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High spend on Education absent in the Economy – Expert


Although the total public expenditure on the education sector has continued to attract a significant share, at least 22 percent of total government expenditure over the years, Director of Monitoring and Evaluation at Vision 2016, Dr Pelotshweu Moepeng is concerned that the money is not reflecting on the economy.


Dr Moepeng notes there is little evidence on the ground that funds spent on this high share of budget is spent on the local economy.  He says the high education share in total government expenditure should be justified by jobs creation.


“Initially most of the funds a large proportion of the expenditure, about 20 per cent was spent on local and external placing for tertiary education. However, even after more local tertiary institutions are available, as complemented by private universities, education spending is not observed as stimulating the local economy,” he states.  


According to a paper he authored to reflect on the Vision Pillar of An Educated and Informed Nation, Moepeng says in recent years, it has been found that home grown school feeding initiatives at primary school level are providing vital market to local farmers produce, especially in the first quarter of the year.


“It could be assumed that as the education sector remains the dominant government priority in terms of spending, this sector could generate direct jobs in the teaching sector, and indirect jobs in IT, furniture manufacturing and maintenance, transport sector, rentals, agriculture and others,” he writes.  


The Director of When it comes to teachers’ accommodation in rural areas, government prefers to build houses for its staff instead of promoting the private sector property market and rent much good accommodation available, in the villages.


Milestones – Enrolments and Literacy rate
The main objective of the paper was to outline the major success of the Vision 2016 long-term national plan objectives in the education sector and highlight priority issues that require the national debate to bring out the best ideas necessary to pitch the country to the next level and contribute to the efforts made to develop the next long-term plan.


At the time the Vision 2016 was initiated, access to basic education was a challenge in Botswana as was a problem of gender balance in different aspects of our education system, quality of education and exclusion of some sections of the population particularly in the settlements officially known as Remote Areas.


Moepeng notes that there is an increase in basic education enrolment and ensuring that every child in Botswana has access to basic education, and that the capacity of the education system is equipped to provide adequate and quality education.


“Currently the literacy rates among the youth is above 95 per cent and comparable to other countries in the middle income level. Botswana’s performance in youth literacy rates compares well to other middle income countries like South Africa, Malaysia and is way above Namibia.


Even though Botswana had the lowest youth literacy rates in the 1990s, her performance has improved from just below 85 per cent to the current more than 95 per cent. Overall, access to basic education from primary to junior secondary is guaranteed to most children in Botswana and this is major success of the Vision 2016. However, there remain pockets of children in Botswana who remain excluded from access to basic education, especially in the Ghanzi District.


Moepeng writes: “This situation has proved difficult to address despite many interventions that include boarding primary schools, parents’ involvement and persuasion, provision of both morning and evening meals to entice children, and out of school children programmes in schools. More work, especially in the social discipline studies need to be intensified to address this problem.” 

 
Gender Balance
According to Dr Moepeng’s paper, the gender balance in enrolments at in the basic education have generally been achieved across the country and by the year 2002, girls accounted for over half of gross enrolment in primary and secondary schools which was consistent with the demographic characteristics by gender (MFDP and UNDP, 2004; and CSO, 2001). Although prior to 1996, enrolments in Teacher Training Colleges was dominated by females, following the introduction of the Vision 2016, more and more males enrolled at teacher Training Colleges, which could have improved the gender balance in the trained teaching cadre.    


Automatic Progression and Quality of Education Outcomes
One of the major outcomes of high preference for education spending is increased transition rates from standard seven to secondary education. Moepeng says this has increased the overall number of years of schooling for many children in Botswana.


However, he notes that as many of these automatically transfer from primary to secondary education, irrespective of their performance in primary school education, it turns out that in recent years; there has been an increase in failure rate at secondary school level. Moepeng says the automatic transition from primary to secondary could be a major contributor increased failure rate in secondary education, as students who fail primary education are not immediately addressed by a selection process that includes improving the quality of students before they enter secondary education.


Education Content biased to Humanities and Social Sciences
“Our education system remains dominated by the social sciences in terms of enrolment at tertiary education. This could imply that the target is not yet diverted from producing officers for employment in the civil service -an objective that was meant to replace expatriate workers in the civil service with locals,” writes Dr Moepeng.


Moepeng says the civil service is nearly 100 per cent localised, and the objectives of economic diversification require an educated and skilled nation that is ready to compete in the global economy.


“We should therefore reflect and re-assess the global demand of goods and services, to be in a position to promote the education of those services that are readily in demand. In the humanities for instance, one could open wider job choice opportunities by learning one of the most used Chinese languages,” he says.


Performance measurement and lack of relevant data
Dr Moepeng indicates that available data on the education sector is not complete and sometimes limiting even when it is available to facilitate reasonable analysis for purpose of informed decision making.


“First, there is no historical data that is publicly available for use in monitoring and evaluation, which is comprehensive enough for researchers to measure the performance of the education sector effectively. For instance, there are issues of changes in syllabus and curricular that is possibly not accounted for in the data available, and some administrative decisions that can affect teaching and learning outcomes that might not be accommodated in the education data.”


He further notes that in some cases, the data is not decomposed in a manner that allows comparison of performance between rural and urban, private and public schools, education level of heads of schools and others variables necessary to enable adequate description of characters that influence performance.

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Mowana Mine to open, pay employees millions

18th January 2022
Mowana Mine

Mowana Copper Mine in Dukwi will finally pay its former employees a total amount of P23, 789, 984.00 end of this month. For over three years Mowana Copper Mine has been under judicial management. Updating members, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) Executive Secretary Kitso Phiri this week said the High Court issued an order for the implementation of the compromise scheme of December 9, 2021 and this was to be done within 30 days after court order.

“Therefore payment of benefits under the scheme including those owed to Messina Copper Botswana employees should be effected sometime in January latest end of January 2022,” Kitso said. Kitso also explained that cash settlement will be 30 percent of the total Messina Copper Botswana estate and negotiated estate is $3,233,000 (about P35, 563,000).

Messina Copper was placed under liquidation and was thereafter acquired by Leboam Holdings to operate Mowana Mine. Leboam Holdings struck a deal with the Messina Copper’s liquidator who became a shareholder of Leboam Holdings. Leboam Holdings could not service its debts and its creditors placed it under provisional judicial management on December 18, 2018 and in judicial management on February 28, 2019.

A new company Max Power expressed interest to acquire the mining operations. It offered to take over the Mowana Mine from Leboam Holdings, however, the company had to pay the debts of Leboam including monies owed to Messina Copper, being employees benefits and other debts owed to other creditors.

The monies, were agreed to be paid through a scheme of compromise proposed by Max Power, being a negotiated payment schedule, which was subject to the financial ability of the new owners. “On December 9, 2021, Messina Copper liquidator, called a meeting of creditors, which the BMWU on behalf of its members (former Messina Copper employees) attended, to seek mandate from creditors to proceed with a proposed settlement for Messina Copper on the scheme of compromise. It is important to note that employee benefits are regarded as preferential credit, meaning once a scheme is approved they are paid first.”

Negotiated estate is P35, 563,000

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Councilors’ benefits debacle-savingram reveals detail

18th January 2022

A savingram the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development sent to Town Clerks and Council Secretaries explaining why councilors across the country should not have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term has been revealed.

The contents of the savingram came out in the wake of a war of words between counselors and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. The councilors through the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) accuse the Ministry of refusing to allow them to have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term.

This has since been denied by the Ministry.  In the savingram to town councils and council secretaries across the country, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Molefi Keaja states that, “Kindly be advised that the terminal benefits budget is made during the final year of term of office for Honorable Councilors.”  Keaja reminded town clerks and council secretaries that, “The nominal budget Councils make each and every financial year is to cater for events where a Councilor’s term of office ends before the statutory time due to death, resignation or any other reason.”

The savingram also goes into detail about why the government had in the past allowed councilors to have access to their terminal benefits before the end of their term.  “Regarding the special dispensation made in the 2014-2019, it should be noted that the advance was granted because at that time there was an approved budget for terminal benefits during the financial year,” explained Keaja.  He added that, “Town Clerks/Council Secretaries made discretions depending on the liquidity position of Councils which attracted a lot of audit queries.”

Keaja also revealed that councils across the country were struggling financially and therefore if they were to grant councilors access to their terminal benefits, this could leave their in a dire financial situation.  Given the fact that Local Authorities currently have cash flow problems and budgetary constraints, it is not advisable to grant terminal benefits advance as it would only serve to compound the liquidity problems of councils.

It is understood that the Ministry was inundated with calls from some Councils as they sought clarification regarding access to their terminal benefits. The Ministry fears that should councils pay out the terminal benefits this would affect their coffers as the government spends a lot on councilors salaries.

Reports show that apart from elected councilors, the government spends at least P6, 577, 746, 00 on nominated councilors across the country as their monthly salaries. Former Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso once told Parliament that in total there are 113 nominated councilors and their salaries per a year add up to P78, 933,16.00. She added that their projected gratuity is P9, 866,646.00.

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Households spending to drive economic recovery

17th January 2022

A surge in consumer spending is expected to be a key driver of Botswana’s economic recovery, according to recent projections by Fitch Solutions. Fitch Solutions said it forecasts household spending in Botswana to grow by a real rate of 5.9% in 2022.

The bullish Fitch Solutions noted that “This is a considerable deceleration from 9.4% growth estimated in 2021, it comes mainly from the base effects of the contraction of 2.5% recorded in 2020,” adding that, “We project total household spending (in real terms) to reach BWP59.9bn (USD8.8bn) in 2022, increasing from BWP56.5bn (USD8.3bn) in 2021.”  According to Fitch Solutions, this is higher than the pre-Covid-19 total household spending (in real terms) of P53.0 billion (USD7.8bn) in 2019 and it indicates a full recovery in consumer spending.

“We forecast real household spending to grow by 5.9% in 2022, decelerating from the estimated growth of 9.4% in 2021. We note that the Covid-19 pandemic and the related restrictions on economic activity resulted in real household spending contracting by 2.5% in 2020, creating a lower base for spending to grow from in 2021 and 2022,” Fitch Solutions says.

Total household spending (in real terms), the agency says, will increase in 2022 when compared to 2021. In 2021 and 2022, total household spending (in real terms) will be above the pre-Covid-19 levels in 2019, indicating a full recovery in consumer spending, says Fitch Solutions.  It says as of December 6 2021 (latest data available), 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose, while this is relatively low it is higher than Africa average of 11.3%.

“The emergence of new Covid-19 variants such as Omicron, which was first detected in the country in November 2021, poses a downside risk to our outlook for consumer spending, particularly as a large proportion of the country’s population is unvaccinated and this could result in stricter measures being implemented once again,” says Fitch Solutions.

Growth will ease in 2022, Fitch Solution says. “Our forecast for an improvement in consumer spending in Botswana in 2022 is in line with our Country Risk team’s forecast that the economy will grow by a real rate of 5.3% over 2022, from an estimated 12.5% growth in 2021 as the low base effects from 2020 dissipate,” it says.

Fitch Solutions notes that “Our Country Risk team expects private consumption to be the main driver of Botswana’s economic growth in 2022, as disposable incomes and the labour market continue to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
It says Botswana’s tourism sector has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the related travel restrictions.

According to Fitch Solutions, “The emergence of the Omicron variant, which was first detected in November 2021, has resulted in travel bans being implemented on Southern African countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. This will further delay the recovery of Botswana’s tourism sector in 2021 and early 2022.”  Fitch Solutions, therefore, forecasts Botswana’s tourist arrivals to grow by 81.2% in 2022, from an estimated contraction of 40.3% in 2021.

It notes that the 72.4% contraction in 2020 has created a low base for tourist arrivals to grow from.  “The rollout of vaccines in South Africa and its key source markets will aid the recovery of the tourism sector over the coming months and this bodes well for the employment and incomes of people employed in the hospitality industry, particularly restaurants and hotels as well as recreation and culture businesses,” the report says.

Fitch Solutions further notes that with economies reopening, consumers are demanding products that they had little access to over the previous year. However, manufacturers are facing several problems.  It says supply chain issues and bottlenecks are resulting in consumer goods shortages, feeding through into supply-side inflation.  Fitch Solutions believes the global semiconductor shortage will continue into 2022, putting the pressure on the supply of several consumer goods.

It says the spread of the Delta variant is upending factory production in Asia, disrupting shipping and posing more shocks to the world economy. Similarly, manufacturers are facing shortages of key components and higher raw materials costs, the report says adding that while this is somewhat restricted to consumer goods, there is a high risk that this feeds through into more consumer services over the 2022 year.

“Our global view for a notable recovery in consumer spending relies on the ability of authorities to vaccinate a large enough proportion of their populations and thereby experience a notable drop in Covid-19 infections and a decline in hospitalisation rates,” says Fitch Solutions.
Both these factors, it says, will lead to governments gradually lifting restrictions, which will boost consumer confidence and retail sales.

“As of December 6 2021, 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose. While this is low, it is higher than the Africa average of 11.3%. The vaccines being administered in Botswana include Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson. We believe that a successful vaccine rollout will aid the country’s consumer spending recovery,” says Fitch Solutions.  Therefore, the agency says, “Our forecasts account for risks that are highly likely to play out in 2022, including the easing of government support. However, if other risks start to play out, this may lead to forecast revisions.”

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