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Job creation and unemployment conundrum: crisis or not?

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has this week reiterated that it is not the responsibility of government to create jobs amid unprecedented rising levels of unemployment, following the release of the latest unemployment figures by Statistics Botswana.

About 200 000 Batswana are actively seeking employment while 68 000 have given up on getting a job, according to Statistics Botswana, who this week released results of a first of its kind Quarterly Multi-Topic Survey on Labour Force. While it has been a trend to see unemployment decreasing, this time the percentage took a backflip, increased, producing a likely worrisome trend due to possible grievous consequences to the economy.

“It is never a good indicator when you are regressing. If you see a situation where unemployment numbers are increasing, it can never be a good indicator. It is not a movement in a right direction,” First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) Chief Economist Moatlhodi Sebabole told WeekendPost on Wednesday. “It is a challenge to the economy because people are economic agents. When people are unable to find jobs; and their salaries are stagnant, and there are no new entrants in the job market and there is no new generation of income, it has ripple effects in the economy.”

Moatlhodi, who also chairs the National Transformation Strategy, said unemployment means that the private sector, which has to create job opportunities is unable to do so, which may be due to various reasons such as demand and opportunities.“It is not [unemployment] a crisis but it is increasing the pressure that people feel, [that] the economy feels, and definitely [that] the entire country feels. The multiplying effect of it has got the implication on the day-to-day standards of living,” Moatlhodi said.

“It can go on to impact government because whereas government should be focusing on capital investment, there could be consideration to spend more on social welfare for those who are affected. It could [also] balloon the social expenditure.” Masisi, who inherited an ailing economy from his predecessor, Lt Gen Ian Khama, has been styled as “Jobs President” following his ascendance to the throne. Incidentally, the mandate of job creation was within Masisi’s orbit as Vice President a few years ago.

While Masisi has promised to create jobs, and has travelled the world in a bid to lure investors to set-up businesses in Botswana, his statements relating to job creation, continue to betray his probable ambition. Masisi has continuously indicated that there is “no need to set targets on number of jobs to be created under his government”, as well as asserting that government’s role in job creation is peripheral, while the bulk of it remains with the private sector.

This week, Masisi when addressing the media following his return from Davos summit in Switzerland, said his government’s responsibly is “to create enabling environment” hoping that the private sector will then strive under such circumstances and create jobs. The vagueness relating to “creating enabling environment” is that, it is never pronounced. Creating enabling environment, under strict terms, essentially means taking care of all the necessary requirement for a competitive economy, which includes, but not limited to investing in infrastructure i.e. roads, power, internet, telecommunication and others.

 This also means repealing laws that are anti-business, such as monopolies, permits and other laws are barriers to entry in business. Botswana has been declining in rankings as far as the competitiveness of its economy is concerned.  For instance, in 2019, Global Competitiveness Report ranked Botswana 90th most competitive economy out of 140 countries, far much worse off than it ranked in 2009, where it was number 56 in the world.

In the same year, Doing Business Report, said Botswana is ranked 86 out of 190 countries far much worse than it did in 2006, when it was ranked 40th in the world. Botswana has fared poorly in pillars such as infrastructure, ICT adoption, and innovation capability, an indication that Masisi has more work to do, before he can confidently say, “he has created an enabling environment.”

 In 2017, Head of South African Development Community (SADC) Public Private Partnership (PPP) Network, Kogan Pillay warned that Botswana and Africa will go into recession in the next 10 years if the country does not adequately invest in its infrastructural needs. Pillay, who has vast experience in the implementation of PPPs and has previously worked for the South African government, is of the view that Africa’s big investors will shun the continent because of lack of infrastructure necessary for doing business.

“World Bank has warned about this happening,” he said at a workshop organised by Ministry of Finance and Economic Management. “Africa would not attract FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) because nobody would want to do business in a country which does not have infrastructure. It makes doing business difficult,” Pillay stated. According to Pillay, Africa needs US$ 90 billion to fund its infrastructural needs but it only has US$45 million availed for such.

It is believed that Botswana’s infrastructural needs can be resolved by developing an effective PPPs framework. Pillay believes that Botswana is not ready for PPPs until it develops a legal frame work which will guide investment and implementation of PPPs. “What Botswana has now is a policy, but you need to put it into law like other countries including South Africa,” he said. Pillay said PPPs are long term concessions to the private sector and should be done in a prudent manner to avoid forcing the country into bad commitment.

Government has however been reluctant to either pursue PPPs, or borrow from the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF), as advised by experts, to finance its infrastructural deficiency. In view of the realities on the ground, Masisi’s claim for enabling environment will prove to be more difficult than the creation of jobs itself because it needs financing as well as time to take shape.

This is so because, in order for business or the private sector to thrive, it will depend on the agility of government in investing in infrastructure. Botswana, like any other country faces infrastructure financing gap, which then provides a challenge for Masisi to meet his obligations.

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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.

Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021
LAWRENCE-OOKEDITSE

Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.

Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.

Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”

“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.

He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.

He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.

According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.

There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.

Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.

“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication.
The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.

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