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Financing Developement

Jeff Ramsay

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.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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The Era of “The Diplomat”

30th November 2020

Youngest Maccabees scion Jonathan takes over after Judas and leads for 18 years

Going hand-in-glove with the politics at play in Judea in the countdown to the AD era, General Atiku, was the contention for the priesthood. You will be aware, General, that politics and religion among the Jews interlocked. If there wasn’t a formal and sovereign Jewish King, there of necessity had to be a High Priest at any given point in time.

Initially, every High Priest was from the tribe of Levi as per the stipulation of the Torah. At some stage, however, colonisers of Judah imposed their own hand-picked High Priests who were not ethnic Levites. One such High Priest was Menelaus of the tribe of Benjamin.

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Land Board appointments of party activists is political corruption

30th November 2020

Parliament has rejected a motion by Leader of Opposition (LOO) calling for the reversing of the recent appointments of ruling party activists to various Land Boards across the country. The motion also called for the appointment of young and qualified Batswana with tertiary education qualifications.

The ruling party could not allow that motion to be adopted for many reasons discussed below. Why did the LOO table this motion? Why was it negated? Why are Land Boards so important that a ruling party felt compelled to deploy its functionaries to the leadership and membership positions?

Prior to the motion, there was a LOO parliamentary question on these appointments. The Speaker threw a spanner in the works by ruling that availing a list of applicants to determine who qualified and who didn’t would violate the rights of those citizens. This has completely obliterated oversight attempts by Parliament on the matter.

How can parliament ascertain the veracity of the claim without the names of applicants? The opposition seeks to challenge this decision in court.  It would also be difficult in the future for Ministers and government officials to obey instructions by investigative Parliamentary Committees to summon evidence which include list of persons. It would be a bad precedent if the decision is not reviewed and set aside by the Business Advisory Committee or a Court of law.

Prior to independence, Dikgosi allocated land for residential and agricultural purposes. At independence, land tenures in Botswana became freehold, state land and tribal land. Before 1968, tribal land, which is land belonging to different tribes, dating back to pre-independence, was allocated and administered by Dikgosi under Customary Law. Dikgosi are currently merely ‘land overseers’, a responsibility that can be delegated. Land overseers assist the Land Boards by confirming the vacancy or availability for occupation of land applied for.

Post-independence, the country was managed through modern law and customary law, a system developed during colonialism. Land was allocated for agricultural purposes such as ploughing and grazing and most importantly for residential use. Over time some land was allocated for commercial purpose. In terms of the law, sinking of boreholes and development of wells was permitted and farmers had some rights over such developed water resources.

Land Boards were established under Section 3 of the Tribal Land Act of 1968 with the intention to improve tribal land administration. Whilst the law was enacted in 1968, Land Boards started operating around 1970 under the Ministry of Local Government and Lands which was renamed Ministry of Lands and Housing (MLH) in 1999. These statutory bodies were a mechanism to also prune the powers of Dikgosi over tribal land. Currently, land issues fall under the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services.

There are 12 Main Land Boards, namely Ngwato, Kgatleng, Tlokweng, Tati, Chobe, Tawana, Malete, Rolong, Ghanzi, Kgalagadi, Kweneng and Ngwaketse Land Boards.  The Tribal Land Act of 1968 as amended in 1994 provides that the Land Boards have the powers to rescind the grant of any rights to use any land, impose restrictions on land usage and facilitate any transfer or change of use of land.

Some land administration powers have been decentralized to sub land boards. The devolved powers include inter alia common law and customary law water rights and land applications, mining, evictions and dispute resolution. However, decisions can be appealed to the land board or to the Minister who is at the apex.

So, land boards are very powerful entities in the country’s local government system. Membership to these institutions is important not only because of monetary benefits of allowances but also the power of these bodies. in terms of the law, candidates for appointment to Land Boards or Subs should be residents of the tribal areas where appointments are sought, be holders of at least Junior Certificate and not actively involved in politics.  The LOO contended that ruling party activists have been appointed in the recent appointments.

He argued that worse, some had no minimum qualifications required by the law and that some are not inhabitants of the tribal or sub tribal areas where they have been appointed. It was also pointed that some people appointed are septuagenarians and that younger qualified Batswana with degrees have been rejected.

Other arguments raised by the opposition in general were that the development was not unusual. That the ruling party is used to politically motivated appointments in parastatals, civil service, diplomatic missions, specially elected councilors and Members of Parliament (MPs), Bogosi and Land Boards. Usually these positions are distributed as patronage to activists in return for their support and loyalty to the political leadership and the party.

The ruling party contended that when the Minister or the Ministry intervened and ultimately appointed the Land Boards Chairpersons, Deputies and members , he didn’t have information, as this was not information required in the application, on who was politically active and for that reason he could not have known who to not appoint on that basis. They also argued that opposition activists have been appointed to positions in the government.

The counter argument was that there was a reason for the legal requirement of exclusion of political activists and that the government ought to have mechanisms to detect those. The whole argument of “‘we didn’t know who was politically active” was frivolous. The fact is that ruling party activists have been appointed. The opposition also argued that erstwhile activists from their ranks have been recruited through positions and that a few who are serving in public offices have either been bought or hold insignificant positions which they qualified for anyway.

Whilst people should not be excluded from public positions because of their political activism, the ruling party cannot hide the fact that they have used public positions to reward activists. Exclusion of political activists may be a violation of fundamental human or constitutional rights. But, the packing of Land Boards with the ruling party activists is clear political corruption. It seeks to sow divisions in communities and administer land in a politically biased manner.

It should be expected that the ruling party officials applying for land or change of land usage etcetera will be greatly assisted. Since land is wealth, the ruling party seeks to secure resources for its members and leaders. The appointments served to reward 2019 election primary and general elections losers and other activists who have shown loyalty to the leadership and the party.

Running a country like this has divided it in a way that may be difficult to undo. The next government may decide to reset the whole system by replacing many of government agencies leadership and management in a way that is political. In fact, it would be compelled to do so to cleanse the system.

The opposition is also pondering on approaching the courts for review of the decision to appoint party functionaries and the general violation of clearly stated terms of reference. If this can be established with evidence, the courts can set aside the decision on the basis that unqualified people have been appointed.

The political activism aspect may also not be difficult to prove as some of these people are known activists who are in party structures, at least at the time of appointment, and some were recently candidates. There is a needed for civil society organizations such as trade unions and political parties to fight some of these decisions through peaceful protests and courts.

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