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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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Elected officials should guard against personal interest

23rd September 2020

Parliament was this week once again seized with matters that concern them and borders on conflict of interest and abuse of privilege.

The two matters are; review of MPs benefits as well as President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s participation in the bidding for Banyana Farms. For the latter, it should not come as a surprise that President Masisi succeeded in bid.

The President’s business interests have also been in the forefront. While President Masisi is entitled as a citizen to participate in a various businesses in the country or abroad, it is morally deficient for him to participate in a bidding process that is handled by the government he leads. By the virtue of his presidency, Masisi is the head of government and head of State.

Not long ago, former President Festus Mogae suggested that elected officials should consider using blind trust to manage their business interests once they are elected to public office. Though blind trusts are expensive, they are the best way of ensuring confidence in those that serve in public office.

A blind trust is a trust established by the owner (or trustor) giving another party (the trustee) full control of the trust. Blind trusts are often established in situations where individuals want to avoid conflicts of interest between their employment and investments.

The trustee has full discretion over the assets and investments while being charged with managing the assets and any income generated in the trust.

The trustor can terminate the trust, but otherwise exercises no control over the actions taken within the trust and receives no reports from the trustees while the blind trust is in force.

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General, Mpho Balopi, has defended President Masisi’s participation in business and in the Banyana Farms bidding. His contention is that, the practise even obtained during the administration of previous presidents.

The President is the most influential figure in the country. His role is representative and he enjoys a plethora of privileges. He is not an ordinary citizen. The President should therefore be mindful of this fact.

We should as a nation continue to thrive for improvement of our laws with the viewing of enhancing good governance. We should accept perpetuation of certain practices on the bases that they are a norm. MPs are custodians of good governance and they should measure up to the demands of their responsibility.

Parliament should not be spared for its role in countenancing these developments. Parliament is charged with the mandate of making laws and providing oversight, but for them to make laws that are meant solely for their benefits as MPs is unethical and from a governance point of view, wrong.

There have been debates in parliament, some dating from past years, about the benefits of MPs including pension benefits. It is of course self-serving for MPs to be deliberating on their compensation and other benefits.

In the past, we have also contended that MPs are not the right people to discuss their own compensation and there has to be Special Committee set for the purpose. This is a practice in advanced democracies.

By suggesting this, we are not suggesting that MP benefits are in anyway lucrative, but we are saying, an independent body may figure out the best way of handling such issues, and even offer MPs better benefits.

In the United Kingdom for example; since 2009 following a scandal relating to abuse of office, set-up Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA)

IPSA is responsible for: setting the level of and paying MPs’ annual salaries; paying the salaries of MPs’ staff; drawing up, reviewing, and administering an MP’s allowance scheme; providing MPs with publicly available and information relating to taxation issues; and determining the procedures for investigations and complaints relating to MPs.

Owing to what has happened in the Parliament of Botswana recently, we now need to have a way of limiting what MPs can do especially when it comes to laws that concern them. We cannot be too trusting as a nation.

MPs can abuse office for their own agendas. There is need to act swiftly to deal with the inherent conflict of interest that arise as a result of our legislative setup. A voice of reason should emerge from Parliament to address this unpleasant situation. This cannot be business as usual.

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The Corona Coronation (Part 10)

9th July 2020

Ever heard of a 666-type beast known as Fort Detrick?

Located in the US state of Maryland, about 80 km removed from Washington DC, Fort Detrick houses the US army’s top virus research laboratory. It has been identified as “home to the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, with its bio-defense agency, the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, and  also hosts the National Cancer Institute-Frederick and the National Interagency Confederation for Biological Research and National Interagency Biodefense Campus”.

The 490-hectare campus researches the world’s deadliest pathogens, including Anthrax (in 1944, the Roosevelt administration ordered 1 million anthrax bombs from Fort Detrick), Ebola, smallpox, and … you guessed right: coronaviruses.  The facility, which carries out paid research projects for government agencies (including the CIA), universities and drug companies most of whom owned by the highly sinister military-industrial complex, employs 900 people.

Between 1945 and 1969, the sprawling complex (which has since become the US’s ”bio-defence centre” to put it mildly) was the hub of the US biological weapons programme. It was at Fort Detrick that Project MK Ultra, a top-secret CIA quest to subject   the human mind to routine robotic manipulation, a monstrosity the CIA openly owned up to in a congressional inquisition in 1975, was carried out.  In the consequent experiments, the guinea pigs comprised not only of people of the forgotten corner of America – inmates, prostitutes and the homeless but also prisoners of war and even regular US servicemen.

These unwitting participants underwent up to a 20-year-long ordeal of barbarous experiments involving psychoactive drugs (such as LSD), forced electroshocks, physical and sexual abuses, as well as a myriad of other torments. The experiments not only violated international law, but also the CIA’s own charter which forbids domestic activities. Over 180 doctors and researchers took part in these horrendous experiments and this in a country which touts itself as the most civilised on the globe!

Was the coronavirus actually manufactured at Fort Detrick (like HIV as I shall demonstrate at the appropriate time) and simply tactfully patented to other equally cacodemonic places such as the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China?

THE FORT DETRICK SCIENTISTS’ PROPHECY WAS WELL-INFORMED

 

About two years before the term novel coronavirus became a familiar feature in day-to-day banter, two scientist cryptically served advance warning of its imminence. They were Allison Totura and Sina Bavari, both researchers at Fort Detrick.

The two scientists talked of “novel highly pathogenic coronaviruses that may emerge from animal reservoir hosts”, adding, “These coronaviruses may have the potential to cause devastating pandemics due to unique features in virus biology including rapid viral replication, broad host range, cross-species transmission, person-to-person transmission, and lack of herd immunity in human populations  Associated with novel respiratory syndromes, they move from person-to-person via close contact and can result in high morbidity and mortality caused by the progression to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).”

All the above constitute some of the documented attributes and characteristics of the virus presently on the loose – the propagator of Covid-19. A recent clinical review of Covid-19 in The Economist seemed to bear out this prognostication when it said, “It is ARDS that sees people rushed to intensive-care units and put on ventilators”. As if sounding forth a veritable prophecy, the two scientists besought governments to start working on counter-measures there and then that could be “effective against such a virus”.

Well, it was not by sheer happenstance that Tortura and Bavari turned out to have been so incredibly and ominously prescient. They had it on good authority, having witnessed at ringside what the virus was capable of in the context of their own laboratory.  The gory scenario they painted for us came not from secondary sources but from the proverbial horse’s mouth folks.

CDC’S RECKLESS ADMISSION

In March this year, Robert Redfield, the US  Director for the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),  told the House of Representatives’ Oversight Committee that it had transpired that some members of the American populace  who were certified as having died of influenza  turned out to have harboured the novel coronavirus per posthumous analysis of their tissue.

Redfield was not pressed to elaborate but the message was loud and clear – Covid-19 had been doing the rounds in the US much earlier than it was generally supposed and that the extent to which it was mistaken for flu was by far much more commonplace than was openly admitted. An outspoken Chinese diplomat, Zhao Lijian, seized on this rather casual revelation and insisted that the US disclose further information, exercise transparency on coronavirus cases and provide an explanation to the public.

But that was not all the beef Zhao had with the US. He further charged that the coronavirus was possibly transplanted to China by the US: whether inadvertently or by deliberate design he did not say.  Zhao pointed to the Military World Games of October 2019, in which US army representatives took part, as the context in which the coronavirus irrupted into China. Did the allegation ring hollow or there was a ring of truth to it?

THE BENASSIE FACTOR

The Military World Games, an Olympic-style spectrum of competitive action, are held every four years. The 2019 episode took place in Wuhan, China. The 7th such, the games ran from October 18 to October 27.  The US contingent comprised of 17 teams of over 280 athletes, plus an innumerable other staff members. Altogether, over 9000 athletes from 110 countries were on hand to showcase their athletic mettle in more than 27 sports. All NATO countries were present, with Africa on its part represented by 30 countries who included Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Besides the singular number of participants, the event notched up a whole array of firsts. One report spelt them out thus: “The first time the games were staged outside of military bases, the first time the games were all held in the same city, the first time an Athletes’ Village was constructed, the first time TV and VR systems were powered by 5G telecom technology, and the first use of all-round volunteer services for each delegation.”

Now, here is the clincher: the location of the guest house for the US team was located in the immediate neighbourhood of the Wuhan Seafood Market, the place the Chinese authorities to this day contend was the diffusion point of the coronavirus. But there is more: according to some reports, the person who allegedly but unwittingly transmitted the virus to the people milling about the market – Patient Zero of Covid-19 – was one Maatie Benassie.

Benassie, 52, is a security officer of Sergeant First Class rank at the Fort Belvoir military base in Virginia and took part in the 50-mile cycling road race in the same competitions. In the final lap, she was accidentally knocked down by a fellow contestant and sustained a fractured rib and a concussion though she soldiered on and completed the race with the agonising adversity.  Inevitably, she saw a bit of time in a local health facility.   According to information dug up by George Webb, an investigative journalist based in Washington DC,     Benassie would later test positive for Covid-19 at the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital.

Incidentally, Benassie apparently passed on the virus to other US soldiers at the games, who were hospitalised right there in China before they were airlifted back to the US. The US government straightaway prohibited the publicising of details on the matter under the time-honoured excuse of “national security interests”, which raised eyebrows as a matter-of-course. As if that was not fishy enough, the US out of the blue tightened Chinese visas to the US at the conclusion of the games.

The rest, as they say, is history: two months later, Covid-19 had taken hold on China territory.  “From that date onwards,” said one report, “one to five new cases were reported each day. By December 15, the total number of infections stood at 27 — the first double-digit daily rise was reported on December 17 — and by December 20, the total number of confirmed cases had reached 60.”

TWO CURIOUS RESEARCH HALTINGS

Is it a coincidence that all the US soldiers who fell ill at the Wuhan games did their preparatory training at the Fort Belvoir military base, only a 15-minutes’  drive from Fort Detrick?

That Fort Detrick is a plain-sight perpetrator of pathogenic evils is evidenced by a number of highly suspicious happenings concerning it. Remember the 2001 anthrax mailing attacks on government and media houses which killed five people right on US territory? The two principal suspects who puzzlingly were never charged, worked as microbiologists at Fort Detrick. Of the two, Bruce Ivins, who was the more culpable, died in 2008 of “suicide”. For “suicide”, read “elimination”, probably because he was in the process of spilling the beans and therefore cast the US government in a stigmatically diabolical light. Indeed, the following year, all research projects at Fort Detrick were suspended on grounds that the institute was “storing pathogens not listed   in its database”. The real truth was likely much more reprehensible.

In 2014, there was a mini local pandemic in the US which killed thousands of people and which the mainstream media were not gutsy enough to report. It arose following the weaponisation at Fort Detrick of the H7N9 virus, prompting the Obama administration to at once declare a moratorium on the research and withdraw funding.

The Trump administration, however, which has a pathological fixation on undoing practically all the good Obama did, reinstated the research under new rigorous guidelines in 2017. But since old habits die hard, the new guidelines were flouted at will, leading to another shutdown of the whole research gamut at the institute in August 2019.  This, nonetheless, was not wholesale as other areas of research, such as experiments to make bird flu more transmissible and which had begun in 2012, proceeded apace. As one commentator pointedly wondered aloud, was it really necessary to study how to make H5N1, which causes a type of bird flu with an eye-popping mortality rate, more transmissible?

Consistent with its character, the CDC was not prepared to furnish particulars upon issuing the cease and desist order, citing “national security reasons”. Could the real reason have been the manufacture of the novel coronavirus courtesy of a tip-off by the more scrupulous scientists?

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Masisi faces ultimate test of his presidency

9th July 2020

President Mokgweetsi Masisi may have breathed a huge sigh of relief when he emerged victorious in last year’s 2019 general elections, but the ultimate test of his presidency has only just begun.

From COVID-19 pandemic effects; disenchanted unemployed youth, deteriorating diplomatic relations with neighbouring South Africa as well as emerging instability within the ruling party — Masisi has a lot to resolve in the next few years.

Last week we started an unwanted cold war with Botswana’s main trade partner, South Africa, in what we consider an ill-conceived move. Never, in the history of this country has Botswana shown South Africa a cold shoulder – particularly since the fall of the apartheid regime.

It is without a doubt that our country’s survival depends on having good relations with South Africa. As the Chairperson of African National Congress (ANC), Gwede Mantashe once said, a good relationship between Botswana and South Africa is not optional but necessary.

No matter how aggrieved we feel, we should never engage in a diplomatic war — with due respect to other neighbours— with South Africa. We will never gain anything from starting a diplomatic war with South Africa.

In fact, doing so will imperil our economy, given that majority of businesses in the retail sector and services sector are South African companies.

Former cabinet minister and Phakalane Estates proprietor, David Magang once opined that Botswana’s poor manufacturing sector and importation of more than 80 percent of the foodstuffs from South Africa, effectively renders Botswana a neo-colony of the former.

Magang’s statement may look demeaning, but that is the truth, and all sorts of examples can be produced to support that. Perhaps it is time to realise that as a nation, we are not independent enough to behave the way we do. And for God’s sake, we are a landlocked country!

Recently, the effects of COVID-19 have exposed the fragility of our economy; the devastating pleas of the unemployed and the uncertainty of the future. Botswana’s two mainstay source of income; diamonds and tourism have been hit hard. Going forward, there is a need to chart a new pathway, and surely it is not an easy task.

The ground is becoming fertile for uprisings that are not desirable in any country. That the government has not responded positively to the rising unemployment challenge is the truth, and very soon as a nation we will wake up to this reality.

The magnitude of the problem is so serious that citizens are running out of patience. The government on the other hand has not done much to instil confidence by assuring the populace that there is a plan.

The general feeling is that, not much will change, hence some sections of the society, will try to use other means to ensure that their demands are taken into consideration. Botswana might have enjoyed peace and stability in the past, but there is guarantee that, under the current circumstances, the status quo will be maintained.

It is evident that, increasingly, indigenous citizens are becoming resentful of naturalised and other foreign nationals. Many believe naturalised citizens, especially those of Indian origin, are the major beneficiaries in the economy, while the rest of the society is side-lined.

The resentfulness is likely to intensify going forward. We needed not to be heading in this direction. We needed not to be racist in our approach but when the pleas of the large section of the society are ignored, this is bound to happen.

It is should be the intention of every government that seeks to strive on non-racialism to ensure that there is shared prosperity. Share prosperity is the only way to make people of different races in one society to embrace each other, however, we have failed in this respect.

Masisi’s task goes beyond just delivering jobs and building a nation that we all desire, but he also has an immediate task of achieving stability within his own party. The matter is so serious that, there are threats of defection by a number of MPs, and if he does not arrest this, his government may collapse before completing the five year mandate.

The problems extend to the party itself, where Masisi found himself at war with his Secretary General, Mpho Balopi. The war is not just the fight for Central Committee position, but forms part of the succession plan.

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