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BIDPA in top five Think Tanks regionally


The Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) has been ranked in the top five Think Tanks in the Sub-Saharan region.

BIDPA is only outshined by Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) (Kenya); IMANI Center for Policy and Education (Ghana); South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) (South Africa); and Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) of Senegal.

The bottom four Think Tanks are Swaziland Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre (SEPARC) (Swaziland) at number 62; Institute for Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR) (Rwanda) occupying position 63; African Institute for Applied Economics (AIAE) (Nigeria) at 64; and Development Policy Research Unit (DPRU) (South Africa) at spot 65.

According to the Executive Director of BIDPA, Dr Tebogo Seleka, the improvement in ranking implies that BIDPA’s work on policy research and analysis is recognized as being of good quality amongst the organisation’s peers.

“It was mainly the outcome of deliberate effort by the Institute to refocus its work to allow for increased emphasis on supply-driven work (independent work initiated by the Institute), rather than demand-driven work (consultancies), to further ensure the delivery of the Institute’s think tank mandate. Over the past four years, the Institute has embarked on a program that has allowed it to increase its publications, policy dialogue, stakeholder engagement and public education, which are at the core of the Institute’s mandate,” he observed.

Think tanks have become more active players in domestic and foreign policy in the last two decades and are now present in 182 countries. While think tanks continue to be concentrated in the United States and Western Europe, several factors are driving the growth of think tanks in other areas of the world.

According to Seleka, as a policy research Institute, BIDPA should continue to emphasize the production of evidence through research, which can then be used as reference material to engage in continuous policy dialogue between Government and the Non-sate sectors.

“We believe that the improvement in BIDPA’s ranking over the past four years is a reflection of the Institute’s progress in this regards. We are therefore challenged to continue our effort at aligning our work to the development needs and priorities of this country. The independence that the Institute has enjoyed since its establishment in 1995 has also enhanced its growth over years,” he stressed.

According to the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report prepared by James G. McGann, Think Tanks have increased and expanded dramatically, with approximately 6,618 think tanks currently operating all around the world.

“Think tanks are public-policy research analysis and engagement organizations that generate policy-oriented research, analysis, and advice on domestic and international issues, thereby enabling policymakers and the public to make informed decisions about public policy. Think tanks may be affiliated or independent institutions that are structured as permanent bodies, not adhoc commissions.

These institutions often act as a bridge between the academic and policymaking communities and between states and civil society, serving in the public interest as independent voices that translate applied and basic research into a language that is understandable, reliable, and accessible for policymakers and the public,” reads McGann’s document.

He observes that the ongoing challenge for think tanks is to produce timely and accessible policy-oriented research that effectively engages policymakers, the press, and the public on the critical issues facing a country. Gone are the days when a think tank could operate with the motto “research it, write it and they will find it.” Today, think tanks must be lean, mean, policy machines.

McGann stresses that demand for Independent Information and Analysis has given Think Tanks impetus. “Over the last 15 years, the state’s monopoly and control of information has rapidly diminished due to technological advances, globalization, and democratic movements. With the emergence of the so-called “Data Revolution,” there is a new need for governments, NGOs, and research institutes to collaborate in sharing data and closing data gaps. 

These trends have created a space for knowledge-based institutions like think tanks to provide independent information and analysis. In other words, “big data is the oil of the information economy that needs to be treated as an economic asset. If not, actors are doomed to the old witticism of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing”.”    

McGann explains why Think Tanks are crucial    

Increased Complexity of Policy Issues: Governments are faced with a range of highly technical and complex problems that require a high degree of expertise, requiring policymakers to seek outside advice. At the same time, governments are under increased pressure to improve economic and bureaucratic performance.

The complexity of these policy issues also arises from our current globalized context. In today’s world, policy formation is no longer under the sole control of the state, issues are not fully domestic or foreign, and the international system is anything but simple and straightforward.

Instead of one organization being completely in control of accomplishing a particular task, the assignment may rely on the collaboration of various institutions. Jones adds additional insight:


“Agencies must approach the delivery of their mandate with a networked approach to policy and governance. Accountability structures can usefully focus on holding units accountable for their mission or role description. Relationship management concern and participatory processes should be central focuses.” Historically, governments have turned to think tanks for evidence and advice on these matters – but that may be changing.

Increasingly Open Debate about Government Decision-Making: Interest groups and public citizens are less deferential to government monopolies on decision making, which has put a premium on more open discussion of issues and policy options. Key players are less likely to accept government information and rationales, creating a demand for more independent sources of analysis. Global policy and advocacy networks have increased the power and influence of these organizations.

Global “Hacktivist,” Anarchist, and Populist Movements: Within the last 18 months, a seemingly unrelated set of movements have sprung up across the globe that have one thing in common: they all, at their core, are anti-establishment in nature. The groups have emerged in countries as diverse as India, Greece, Egypt, Tunisia, China, Bahrain, Chile, the United States, and Turkey. This new wave of global populism has gathered the young, unemployed, underemployed, and disaffected into mass movements, often leader-less, aimed at challenging the established political and economic order.

Fueled by the economic crisis, political paralysis, and policy gridlock of many regional and national governments, these popular movements have surfaced to give voice to the public dissatisfaction with corruption, the abuse of civil liberties, and the general ineffectiveness and indecisiveness of their leaders. It is also in response to a credibility and representation gap where citizens feel that they have been marginalized and that they have elected leaders that are out of touch with their needs and interests.

Increasing Political Polarization: National politics are increasingly polarized in many countries around the globe, a trend that has increased the paralysis and policy gridlock in many legislative bodies. Political battle lines are now drawn between polar opposites: Liberal vs. Conservative, Secular vs. Fundamentalist, Political Reform vs. Tighter Government Control, Reduced Government Spending (Austerity) vs. Increased Government Spending (Stimulus).

And while we have always had conflicting priorities and worldviews, they are now more extreme in nature. This increased political polarization has made it difficult – if not impossible – to find common ground or to reach consensus on many of the critical policy issues of our time.

According to the Global report, the World Bank has called for a Global Partnership for the Data Revolution to help think tanks collaborate in sharing data. Involving a wide variety of agencies, the collaboration would focus on developing and sharing relevant information.

Think tanks will play a crucial role in the process, furthering existing efforts for greater independent analysis and information. However, the high number of think tanks and other institutions working to meet the demand for information means that the quality of information could potentially suffer.

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Civil Service volatility: Democracy vs Bureaucracy

19th April 2021
President Masisi

Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.

These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.

The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”

The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.

“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”

Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.

The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.

Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.

One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.

But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.

One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.

Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.

In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.

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Morupisi fights for freedom in court

19th April 2021
morupisi

Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.

Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.

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Pressure mounts on Biden to suspend Covid-19 vaccine patents

19th April 2021
Joe Biden

United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.

According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.

“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.

A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.

Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.

In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”

While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.

Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility.  Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.

For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies.  European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.

It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.

According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.

The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.

“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”

“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.”
The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”

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