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An economic or a corruption stimulus package?

As economists would say economic stimulus package is an economic package that governments adopt to financially stimulate an ailing economy by use of monetary or fiscal policy changes to kick start a struggling economy.

Some tactics that are often used include but not limited to lowering interest rates, increasing tax, increasing government spending or quantitative easing i.e. increasing money supply by the central bank to increase liquidity thus enabling financial institutions to increase lending to stimulate spending and investments in the economy.


During the 2008 recession, USA for example had a stimulus package amounting to about $790 billion that was duly approved by congress early in 2009 after long deliberations by the law makers.  The package was an anti recessionary measure designed to jump start the economy to save up to 2.3 million jobs.

The package included $290 billion in tax cuts, $220 billion in employment benefits, education and health care and $280 billion for job creation.  This is a good example of an economic stimulus package. How well it worked is up to the Americans to judge. Many other countries had their own economic stimulus packages as a result of that 2008 recession.


The recently announced Botswana economic stimulus package is very surprising coming as it does when the economy is said have largely recovered from the 2008 recession. If we needed a stimulus package it should have happened in 2008.

The manner in which this was announced is also very surprising in a country that is not only known for its strong democratic traditions but also for its strong adherence to the rule of law and its supposedly prudent economic management. How can such a package be announced at a party conference not in parliament where budgetary provisions are presented, debated, sanctioned and legislated. 

Could this be a knee jerk reaction to counter the growing strength of the opposition block in the country? Is this not an ill conceived idea to hoodwink the electorate who are now clearly fed up with the BDP government?  Is this seemingly reckless economic stimulus package not meant to drain our foreign reserves so that the next government after Khama will struggle to implement its transformative development programmes?


Reading through the comments in the private papers and social media it is clear that a lot of our people including most economists have been taken by surprise by this announcement. Most commentators if you read between the lines think this is a corruption stimulus package. 

We need to appeal to our law makers to reject this package outright especially the use of our foreign reserves as this will only serve to finance inefficiency, maladministration and corruption. Our economists must wear their professional hats and unequivocal advice against the dangers of ‘diving’ into our reserves without a clear transformative plan.

The president personally sent a card to all of us during the 2014 elections with five promises to the nation. I hope Batswana have not forgotten these promises;
Job creation
Poverty eradication
Education
Corruption
HIV & aids

Now the president is coming up with a new list of five economic stimulus promises which includes building houses, road construction, tourism promotion etc. Remember also that in 2008, he came up with yet another list of five promises which he termed the 5 Ds, Democracy, Development, Dignity, Delivery, I cannot remember the other D. It does not matter anymore. 

If the president was serious about these Ds everyone would by now not only be familiar with these Ds but also knowing precisely what progress has been made against each one of them.

This was the president’s roadmap to prosperity and dignity by 2016. I was very excited when I heard the president so eloquently describing these Ds in his inaugural address in 2008. I believed then that we were headed somewhere. I must say I am now thoroughly disappointed.


The president missed a golden opportunity when instead of briefing his party and the nation on progress on the 5 Ds and the election promises came up with a new list of promises to be sponsored by our foreign reserves.

I believe the election promises should have been at the fore front of his party loyalists and the country at large as they mostly talk to the needs and cries of most Batswana. His 5 Ds would also have shown that the president is a man of his word. What lasting legacy will the president leave at the end of his term? 

I am sure the stimulus package and use of foreign reserves was a surprise even to the party members, but the voice of their master is so strong; it is like the voice of God to them and cannot be questioned. This is wrong and will bury their party deeper into the ‘pit’ and sadly innocent Batswana may also end up in the same pit.


My advice to the president and his party is to go back to the election promises and detail them before going to parliament to seek funding and the source of this funding. It must be noted that the national funds belong to the nation not the Botswana Democratic Party. Our reserves should not be spent recklessly and hopefully parliament will stand up to protect our hard earned reserves.


The main issue which the president called priority number one during the election was employment creation it remains priority number one to the nation. Poverty eradication cannot be achieved without first addressing the employment creation challenge, so the two are twins and are together priority number one.  The question the president and BDP should be asking themselves is how do you create meaningful and sustainable employment?  I would like again to offer some suggestions:


First of all you must identify manufacturing industries that will create jobs for the citizens and name them one by one and then employ a competent non partisan team to find ways to create these manufacturing industries. 

Secondly in Botswana we rely on food from South Africa and should there be shortage there we will starve. One of the immediate areas to consider is development of our agriculture to produce and process enough food for the nation and for export. It is possible and this will create many jobs.

Thirdly we need to interrogate mineral beneficiation not only for sustainable job creation but to grow our economic base. You do not need immediate funding, as you already have CEDA, BDC, NDB, LEA and many others which you can redirect their efforts to these high priority areas.


However, for these to happen we will need to first invest adequately in infrastructure development which include water and electricity supply to meet and exceed all our needs for sustainability. We will need well designed and maintained road, rail and air and ICT infrastructure.

This will need foreign investment which will not happen under the current corrupt, inefficient public procurement systems. Corruption and inefficient public procurement practices is the number one enemy against requisite foreign investment.  So priority number two should be to fight corruption in all its manifestations, not just to talk about it but to put visible measures to clean the public service and make it accountable and productive.


The third priority which is also other enemy to job creation and economic growth is availability of requisite skills.  In Botswana the government has invested inordinate amount of money on education. It is high time we started harvesting this investment.

The way to do it is to make sure that all the school leavers and graduates are given industry specific training in collaboration with industry.  We should not struggle to have requisite skills in Botswana since we have multitudes of educated people. What is required is now to train these people for specific industrial needs.

When the government talks of building houses, building roads, tourism operators, do we have people trained to build these houses and the roads or are we going to rely on Chinese prisoners to do this for us? Where are we going to get the tourism operators, where have we trained them, in what specific skills and what quantities?


When we talk mineral beneficiation, what are we talking about? Which minerals and what specific beneficiation are we referring to? What technology is required for this to happen? What training is required and at what level for mineral beneficiation to be realised?  How do we get the products to the market? Without answering these questions, whatever money you have will go to waste. It will only fund corruption and no long term development and job creation will take place.


To fund the five promises announced by the president at their congress, the money currently sitting in the economy can be redirected and used to fund these programmes. How many million are returned to the treasury every year? One paper few weeks ago reported that close to P300 billion has not been accounted for since 2008. 

Debswana alone has capacity and diamond reserves to produce up to 35 million carats per year.  They have reduced their production to about 23 million currents per year, resulting in a close to 12 million carats deficit.

Why? Russia has overtaken Debswana and now produces close to 38 million carats per year. Why should we be the ones reducing production because of low market demand, which demand has been stifled by unsustainable prices imposed on these diamonds by the industry itself?  Why should we be reducing our production when everyone else is increasing their production?  Now what is the potential revenue loss as a result of this reduction?


Industry sources estimate that in 2015 Jwaneng will produce 11 million carats valued at $2.4 billion and Orapa mines will produce 12 million carats valued at $1.2 billion.  Therefore it follows that the 12 million carat deficit will result in a possible revenue loss of between $1.2 and 2.4 billion; a whooping P12-24 billion loss per year. This begs a question; instead of our foreign reserves should we not produce more diamonds and increase efficiencies in our economy in general?


The other astonishing thing that came out from the BDP congress is that the BDP president does not believe in citizen empowerment proposed by the secretary general which suggested that foreign companies should partner with Batswana for not only skills transfer but for sustainable development.

The president would rather empower the Chinese government sponsored companies in Botswana.  If the Chinese government can empower their citizens to come and do business in Botswana why can we not see the need to do the same for our own people?


I would like to conclude by saying that unless there is a paradigm shift in the way our government deals with our national development plans, any effort will be disjointed and futile. The job summit currently taking place in Gaborone will become just another talk shop and nothing meaningful will come out of it.

Call me whatever name but the recent five promises by the president and his party will soon gather dust just like all the other promises and our hard earned reserves will have sadly gone to waste. I would be happy to be proven wrong.

Bernard Busani
E-mail: bernard.busani@gmail.com:   cell: 71751440

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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021

OSCAR MOTSUMI

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.

*Oscar Motsumi: Email:oscar.motsumi@gmail.com

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The women you see in the news matter. Here’s why

9th March 2021
Jane Godia

Jane Godia

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

Jane Godia, Director, Africa, Women in News

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Why is the media so afraid to talk about sexual harassment?

9th March 2021

MELANIE WALKER

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

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