Gays, sex workers masterplan in the pipeline – Gov’t
By Tefo Pheage
The Assistant Minister of Local government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso
The Assistant Minister of Local government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso has accused the National Aids Council (NAC) and Members of Parliament of shying away from discussinng sensitive and unpopular subjects such as homosexuality and sex work.
Assistant Minister Tshireletso’s remarks followed a presentation by NACA's Behavioural Change Interventions and Communication Director, Mr Joseph Kefas, on the national strategic framework this week at the National Aids Council.
Tshireletso like many others in attendance was of the view that the framework presentation had neglected the burning issues which former President, Festus Mogae had been militantly advocating for and defending. Mogae contended that his views are informed by studies and nothing else.
“How can we say we are progressing when we keep on expecting to be reminded that we have left out sex workers and homosexuals? When will we accept that these groups are a greater part of the problem? Numerous studies have supported this but we seem to be hell-bent on sidelining the issue at every given opportunity,” said Tshireletso.
She said a lot of money is always spent on studies to inform policies but the outcome is always disheartening, as our policies are not informed by research.
The Vice President, who is the NAC Chairperson, Mokgweetsi Masisi intervened and said his arrival did not mean that the issues will be sidelined.
“You should not worry, the issues will be discussed, in fact the government is already doing something about the issues but I am not in a position to say what exactly the outcome of those discussions and meetings will be,” he said.
This was reiterated by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Ms Shenaaz El-Halabi who said the government is currently in a series of meetings to zoom into the issue.
Numerous calls for decriminalisation of these activities have hit a snag in the past and it remains to be seen what the government ‘s masterplan entails.
President Ian Khama has adopted a ‘silent diplomacy’ approach over these controversial issues and his government although acknowledging these groups’ existence has refused to decriminalise their practices. The general public and some civil society organisations seem to be against decriminalisation as well.
The National Aids Council (NAC) in 2013 delegated the Ministry of Health and the National Aids Coordinating Agency (NACA) to work on coming up with a draft policy on targeting most at risk populations groups.
The policy was a response to a study presented by the Ministry of Health that revealed that homosexuals and sex workers are abundant in Botswana and continue to be among the most vulnerable groups in the HIV/AIDS war, as they do not have programmes geared towards addressing their needs and situations.
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Batswana owe banks P79 billion
The Minister of Finance, Peggy Serame, has disclosed that the total bank credit extended by commercial banks amounted to P79 billion, out of which P53.4 billion was retail loans and advances to households.
Parliament was informed this week in response to a question by the Member of Parliament for Selibe-Phikwe West and Leader of Opposition (LOO), Dithapelo Keorapetse.
â€śAs at 31st December 2022, loans and other advances extended to households by banks constituted the largest share of bank-lending at 67.6 percent, the majority of which was unsecured personal loans at P36.2 billion (67.8%),â€ť said Serame.
She added that the total household Debt to GDP ratio was 21.9%, while the total private business credit to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio was 10.8%.
On the other hand, it was noted that outstanding mortgage loans extended to households were P14.2 billion (26.6% of household debt) or 5.9% of GDP. Overall, total bank credit as a ratio of GDP stood at 32.7 percent.
It was acknowledged that there are 10 deposit-taking banks in the country, that is, nine commercial banks and one statutory bank (Botswana Savings Bank). This statistics excludes the National Development Bank (NDB), which is a development finance institution. The nine commercial banks include an indigenous bank, Botswana Building Society Bank Limited (BBSBL), which was issued with a commercial banking license by the Bank of Botswana in October 2022.
Still in December 2022, it was recorded that there were 376 non-bank lenders in Botswana consisting of 246 micro lenders, 66 finance companies, three leasing companies and 61 registered pawnshops.
According to Minister Serame, the loan book value representing the principal amount lent by these entities to individuals and to small, medium and micro Enterprises (SMMEs) is collated by the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA), which at 31stÂ of December 2021, the loan book values were P5.6 billion for micro lenders, P1.6 billion for finance companies, P225 million for leasing companies and P14 million for pawnshops.
Government policy is that price control is not effective or desirable, and, as such, interest rates are not regulated. Non-regulation may, among other things, result in an increase in non-interest rate fees and commissions, reduced price transparency, lower credit supply and loan approval rates.
â€śIt is important to note that, from a macroeconomic perspective, household debt in Botswana is neither a pandemic nor considered to be excessive. Indeed, the Bank of Botswanaâ€™s periodic and continuous assessments of household debt, including through the annual Household Indebtedness Surveys, suggest moderate household indebtedness and therefore, is of no apparent risk to the safety and soundness of the domestic financial system,â€ť said Serame.
She also alluded this assessment is validated by the recently concluded Financial Sector Assessment Programme (FSAP) on Botswana undertaken by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group.
Keorapetse however rebuked the issue of debt not being excessive and noted the Minister thinks itâ€™s fine for Batswana to be debt burdened in a way that their debts diminishes their quality of life.
â€śA significant portion of Batswanaâ€™s salaries go to servicing debts and because she doesnâ€™t see this as a challenge, there can never be any intervention from her side.Â There is no price regulation on interest, which can go up to 30%+ a month.Â Â Since President Masisi ascended to the high office in 2018, 2 384 Batswana were put in prison for failure to pay debts, that is 467 Batswana every year. So, for us, debt problems are big and concerning,â€ť said Keorapetse.
He said they are worried because Batswana are drowning in debts because of relative poverty, slave wages and unemployment/underemployment, they buy basic needs and services with borrowed money and noted predatory and unethical lending has become a major problem in Botswanaâ€™s financial sector.
How to fleece P14 million from Chinese investor
The modus operandi of how five men allegedly swindled a Chinese national P14 million last week continue to unravel. Highly placed sources from the intelligence, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) revealed to this publication how the whole scam was concocted.
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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswanaâ€™s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, â€śMerging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.â€ť
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
â€śIt is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,â€ť said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that â€śwe require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,â€ť Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. â€śIt is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.â€ť
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
â€śWe believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.â€ť
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
â€śWater pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanityâ€™s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.â€ť
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
â€śIn Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying â€śWe need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.â€ť