An innovative use of pension and provident funds and innovative tax incentives to release capital for private and social investments, promotion of co-operatives, mainstreaming of youth bias in job creation, incentives for skills export to create high end job opportunities, job retention strategies and for employment intensive macro-economic policy framework are collectively, a panacea for making more and better jobs possible in Botswana, according to BOPEU.
Speaking on behalf of BOPEU President, Andrew Motsamai, BOPEU’s Edward Tswaipe told the just ended Annual Botswana Job Summit that government must abandon its conservative macro-economic policy and utilize a handsome portion of the P50 billion worth of pension funds held by Botswana Public Officers Fund (BPOPF) must be utilized locally through government borrowing to finance infrastructure and large scale investment projects to create decent jobs through deepening of the domestic capital markets.
Serious consideration could also be given to implementing the recommendations of the 2008 study conducted by Keith Jefferies for Finmark Trust that a statutory consolidation of private sector retirement industry funds would yield huge benefits to the economy in terms of expanding domestic financial markets, guaranteeing social protection for all; and reducing the burden of private insurance firms which are already contributing to private pension funds for their employees. The study further recommended that firms’ mandatory contributions to social insurance be diverted to a broad based pension scheme covering the whole private sector.
BOPEU is further advocating for mandatory workers’ insurance, compulsory pension funds and other mandatory employment benefits, such as maternity benefits that are to be consolidated into a National Social Security Fund (NSSF) contributed by employers, employees and government, which in 20 years could worth well over P100-P200 billion in pension and workers’ insurance fund.
The fund could also include paternity allowances and unemployment benefits. Government was hypocritical by not borrowing funds from pension fund to finance infrastructural development and it was wrong for her to lead a Fund belonging to workers while denying them as rightful owners the right to influence investment decisions on how their money is used.
There was need for targeted and creative use of tax incentives and youth job subsidies to sentivitise youth employment creation since tax credits are increasingly being adopted by most countries to promote both investment and entrepreneurship and at the same time tackle the challenges of unemployment and sluggish economic growth.
Two similar programmes (NIP and GVS) are wrongly conceptualized as youth empowerment schemes rather active labour market policies because they lack the tax element embedded in their design.
Youth wage subsidies and tax credits are used worldwide as a means to increase absorption of young people into the labour market and are supported by the ILO. However, there was a danger that such subsidies could be abused and suffer the disadvantage of becoming part of the labour market flexibility and vulnerability challenges. Employers tend to use young entrants as cheap labour to displace other workers and avoid associated mandatory labour costs.
Tax incentives are also demand driven and do not adequately address fundamental causes of structural unemployment such as poor skills, limited experience and so on and points to education as the only sustainable means to labour market absorption.
The problem of youth unemployment was structural and a function of the failure of the education system to produce adequate, appropriate skills(supply) and insufficiency of labour demand due to low growth, high skills, productivity requirements and high wage expectations.
Similarly no consideration has been made to capitalise on non-Profit Organizations such as trade unions, co-operatives and NGOs as potential job creators and no comprehensive study with the exception of that of Kalusope (2013), was ever conducted on the financial and fixed asset holdings of trade unions.
Yet, the total trade union asset holding may be in excess of P300 million with possible monthly subscriptions of more than P10 million, excluding the income from their profit making investment arms.
Co-operatives also have a similar pattern of assets and income generation, especially the Savings and Credit Coops (SACCOS) but tend to remain stuck in marketing, multipurpose cops and SACCOS. NGOs also handle massive donor funding which could be better managed and controlled.
BOPEU is advocating for a deliberate policy mainstreaming skills development in public investment contracts in the manner of the 1070s localization policy, youth bias in job creation in the way of affirmative action, deliberate massive investment in industry relevant TEVET programmes.
The rationale for this is that in the long run, a demand relevant TEVET programme would position young people competitively for sustainable absorption and recommend that programme design should go beyond youth empowerment schemes to into ALMPs linked to the education system. Sustainability would require integration into the overarching development strategy such as industrialization strategy and not in mere disbursement of funds.
Botswana should also look into exporting skills of its technicians and professionals where it is experience an excess in supply but who are in short supply in other countries because while there are shortages in some areas there are excess in others, rather than to retrain and accept misallocated employment and underemployment.
The strategy to create jobs without an accompanying strategy to retain them is an evidence of unsustainability and BOPEU recommends job retention as an innovation embedded and mainstreamed in all job creation strategies.
Retention should be about strengthening labour market regulation and integrating industrial relations into the job retention strategy. An issue of concern is job losses due to retrenchments where the Commissioner of Labour issues a certificate upon mere pleading of bankruptcy or weak financials.
Instead it should be that a company that seeks to retrench workers should be subjecting itself to further scrutiny to substantiate its claim. A law should create a Commission made up of industry and financial experts to investigate operational requirements and report to the Commissioner before any large scale redundancy could be considered.
Part of the job creation strategy should also entail reclaiming jobs being lost to other countries through hosting o management decisions and hubbing of activities where for instance, in the banking industry, a hub is created elsewhere in places like Kenya, Zimbabwe or South Africa, yet the company would be making its biggest profits from Botswana.”Common sense dictates that the hub should be where the business is, unless there are compelling reasons otherwise”.
In the case of retailing, local managers are being subordinated to lower ranking supervisors in Johannesburg or Cape Town for the most mundane of decisions, while in the tourism industry, group bookings to the Okavango delta are made from Johannesburg or London and payments made into foreign accounts before accessing the service in Botswana.
BOPEU wants the review of employment intensity of growth and investment and recommend the dominance of bias in monetary and fiscal policy towards more and better jobs, where employment is the means to translate growth in a sustainable route out of poverty and inequality. A long delayed National Employment Policy (NEP) should be brought to parliament as promised with targets has to integrated into National Development Plans, with decent work as a cross cutting theme.
Policy makers must jettison the misconception that to create jobs less attention should be paid to decent work and the quality of those jobs including tenure, decent wages, compliance with labour standards, social security, job retention, minimum wages, collective bargaining, EPL and mandatory benefits should be part of the equation.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.