With Valentine's Day upon us one might have been tempted to write about matters closer to one's heart but, as promised last week, we shall rather stick to the admittedly dry topic Government's budget proposals for the coming, 2015-16, financial year.
As was previously observed with nearly P50 billion at stake in proposed recurrent and development expenditure (with an additional P7.9 billion in mandated statutory expenses) the ongoing budget debate should be understood as much ado about key policy choices as well as a whole lot of money.
In light of the above, one was frankly surprised that Parliament's debate on the Minister of Finance and Development Planning's Budget speech proved to be so brief, with only six members having reportedly risen to give their views. One is left to conclude that the strength of the Minister's presentation had simply left others either satisfied or speechless. This author has, at any rate, yet to hear or read a better explanation for the shortened schedule.
Further evidence of broad satisfaction with Government's financial figures may be further discerned in the content and tone of this past week's contributions by MPs on specific line Ministry allocations as outlined by the Committee of Supply speeches presented so far, which notably included those falling under the Ministry of State Presidency.
While as one would expect there has been criticism of public service performance and programme delivery, there has heretofore been something of a general consensus around Government key priorities, including its development initiatives.
In last week's focus on the proposed recurrent expenditure of P36.7 billion it was here noted that, in addition to public service salaries and emoluments, the largest allocations are to be found (in descending order) in the areas of education, health, social welfare and domestic security.
Such a people centred approach, focused human development and social wellbeing, is further reflected in the P12.93 billion in spending contained in the proposed development budget. But, given current our nation's current challenges and opportunities the pattern of distribution to the various line ministries is rather different.
The largest share of the development budget at P3.32 billion or 25.7% would be allocated to the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources (MMEWR), primarily to address the water and power issues facing the country by continuing to invest in needed infrastructure.
Major projects to be funded thus include: North-South Water Carrier II at P500 million, the Kanye and Molepolole connection to the North-South Water Carrier at P150 million; Mahalapye and Palapye Water Network extension at P100 million and Maun Water and Sanitation at P89 million.
Additional projects aimed at improving the power situation include: P 100 million for Morupule A refurbishment; another P100 million for village electrification; P 50 million for the North West Power Transmission Grid; P 50 million for the Rakola Power Substation and P35 million for the ZIZABONA (Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia) regional power project.
One would be remiss if one failed to further note that the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) would also be allocated P1.5 billion to cover Government's continued commitment to tariff subsidies for domestic consumers, as well as additional operational expenses that have, of course, have been aggravated by the problems of bringing the Morupule B Power Station fully online.
Another P150 million would be allocated for construction of an Oil Storage facility at Tshele Hills to further secure our national energy needs.
The second largest share of the development budget, at P1.62 billion would go to the Ministry of Transport and Communications. This expenditure is primarily earmarked for such major projects as the upgrading of existing ICT infrastructure, at a total cost of some P300 million, the construction of Kazungula, Thamalakane and Mohembo bridges at P280 million; upgrading of Kasane, Maun and Sir Seretse Khama airports at P265 million and the maintenance and upgrading of existing roads totalling P320 million.
The Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security would get P1.32 billion to improve the operational capacity of the BDF and Police as well as, to a lesser extent, cater for need of Judiciary and Prisons.
It is further anticipated that Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development will get P1.2 billion towards the funding of such initiatives as the Ipelegeng Programme at P635.6 million, Primary School upgrading at P341.2 million and additional village Infrastructure at P151.4 million.
The Ministry of Agriculture would receive P1.1 billion, primarily for the implementation of ISPAAD and LIMID, at P730 million, the Zambezi Water Development, at P200 million, and Pandamatenga Infrastructure Development Project at P100million.
The sixth largest share of the development budget amounting to P1.04 billion would go to Ministry of State President to finance the HIV/AIDS Programme at P194.8 million, Poverty Eradication initiatives at P160 million, e-Government at P150 million and Digital Migration at P130 million.
The development budget balance of P3.33 billion would be shared by the remaining Ministries and Departments for such additional priorities as land servicing, housing schemes, additional school construction and staff housing for teachers and nurses, as well as additional maintenance.
In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.
It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.
… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan
With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.
Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.
If I say the word ‘robot’ to you, I can guess what would immediately spring to mind – a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and tv shows. Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name, Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama, Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…
Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator, Box in Logan’s Run, Police robots in Elysium and Otomo in Robocop.
And that’s to name but a few. As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves. And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of robotics in the workplace.
ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.
A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles. It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.
DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.
AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,
AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.
INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour
These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.
This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count! For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars. It’s a theory, at any rate.
Already,customers at the South-Korean fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic. The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners. Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.
‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP.
Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions.
Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders. Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.
These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.
And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth. Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.
But there may be more redundancies on the way as well. Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable? So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid? Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!