africa Northern Corridor, Nacala Corridor and West Africa Growth Ring; Quality infrastructure investment in line with the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment should be promoted by co-financing or cooperation through the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Japan.
Japan also emphasized the establishment of mechanisms to encourage private investment and to improve the business environment.
According to the statistics issued by Japan’s Finance Ministry, Japan invested approximately 10 billion US dollars in Africa after TICAD 7 (2019) to year end 2020, but Japanese investment through third countries are not included in this figure.
“With the other points factored in, the figure isn’t established yet,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
The next conference, TICAD 8 will be held in Tunisia in 2022. This will be the second TICAD summit to be held on the African continent after TICAD 6 which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016.
According to Ambassador Hoshiyama, in preparation for TICAD 8, the TICAD ministerial meeting will be held in Tokyo this year. The agenda to be discussed during TICAD 8 has not yet been fully deliberated on amongst TICAD Co-organizers (Japan, UN, UNDP, the World Bank and AU).
“Though not officially concluded, given the world situation caused by COVID-19, I believe that TICAD 8 will highlight health and medical issues including the promotion of a Universal Health Coverage (UHC),” said Hoshiyama.
“As the African economy has seriously taken a knock by COVID-19, economic issues, including debt, could be an item for serious discussion.”
The promotion of business is expected to be one of the most important topics. Japan and its partners, together with the business sector, will work closely to help revitalize private investment in Africa.
“All in all, the follow-up of the various programs that were committed by the Co-Organizers during the Yokohama Plan of Actions 2019 will also be reviewed as an important item of the agenda,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
“I believe that this TICAD follow-up mechanism has secured transparency and accountability as well as effective implementation of agreed actions by all parties. The guiding principle of TICAD is African ownership and international partnership.”
Directorate on Intelligence Services (DIS) Director General, Brigadier Peter Magosi is said to be hell-bent and pushing President Mokgweetsi Masisi to reshuffle his cabinet as a matter of urgency since a number of his ministers are conflicted.
The request by Magosi comes at a time when time is ticking on his contract which is awaiting renewal from Masisi.
This publication learns that Magosi is unshaken by the development and continues to wield power despite uncertainty hovering around his contractual renewal.