Human Resource Development Council acting chief executive Dr Molutsi
Manufacturing is touted to have the much needed jobs and, drive creativity and innovation throughout every segment of the society.
Manufacturing has been the key for economic development for some developed nations such as: Britain, and Germany, United States, Japan, USSR and also for the newly industrialised nations of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and China, commonly referred to as the Asian Tigers.
In Botswana, formal sector employment is growing very slowly at about 3 percent in 2010, 2011 and 2013. In 2012, only 0.5 percent growth in formal employment was experienced. This has been tied to the weak manufacturing sector that has contributed only 6 percent to GDP (gross domestic product) between 2008 and 2012.
However, Human Resource Development Council acting chief executive Dr Molutsi, pointed out that the country is faced with what he terms ‘the triple E problem’ : a weakened economy, with education that does not address industry needs and industry jobs that have no takers in the form of qualified, experienced personnel.
Barry Mabena, Principal Industrial Officer at the Department of Industrial Affairs in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, said that: “Manufacturing is the vehicle towards rapid sustainable economic growth; the growth of manufacturing machinery output and technological change are the main drivers of the economy. Just look at the explosion of the internet, iphones, and innovations, all made possible by a small subset of Production machinery.”
A vibrant and competitive manufacturing sector therefore plays a leading role in maintaining a globally competitive and innovative economy.
The manufacturing sector is also crippled by the shortage of skills, particularly boiler making. “There are about a hundred boilers in the country but there is no training institution locally that trains boilermakers; Boilers are an integral part of any manufacturing business,” said a representative from the packaging industry, who did not want to be named.
“While we don’t want to point fingers, we can’t do anything about other issues such as lack of water and electricity, we can only look to the government,” said the manufacturer. “Government must look at policies that protect us as local manufacturers and also introduce incentives that will make it more attractive and the sector can grow from there.”
“If the economy does not grow, consumers will not grow and manufacturing will not grow; government must set the tone but they instead restrict our growth,” the manufacturer further asserted.
Pelonomi Bantsi of Lithoflex Inks, also told BusinessPost that while the Economic Empowerment Policy specifies that citizen owned businesses must be given priority, in Government procurement, “in practice it is not being adhered to.”
“The Ministry says it is compulsory for Government, which, it is a given that it is the biggest client anywhere, should buy from us before they look outside the country, but we do not see that,” said Bantsi.
Bantsi is also concerned about levies such as value added tax and customs duty that erode profitability in manufacturing, as most raw materials have to be sourced from outside the country.
M.Shahid Ghafoor, managing director at Western Textiles, said that while they give salaries above the statutory minimum wages in Botswana, they as manufacturers experience poor work ethic and absenteeism on the factory floor, especially at around month end.
According to the Global Competitiveness Report of 2014/2015, the human resource situation in Botswana is plagued by mostly poor ethic, followed by an inadequately educated workforce, government red tape, corruption, lack of innovation and poor access to finance, among many other issues.
MANUFACTURING SECTOR COMMITTEE
Faced with an undiversified economy that is based on a diminishing diamond sector, Botswana’s best hope at a brighter future is a highly skilled workforce. According to Dr Patrick Molutsi, “we are now emphasising skills”.
This past week, the Human Resources Development Council was engaged in the formation of the newly announced sector committees, bringing in industry players into the decision making process, that will be actively engaged in advising, strategising and guiding the way Batswana are trained for industry, in order to curb the trend where there is an oversupply of skills in certain areas and a shortage of skills in some areas.
The new sector committees, which were announced two weeks ago, are Transport, Manufacturing, Education and Training, Public Service, Research and Innovation, Science and Technology.
“There is an admission of the group that we need business leadership training; we have business leadership training institutions, we will go and say to them that can we do weekend courses, and maybe we can meet the costs halfway,” “We should never have an empty classroom; we should be like security guards who work on shifts, always on duty.”
“They will tell us how to innovate and grow; the markets are now global because of the internet as we have seen with some of our local manufacturers doing here.” “We are sitting on too many opportunities as a nation,” said Dr Molutsi.
This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.
The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.
Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.
He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday delivering Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.
Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.
The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.
The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.
The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.
This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.
Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.
Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.
However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.
Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.
When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.
The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.
Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.
In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.
Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.
Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.
Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.
Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”
He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”