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Finance On Autopilot Under Matambo

Kesitegile Gobotswang (PhD)

BCP Deputy Leader


Recently Sonny Serite, one of the leading critics of the Khama Administration described Kenneth Matambo the Minister of Finance and Economic Development (MFED) as intelligent and highly qualified for the job. He attributed the Minister’s shortcomings to the fact that he was serving under a dumb regime. 

It is true that the gentleman possesses the necessary qualifications and experience to manage a modern economy. As an economist he worked for the World Bank (WB) before he became the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP). Upon retirement he became the Managing Director of Botswana Development Corporation (BDC), a fully government owned investment entity.


Indications are that the Botswana economy is on a downward spiral as it shed more jobs than it created. In our view the reason why the economy is faltering has nothing to do with the capabilities of the Minister. It has a lot to do with the fact that the Minister is highly compromised to stand his ground against the spending spree by the Khama brothers – President Seretse Khama Ian Khama and his brother Tshekedi Khama who is the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism. Public funds and assets are being used as if they are part of the Khama estate under the watchful eye of the Minister.


We should recall that while he was Minister of Finance and Development Planning the gentleman was investigated by the Directorate Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and later faced corruption charges. Motivated by zero conviction rate of high profile cases by the DCEC the President allowed him to remain in his position while facing the charges. 

 

In a proper functioning democracy the minister would have been relieved of his responsibilities at least during the course of his trial. In fact that is what normally happens when public servants are interdicted. It is an accepted international practice that is applied not because the accused person is guilty but to allow him to clear his name and protect the integrity of the institution they lead.

 

The decision to keep him on duty led to an untidy situation where he was an accused person in the morning and honourable minister in the afternoon. In the end the court cleared him of any wrong doing, a move that raised questions about the possible interference of the Executive on the Judiciary. The name of the Minister later cropped up in an uncomplimentary manner in a report by a Parliamentary Special Select Committee of Enquiry into the BDC’s Palapye Fengyue Glass Project. The project that cost the taxpayer P500 million came to nothing and is currently being sold for a song. Unfortunately the findings of the report were set aside by High Court Judge Key Dingake on account of lack of natural justice after the Minister had approached the court.


We would argue here that it was in the interest of the Khama brothers to have the Minister as the political head of the strategic MFED because they knew that he was wounded and weakened. The Palapye Glass Project would remain a dark cloud over his head since the courts did not clear him of any wrong doing.  


The MFED is virtually captured by the Office of the President (OP) that has been given an open cheque. The most powerful ministry has since been rendered ineffective as the well acclaimed financial prudence becomes a thing of the past. Billions of pula is spent on unsustainable programs such as Ipelegeeng, ISPAAD, Boot Camps, and Constituency League. By the end of NDP 11 government would have spent P22 billion on second hand jet fighters while the conditions of service of the officers remain deplorable.


The recent outburst by the Minster of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism is quite revealing. When he was summoned to account for poor governance at Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO) and wasteful expenditure he complained that he was unfairly targeted for political reasons. In his view there were Ministers who were performing worse than him yet nobody talked about them. This is just a glimpse of the extent to which the current government is rotten to the core. Reports that payments for temporary teachers/teacher aides are delayed because government does not have sufficient funds are shocking but not surprising.


At the current level of wasteful expenditure it was always going to catch up with us. Today public schools go without sufficient funds to purchase text and exercise books as well as food. Yet the ill-conceived President’s pet projects like Boot Camps turned into “Feedlots” are well funded. Boot Camp “detainees” have daily feasts to supress complaints of abuse by their military handlers and in some instances DISS agents. Money allocated to sponsor tertiary students is illegally diverted to fund personal tastes of the Khama brothers on their joyride schemes.

 

The very existence of the University of Botswana is under threat as P600 million earmarked for tuition and allowances for University of Botswana students cannot be accounted for. It is a system that is open to abuse and embezzlement of public funds.  Soon the Minister will be heading back to Parliament to request billions of pula as supplementary budget.


Recently when asked about the levies in terms of how they are collected and managed the Minister claimed ignorance about the existence of the Tourism Levy Fund and could not fully account for Disaster Fund and Alcohol Levy.  Ministries introduce levies without the approval of the MFED contrary to Public Finance Management Act. Levy funds are open to abuse as it was evident in respect of the controversy around the opening of the Dubai Tourism Office by Minister Tshekedi Khama without the consent of the Permanent Secretary as the Accounting Officer.


Matambo may go down in history as a Finance Minister who let the country down in times of need. Botswana deserves institutions like Thuli Madonsela and Pravan Gordhan to reign in the Khama brothers before they bankrupt the country. The country needs men and women with a back bone.
 

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

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.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020
Samson

… 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.

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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

23rd September 2020

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”!

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