ANOTHER LITERARY OFFERING: Former Cabinet Minister and Phakalane Estates proprietor David Magang has dispelled accolades heaped on Botswana as a prosperous nation, declaring it a failed nation which could have been far more successful.
Former Cabinet Minister and Phakalane Estates proprietor, David Magang has blown away accolades heaped on Botswana as a prosperous nation, declaring it a failed nation which could have been far more successful given its potential.
His unapologetic remarks were minted out in his latest book titled “Delusions of Grandeur” which was launched on Wednesday this week in a star studded attendance at luxurious Phakalane Golf Estate Hotel. Magang, who previously published a controversial autobiography, titled “The Magic of Perseverance” in 2008, contends that Botswana is not and has never been a prosperous country and its economic management acumen is overrated.
In his latest offering, Magang contends that, although Botswana steered clear of the Resource Curse, it did not escape the clutches of the Diamantine Curse and has not realized its full economic potential because the people entrusted with charting its economic destiny seem to suffer from delusion of grandeur.
Magang believes that the accolades that Botswana gets from various organizations are a little more than sheer statistical hype as they cannot be reflected in the standard of living of the people of Botswana. Magang said it is ironic that, Botswana has at times been ranked ahead of South Africa in terms of prosperity when the latter has significantly better remunerated workforce, better infrastructure and has consistently contributed more than six US dollar billionaires to the Forbes Rich List billionaires.
“We should be wary of numbers that imbue in us a mere psychological thrill when there is precious little of substance in the facts on the ground to lend credence to them,” he wrote.
The former Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources said in the book that nearly 50 years after independence Botswana’s economy remains predominantly monocultural as it still depends on diamonds and has suffered a complete economy diversification failure.
Magang noted that had another country, like Singapore or Taiwan had similar privileges as Botswana, they would have been a heaven-on-earth, “a paradise”.
“We have no manufacturing industry worthy the word, and we import upwards of 80 percent of our foodstuffs from South Africa,” he observed, “In fact so beholden are we to the South African economy we are effectively its neo-colony.”
Magang said Botswana has failed to an extent that Agriculture, which at independence was the mainstay of economy now only accounts for less than 3 percent of GDP. “The result is that we continue to import tomatoes and vegetables from Big Brother next door after 48 years of independence, ao, batho ba modimo!,” lamented Magang.
Magang said if indeed Botswana’s economic management was prudent, Batswana should not be without work as economic managers would have long beneficiated to churn out a whole galaxy of downstream industries that would have guaranteed full employment.
“Staggering poverty exists in what is supposed to be the El Dorado of Africa and public sector salaries remain frugally meager,” he wrote, “Worse still the salaries are so constricted they can stay unchanged for five whole years,” he added.
Magang holds that income disparities are obscene and one of the wildest in the world, something which the former Kweneng East Member of Parliament contended condemns other sections of society to poverty.
“The highest paid civil servant takes home P49 000 every month while the lowest paid get P1 400. Because the latter are virtually illiterate and are at maximum potential when they mop floors, vacuum clean carpets, scrub toilets, and brew tea, they are deserving only a throwaway of 35 times removed from that of the degree-wielding Permanent Secretary to the President,” he observed.
Magang said lack of empowerment for citizens and failure to have well remunerating jobs have seen Batswana resorting to cheap Chinese clothes and Fong Kong cars dumped into Botswana’s desperate economy by now fabulous and rich Chinese, Japanese and Singaporeans.
The Phakalane Estates Chairman said because government has failed to put in place a citizen empowered mechanism, government by the virtue of it being infinitely richer than its people remains by far the guarantor of everybody’s survival. “Players in the private sector largely, and overwhelmingly, thrive on government expenditure, without it they are doomed, period,” he asserted.
“Our infrastructure is certainly rickety, insubstantial, and unimposing particularly to the investor,” Magang asserted.
Magang also revealed that a sense of culture built over years has resulted in a sense of entitlement where citizens are given handouts instead of being empowered to take care of themselves. He observed that this has been coupled with politics of populism which do not in any way resolve the problems but only postpone them.
Magang concluded that Botswana has only managed to move from being one of the poorest countries in the world to the level of an upper-middle income country but did not prosper to a scale it potentially should have. He said Botswana became complacent and was not seriously galvanized to bring meaningful economic diversification. ‘Because diamonds are so plentiful and they generated such enormous rents, government kind of relaxed, it practically went to sleep,” he observed.
Magang is of the view that diamonds failed to create significant jobs and said Debswana which employs about 4500 people, a mere drop in an ocean for a company with over P7 billion of revenues. He further compared Botswana’s diamond industry to Zambia’s copper industry, which he said created employment for up to 35 000 people and has annual revenue of US$2billion.
The proprietor conceded with the IMF 1999 report that Botswana’s growth manifested largely in capital accumulation and not employment creation. “Certainly Botswana has not benefited from De Beers’ manipulative and monopolistic stranglehold on the world diamond market, but this profit fundamentally went to government not to an ordinary Motswana as such in direct sense, he argued.
According to Magang, De Beers is responsible for Botswana’s lack of economic prosperity as it has deliberately kept the government in the dark about diamonds and what it can do for its economy in terms of job creation through beneficiation. He went on to accuse De Beers of trying to convince the government of Botswana over the years that diamond beneficiation would not work in Botswana.
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