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Phone Cold

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

I wonder how many of you have ever seen or heard of a Teasmade?  For those to whom the name is new, let me explain. 

A Teasmade is a machine designed to sit on a bedside table and comprises a hot water urn, teapot and small tray large enough for 2 tea cups and saucers, milk jug and sugar bowl, in conjunction with an alarm clock.  Its function was simple – the user set the alarm and at the given time, the alarm went off and the urn began to boil water, thus enabling the owners to make their morning cup of tea without getting out of bed.

First patented in 1932 by an Englishman named George Absolom, who called it a Teesmade, it was later copied by electrical appliance manufacturers Goblin and Swann and soon became popular in households all over Britain.  Though its popularity peaked between the 1950s and 1970s, teasmade devices can still be purchased today and only the shape has changed to appeal to changing décor and style tastes.

You might wonder why I’m telling you this and really it is only to point out the addiction many people had, and still have, to their morning cup of tea.  For many back in the day, it would have brewed  round about the same time that the newspaper boy dropped the paper through the household letter box, and thus a catch-up on news and events could accompany the enjoyment of the refreshing wake-up beverage, though equally popular would have been switching on the radio and catching the news that way. 

It took almost half a century for the radio to be replaced with television news in the UK, which was a long way behind the USA, for example, in extending television broadcasting times but paper, radio and goggle box are all extensions of the same spectrum – means by which we receive vital news reports; and the teasmade simply made the experience more refreshing. But the world turns and things change and where once we reached for the on-button on the radio or television set first thing in the morning, that’s not the first thing we do now, is it?  Sure, we still reach for a set but these days it’s far more likely to be a handset – our mobile smartphone and the device of choice for news dissemination for an increasing number of people, especially young people.

If that were all we checked up on, there probably wouldn’t be a problem but of course it’s not.  In fact for most of those young people, they’re not looking at local or world news at all but immediately on opening their eyes they are simultaneously opening up their social media accounts, checking on family and friends and sorting out their social calendar to the extent that this now constitutes a serious addiction and a condition called ‘nomophobia’, should this habit be interrupted for any reason.

Just like the teasmade, that word is probably new to you so let me explain. Nomophobia, otherwise known as smartphone separation anxiety, is a medical condition comparable to the sort of nervous state that triggers a panic attack, this one arising from any form of enforced separation from your smartphone, even just a run-down battery or poor internet reception.  It develops out of a sub-conscious belief now that the smartphones is an extension of our selves.   A new study that compares how people with high and low nomophobic tendencies perceive and value their smartphones is published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

The article, wordily entitled "Understanding Nomophobia: Structural Equation Modeling and Semantic Network Analysis of Smartphone Separation Anxiety" was co-authored by Seunghee Han and Jang Hyun Kim, PhD, Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, Republic of Korea and Ki Joon Kim, PhD, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon. The researchers developed a model that identified a link between factors such as personal memories and user's greater attachment to their smartphones, leading to nomophobia and a tendency to phone proximity-seeking behaviour. "Nomophobia, fear of missing out (FoMo), and fear of being offline (Foo)—all anxieties born of our new high-tech lifestyles—may be treated similarly to other more traditional phobias. “

Dr.  Kim is concerned that nomophobia could become even stronger in the future as technology becomes increasingly personalised – and warns people not to become too dependent on their smartphones. “Recent smartphone and app development seems to inevitably increase users’ attachment, as the technology and related services become increasingly personalized and customizable.  This suggests that users should be conscious not to become overly dependent on smartphones while benefitting from the smartness of the technology.  Google’s photo service – which curates the user’s daily life by automatically classifying their image files and generating collages and animations from them – is a good example of this kind of tailored technology.

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The main reason for this is the key role our smartphones play in our overall identity by recording numerous memories that act as an extension of ourselves.  Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter provide constant streams of photographs and comments from friends, relatives and heroes which, in turn, the way they remember them and being without a smartphone means you act as a vast and powerful scrapbook of our lives.  For many people, posting about their actions on social media has become a key part of their experience of an event and can’t be posting about your current activities. 

On a very real level, they feel that if they can’t post, they don’t exist on any meaningful level – for young people this is akin to cutting off a limb or being locked in a signal-less cell.  They feel isolated and excluded and can suffer severe withdrawal anxiety, comparable to that of an addict enduring forced cold turkey treatment.  Nonetheless, psychologists and doctors recommend treating sufferers with exposure therapy, in this case turning off technology periodically, to teach individuals to reduce anxiety and become comfortable with periods of disconnectedness.

It’s all a far cry from starting the day with a cuppa and copy of the local paper, though many of us can get extremely irritable, not to mention jumpy, if we don’t get our caffeine fix in good time.  So if you suspect that you or someone you know might be  nomophonic, do yourself or them  a favour – turn off the phone, turn on the kettle and pour out the cup that cheers and ignore the troll that jeers.


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Economic Resurgence Options: Is Export-Led Growth Tenable For Botswana?

22nd September 2020

The world in which we live is a criminally unequal one. In his iconic 1945 allegorical novella,  Animal Farm, a satire on the facetiousness  of the then Soviet Empire’s crackbrained experiment with a command economy, the legendary George Orwell in my view hit the nail squarely on the head when he said all animals were equal but some animals were more equal than others.

That’s the never-ending dichotomy of the so-called First World and its polar opposite, the so-called Third World as Orwell’s cleverly-couched diatribe applies as much to the tread-of-the-mill laissez faire economics of our day as it did to Marxist-Leninist Russia a generation back.

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Victory is Won

22nd September 2020

Israelites take Canaan under General Joshua

Even as the Nation of Israeli braced to militarily take possession of the Promised Land, General, its top three senior citizens, namely Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, were not destined to share in this god-conferred bequest. All three died before the lottery was won.

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Finance Bills: What are they about?

22nd September 2020

Financial Reporting (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and Accountants (Amendment) Bill, 2020 were expeditiously passed by parliament on Thursday.

What are these two Bills really about?  The Bills are essentially about professional values that are applicable to auditors and accountants in their practice. The Bills seeks to basically enhance existing laws to ensure more uprightness, fairness, professional proficiency, due care, expertise and or professional technical standards.

The Financial Reporting Act, 2010 (FRA) establishes the Botswana Accountancy Oversight Authority (BAOA), as the country’s independent regulator of the accounting and auditing profession. BAOA is responsible for the oversight and registration of audit firms and certified auditors of public interest entities.

In the same vein, there is the Accountants Act, 2010 establishing the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) which is responsible for the registration and regulation of the accounting and auditing profession. This consequently infers that some auditors have to register first with BICA as certified auditors, and also with BAOA as certified auditors of public bodies. So, the Bills sought to avert the duplication.

According to Minister Matsheka, the duplication of efforts in the regulation of auditors, which is done by both BICA and BAOA, creates a substantial gap on oversight of certified auditors in Botswana, as the two entities have different review procedures. He contends that the enforcement of sanctions becomes problematic and, thus, leads to offenders going Scot-Free, and audit quality standards also continue to plunge.

The Financial Reporting (Amendment) Bill, 2020, in the view of the Minister, brings the oversight and regulation of all auditors in Botswana under the jurisdiction of the Accountancy Oversight Authority and that Bringing all auditors within one roof, under the supervision of BAOA would therefore reinforce their oversight and significantly enhance accountability.

He also pointed that the Bill broadens the current mandate of the Authority by redefining public interest entities to include public bodies, defined as boards, tribunals, commissions, councils, committees, other body corporate or unincorporated established under any enactment.

This covers any company in which government has an equity shareholding. In order to enable the process of instituting fitting sanctions against violation of its provisions, the Bill clearly lays down acts and lapses that constitute professional misconduct.

This Bill further strengthens the sanctions for breach of the Act by public interest entities, officers, firms, and certified auditors. Reinforcing the law with respect to such sanctions will act as an effective deterrent for breach of the Act.

The Accountants Bill also strengthens the current mandate of the Institute by making it obligatory for those who provide accountancy services in Botswana to register with the Institute, and for all employers to hire accountants who are registered with the Institute.

The Minister reasons that in line with the spirit of citizen empowerment, this Bill proposes reservation of at least 50% of the Council membership for citizens. This, he says, is to empower citizens and ensure that citizenries play an active role in the affairs of the Institute, and ultimately in the development of the accounting profession in Botswana.

The Bills come at a point when Botswana’s financial sector is in a quagmire. The country has been blacklisted by the European Union. Its international rankings on Corruption Perception Index have slightly reduced.  According to recent reports by Afro Barometer survey, perceptions of corruption in the public service have soured and so is mistrust in public institutions.

Rating agencies, Standard Poor’s and Moody’s have downgraded Botswana, albeit slightly. The reasons are that there continues to be corruption, fiscal and revenue crimes such as money laundering and general unethical governance in the country. There are still loopholes in many laws despite the enactments and amendments of more than thirty laws in the last two years.

One of the most critical aspect of enhancing transparency and accountability and general good governance, is to have a strong auditing and accounting systems. Therefore, such professions must be properly regulated to ensure that public monies are protected against white color crime. It is well known that some audit firms are highly unprincipled.

They are responsible for tax avoidance and tax evasions of some major companies. Some are responsible for fraud that has been committed. They are more loyal to money paid by clients than to ethical professional standards. They shield clients against accountability. Some companies and parastatals have collapsed or have been ruined financially despite complementary reports by auditors.

In some cases, we have seen audit firms auditing parastatals several times to almost becoming resident auditors. This is bad practice which is undesirable. Some auditors who were appointed liquidators of big companies have committee heinous crimes of corruption, imprudent management, fraud and outright recklessness without serious consequences.

There is also a need to protect whistleblowers as they have been victimized for blowing the whistle on impropriety. In fact, in some cases, audit firms have exonerated culprits who are usually corrupt corporate executives.

The accounting and auditing professions have been dominated by foreigners for a very long time. Most major auditing firms used by state entities and big private sector companies are owned by foreigners. There has to be a deliberate plan to have Batswana in this profession.

While there are many Batswana who are accountants, less are chartered accountants. There must be deliberate steps to wrestle the profession from foreigners by making citizens to be chartered.  It is also important to strengthen the Auditor General. The office is created by the constitution.

The security of tenure is clearly secured in the constitution. However, this security of tenure was undermined by the appointing authority in many instances whereby the Auditor General was appointed on a short-term contract. The office is part of the civil service and is not independent at all.

The Auditor General is placed, in terms of scale, at Permanent Secretary level and is looked at as a peer by others who think they can’t be instructed by their equivalent to comply. Some have failed to submit books of accounts for audits, e.g. for special funds without fear or respect of the office. There is need to relook this office by making it more independent and place it higher than Permanent Secretaries.

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