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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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Jackdish Shah loses interest in BDP

17th May 2022
Jackdish

As the preparations for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) congress are about to kick off, reports on the ground suggest that the party’s Deputy Treasurer Jackdish Shah will not defend the position in August as he contemplates relocation.

According to sources, the businessman who joined the BDP Central Committee in 2015 at the 36th Congress held in Mmadinare is ready to leave the party’s politburo. It is said he long made up his mind not to defend the position last year. A prominent businessman, Shah, when he won the position to assist Satar Dada in 2015 was expected to improve the party’s financial vibrancy. By then the party was under the leadership of Ian Khama.

According to close sources, Shah long decided not to contest because he has fallen out of favour with the party leadership. It is said he took the decision after some prominent businessmen who are BDP members and part of football syndicate decided to push him out and they used their proximity to President Mokgweetsi Masisi to badmouth him hence the decision.

“The fight at the Botswana Football Association (BFA) and Botswana Football League (BFL) has left him alone in the desert and some faces there used their close access to the President to isolate him,” said a source. Media reports say, Shah does not see eye to eye with BFA President MacLean Letshwiti who is also Masisi’s buddy hence the decision.

BFL Chairman Nicholas Zackhem is said to be not in good terms with Shah, who at one point Chaired the then Botswana Premier League (BPL). “He is seriously considering quitting because of what is unfolding at the team (Township Rollers) which is slowly not making financial gains and might be relegated and he wants to sell while it is still worth the investment,” said a highly placed source.

Shah is a renowned businessman who runs internet providing company Zebra net, H &G, game farm in Kasane, cattle farm in Ghanzi region and lot of properties in Gaborone. He also has two hotels in USA, his advisors have given him thumbs up on the possible decision of relocating provided he does not sell some of the investments that are doing well.

Asked about whether he will be contesting Shah could not confirm nor deny the reports. It is said for now it is too early as a public decision will have to be taken after the national council meeting and prior to the national congress. “As a BDP Central Committee member he cannot make that announcement now,” a BDP source said.

BDP is expected to assemble for the National Council during the July holidays while the National Congress is billed for August. It is then that the party will elect a new CC members. The last time BDP held elective congress was at Kang in 2019. The party is yet to issue writ.

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Govt ignores own agreements to improve public service

17th May 2022
Govt

The government has failed to implement some commitments and agreements that it had entered into with unions to improve conditions of public servants.

Three years after the government and public made commitments aimed at improving conditions of work and services it has emerged that the government has ignored and failed to implement all commitments on conditions of service emanating from the 2019 round of negotiations.

In its position paper that saw public service salaries being increased by 5%, the government the government has also signalled its intention to renege on some of the commitments it had made.
“Government aspires to look into all outstanding issues contained in the Labour Agreement signed between the Employer and recognised Trade Union on the 27th August 2019 and that it be reviewed, revised and delinked by both Parties with a view to agree on those whose implementation that can be realistically executed during the financial years 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25 respectively,” the government said.

Furthermore, in addition to reviewing, revising and de-linking of the outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement alluded to above and taking on a progressive proposal, government desires to review revise, develop and implement human resource policies as listed below during the financial year 2022/23,2023/24,2024/25

They include selection and appointment policy, learning and development policy, transfer guidelines, conditions of service, permanent and pensionable, temporary and part time, Foreign Service, expatriate and disciplinary procedures.

In their proposal paper, the unions which had proposed an 11 percent salary increase but eventually settled for 5% percent indicated that the government has not, and without explanation, acted on some of the key commitments from the 2019/2020 and 2021/22 round of negotiations.  The essential elements of these commitments include among others the remuneration Policy for the Public Service.

The paper states that a Remuneration Policy will be developed to inform decision making on remuneration in the Public Service. It is envisaged that consultations between the government and relevant key stakeholders on the policy was to start on 1st September 2019, and the development of the policy should be concluded by 30th June 2020.

The public sector unions said the Remuneration Policy is yet to be developed. The Cooperating Unions suggested that the process should commence without delay and that it should be as participatory as it was originally conceived. Another agreement relate to Medical Aid Contribution for employees on salary Grades A and B.

The employer contribution towards medical aid for employees on salary Grades A and B will be increased from 50% to 80% for the Standard Option of the Botswana Public
“Officers’ Medical Aid Scheme effective 1st October 2019; the cooperating unions insist that, in fulfilling this commitment, there should be no discrimination between those on the high benefit and those on the medium benefit plan,” the unions proposal paper says.

Another agreement involves the standardisation of gratuities across the Public Service. “Gratuities for all employees on fixed term contracts of 12 months but not exceeding 5 years, including former Industrial class employees be standardized at 30% across the Public Service in order to remove the existing inequalities and secure long-term financial security for Public Service Employees at lower grades with immediate effect,” the paper states.

The other agreement signed by the public sector unions and the government was the development of fan-shaped Salary Structure. The paper says the Public Service will adopt a best practice fan-shaped and overlapping structure, with modification to suit the Botswana context. The Parties (government and unions) to this agreement will jointly agree on the ranges of salary grades to allow for employees’ progression without a promotion to the available position on the next management level.

“The fan-shaped structure is envisaged to be in place by 1st June 2020, to enable factoring into the budgetary cycle for the financial year 2021/22,” the unions’ proposal paper states. It says the following steps are critical, capacity building of key stakeholders (September – December 2019), commission remuneration market survey (3 months from September to November 2019), design of the fan-shaped structure (2 to 3 months from January to March2020) and consultations with all key stakeholders (March to April 2020).

The unions and government had also signed an agreement on performance management and development: A rigorous performance management and reward system based on a 5-point rating system will be adopted as an integral part of the operationalization of the new Remuneration System.

Performance Management and Development (PMD) will be used to reward workers based on performance. The review of the Performance Management System was to be undertaken in order to close the gaps identified by PEMANDU and other previous reports on PMS between 1st September 2019 and 30th June 2020 as follows; internal process to update and revise the current Performance Management System by January 2020.

A job evaluation exercise in the Public Service will also be undertaken to among others establish internal equity, and will also cover the grading of all supervisory positions within the Public Service.
Another agreement included overtime Management. The Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) was to facilitate the conclusion of consultations on management of overtime, including consideration of the Overtime Management Task Team’s report on the same by 30th November 2019.

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Health Expert rejects ‘death rates’ links to low population growth

17th May 2022
Health-Expert

A public health expert, Dr Edward Maganu who is also the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health has said that unlike many who are expressing shock at the population census growth decline results, he is not, because the 2022 results represents his expectations.

He rushed to dismiss the position by Statistics Botswana in which thy partly attributes the low growth rates to mortality rates for the past ten years. “I don’t think there is any undercounting. I also don’t think death rates have much to do with it since the excessive deaths from HIV/AIDS have been controlled by ARVs and our life expectancy isn’t lower than it was in the 1990s,” he said in an interview with this publication post the release of the results.

Preliminary results released by Statistics Botswana this week indicated that Botswana’s population is now estimated to be 2,346,179 – a figure that the state owned data agency expressed worry over saying it’s below their projected growth. The general decline in the population growth rate is attributed to ‘fertility’ and ‘mortality’ rates that the country registered on the past ten years since the last census in 2011.

Maganu explained that with an enlightened or educated society and the country’s total fertility rate, there was no way the country’s population census was going to match the previous growth rates.
“The results of the census make sense and is exactly what I expected. Our Total Fertility Rate ( the average number of children born to a woman) is now around 2.

This is what happens as society develops and educates its women. The enlightened women don’t want to bear many children, they want to work and earn a living, have free time, and give their few children good care. So, there is no under- counting. Census procedures are standard so that results are comparable between countries.

That is why the UN is involved through UNFPA, the UN Agency responsible for population matters,” said Maganu who is also the former adviser to the World Health Organisation. Maganu ruled out undercounting concerns, “I see a lot of Batswana are worried about the census results. Above is what I have always stated.”

Given the disadvantages that accompany low population for countries, some have suggested that perhaps a time has come for the government to consider population growth policies or incentives, suggestions Maganu deems ineffective.

“It has never worked anywhere. The number of children born to a woman are a very private decision of the woman and the husband in an enlightened society. And as I indicated, the more the women of a society get educated, the higher the tendency to have fewer children. All developed countries have a problem of zero population growth or even negative growth.

The replacement level is regarded as 2 children per woman; once the fertility level falls below that, then the population stops growing. That’s why developed countries are depending so much on immigration,” he said.

According to him, a lot of developing countries that are educating their women are heading there, including ourselves-Botswana. “Countries that have had a policy of encouraging women to have more children have failed dismally. A good example is some countries of Eastern Europe (Romania is a good example) that wanted to grow their populations by rewarding women who had more children. It didn’t work. The number of children is a very private matter,” said Maganu

For those who may be worried about the impact of problems associated with low growth rate, Maganu said: “The challenge is to develop society so that it can take care of its dependency ratio, the children and the aged. In developed countries the ratio of people over 60 years is now more than 20%, ours is still less than 10%.”

The preliminary results show that Mogoditshane with (88,098) is now the biggest village in the country with Maun coming second (85,293) and Molepolole at third position with 74,719. Population growth is associated with many economic advantages because more people leads to greater human capital, higher economic growth, economies of scale, the efficiency of higher population density and the improved demographic structure of society, among many others.

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