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Job creation priority number One

MOKGWEETSI MASISI
VICE PRESIDENT

Botswana currently has an unemployment rate of 19.8% and we are confronted with a socio-economic challenge of great proportions as the largest demography in our society, who also represent the majority of them unemployed; are the most affected, as is reflected by a 28.7% Youth (15-35 years) unemployment rate (Botswana AIDS Impact Survey IV, 2013).

This has proven to be a challenge that reminds us that our past achievements give us no room for complacency; a challenge that confirms the need for a more sustainable development model, where all actors in the economy facilitate growth. Together we can transform the state of affairs.

His Excellency the President has tasked me with leading the employment creation drive and I invite you all to become partners in this endeavour. A cross section of captains of industry are represented here and our main aim is to seek sustainable solutions to employment creation.

This is a challenge that requires both short and long term remedies, it requires brevity and conviction. Government does not have a monopoly of ideas in resolving this challenge. With that said, we are gathered here this morning expecting diverse, innovative ideas which will be appealing to their intended recipients, from people who routinely think out of the box. We are expecting no less than exceptional!

As I hope you are aware, this government has pronounced the following areas as priorities for urgent attention through His Excellency the President's Pledge Card during the run up to the 2014 elections. That is the mandate that we have, to:
a. Make job creation priority number 1
b. Take Batswana out of poverty
c. Increase resources for education
d. Eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV e. Fight corruption in all its manifestations

What is required are successful businesses which generate sustainable employment and I am certain that you all have given the matter due consideration and that our meeting will lay foundation from which we will be able to develop, going forward. I look forward to your contributions towards achieving these goals, for posterity.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, youth unemployment in particular is a global challenge. Like the rest of the world, Botswana government and businesses face a conundrum: high levels of youth unemployment and a shortage of job seekers with requisite critical skills. It is from this correlation that the government has identified employment creation as one of the key priorities.

Needless to say, government alone cannot create jobs, that era passed post independence. The best that government can and must do is to effectively facilitate the private sector to foster successful businesses which would generate economic growth and create employment. Put simply, Government is an enabler, not a job creator.

Director of ceremonies, allow me to emphasise that Government acknowledges that in the broader framework of things, there is urgent need to develop alternative sources of economic growth. I must underscore that such sources must also generate substantial employment, in order to ensure equal access to economic opportunities by the majority of our population.

You would have found in your information packages, a verbatim transcript of a presentation by Professor Michael E. Porter of the Institute of Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard University. The presentation was delivered to the Economic Committee of Cabinet just over two years ago. Professor Porter's recommendations were discussed & adopted by Government as pronounced in the Budget Speech (February, 2015). Our focus is on a diversified export-led economy derived from Diamonds, Tourism, Cattle, Mining, Financial and other service sectors. These will be based on the development of Clusters representing the value chain of the different sectors.

The Clusters will be facilitated by the Hub activities of Transport, Education, Health, Innovation and Communication. We are already seeing green shoots in these cluster areas not to mention other export generating home brands such as Choppies, Flotek and Letshego etc. All of you play a vital role in the value chain of the above areas of economic activity.

His Excellency the President has previously requested BOCCIM through the High Level Consultative structures to formulate concrete proposals to eliminate Government Red Tape which hampers the growth of the Private Sector. The proposals were enhanced by turning to the World Bank who through a consultancy involving the Private Sector has made recommendations resulting in a recent Cabinet Decision on the implementation of the Ease of Doing Business Reforms. I am happy to announce that implementation of the reform programme has commenced, and is expected to address the many impediments the private sector is currently ceased with.

Some of the adopted reforms include: abolishing pre-permit inspection of premises; limiting the number of licenses and permits; adopting a Unique Identification Number for business; decoupling of tax issues from other activities like Construction Permit Procedures, property registration; liberalisation of services and works for power production and supply; outsourcing some state functions to the private sector; improving efficiency in the distribution of power thus decentralising the management of the process by allowing the clients/applicants to contract the service provider directly; and privatising state owned companies as a source of transferring industrial, technological and managerial know-how into the country. I am certain that there are other areas which need improvement such as accelerating the turnaround time for processing work and resident permits and efficiency of so doing, to meet your needs. We welcome not just your complaints but concrete proposals for solutions which would improve the Ease of Doing Business.

Over and above policy pronouncements, Government continues to invest in projects that offer vast opportunities for meaningful private sector participation and a potential for job creation. For example, several dams were constructed during the current planning period such as Letsibogo, Lotsane and Thune dams, with potential for irrigated agriculture and tourism development. We concede that such opportunities also challenge us as Government to be open minded as the facilitator. I know you all have other examples of where you can play a significant role, and we welcome your ideas as we develop the roadmap.

We have implemented other initiatives such as the current Internship Programme and we have observed that the majority of these interns are with government. I appeal to you, the private sector, to enrol a significant number of our graduates and give them meaningful challenges and tasks. Please do your part in giving these young people their first, requisite experience for future employment, which will make them more marketable. Make time to mentor them in workplace decorum so that they become highly sought after players in the local and global economies.

BOCCIM and your private sector membership have been participating in the Thematic Working Groups (TWGs) which have been considering the Vision Beyond 2016 Framework document, in preparation for public consultations anchored on work done by Professor Porter. I am reliably informed that Employment Creation is one of the priorities in the Vision Framework document. Your recommendations for Employment Creation need to be captured in these processes to ensure appropriate resource allocation towards employment creation, in the National Development Plan 11, which will also be developed in the near future. The latter consultations through the TWGs will also commence shortly.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as I draw to conclusion, I wish to emphasize that it is not just your challenges that we wish to hear. We look forward to your innovative ideas and creative solutions for growth of the economy and employment in particular. Please feel free to express your thoughts today as well as by engaging the National Strategy Office which will involve you in reviewing your much anticipated creative solutions and escalate the proposals to my office.

I once again wish to thank you most heartily for making time to be here this morning. Your continued ownership for the development of our country has not gone unnoticed. As we interact, let us broaden our horizons to identify mutually beneficial policies and programmes that will promote sustainable employment for development and put Batswana to work. Our collective efforts driven by and anchored on our common goal will be achieved with your active participation. I look forward to a prolific meeting which will facilitate long lasting solutions going forward. I thank you most sincerely for your kind attention.

Remarks by Vice President Mokgweetsi E. Masisi at thursday’s  job creation meeting with the private sector

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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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