In one of the previous instalment our overall assessment of the local economy was that it was on auto pilot under Minister Kenneth Matambo. We further asserted that the Minister of Finance and Economic Development had surrendered the running and management of the public finances to the military section of the Office of the President. Our conclusion was informed by systematic neglect of basic laid-down financial prudence.
It was not uncommon for public funds to be exhausted soon after budget allocations approval by Parliament. Departments at both central and local government are frequently directed to return a portion of their budgets for re-allocation to cover the costs of the President’s pet projects. Wastage of public funds is in abundance under the current regime.
The 2018/2019 budget proposal is a clear demonstration that the current Minister of Finance and Economic Development may have been relevant and effective in the 1990s but he is certainly out of breath. The sooner he is relieved of duty the better. He has contributed in shaping the economic fundamentals for this country but it is time for him let go before he damages the little left of his reputation.
A younger visionary and more dynamic professional is needed to take financial management and economic development to another level. Otherwise the next Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) government might find itself working towards the establishment of basic financial systems instead of focusing on the implementation of alternative policies meant to improve the quality of life of our people.
In his 2017/2018 budget presentation Matambo warned departments against wastage resulting from financial mismanagement. He called for strong financial controls. However evidence is that his was mere talk with no real action against those who are in breach of the instruction. It was a political gimmick that was not enforceable given the fact that the highest office in the land was the leading culprits in relation to misuse of public resources. As we speak government is spending millions pula over the President’s farewell tour that is not worth the value of all the gifts collected.
The recent revelation concerning National Petroleum Fund (NPF) has exposed the failing financial controls in government. Money budgeted for the construction of strategic fuel reserve was easily diverted to purchase anti-poaching equipment for Directorate of Intelligence Security Service (DIS). The Ministry of Finance appeared helpless in the mist of flagrant abuse of public funds. They seem to have lost control over public finance.
The budget proposals presented to Parliament on Monday was stale news. The only difference from previous budgets was a smaller word count. Otherwise it was the same in terms of lack of specifics and measurable targets. More than fifty years after the country attained independence and a wealth of relatively good quality national statistics it is unpardonable for government to promise employment opportunities without setting clear targets and timelines for jobs to be delivered.
Many authorities strongly believe that Botswana is well resourced to attain full employment. In some countries full employment is defined as four per cent unemployment. Former Cabinet Minister and successful businessman Rre David Magang is one of a few national leaders associated with the ruling party who think full employment is possible in Botswana. Duma Boko the Leader of the Opposition and President of UDC recently announced an ambitious commitment to create 100 000 jobs within the first 12 months of the UDC government in 2019. In his budget presentation Matambo could not counter the opposition set target, a move that suggests admission that it is an attainable target.
Since the ruling party campaigned on a job creation ticket Batswana expect every budget to demonstrate commitment to their election pledge. Surprisingly upon being elected into power the ruling party spoke in tongues. Instead of implementing an ambitious job creation strategy the ruling party argues that job creation is not government responsibility. According to government officials the role of government is to create favourable environment that allows the private sector to generate wealth and create jobs. A business friendly environment is expected to attract direct foreign investment.
These include removing unnecessary bottlenecks such as reduction of time it takes to register a company, opening of bank accounts, processing work and residence permits. That government is there to build social, physical and communications infrastructure. Under the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) job creation is everybody’s concern but nobody else responsibility. It’s a pathetic state of affairs.
Interestingly government has constructed a relatively good social and physical infrastructure. However, this has not translated into the emergence of a private sector that has the capacity to generate wealth and create jobs as anticipated. The main reason is that provision of social and physical infrastructure is a necessary but not sufficient requirement for economic development.
The fact of the matter is that government has adopted an economic model that is driven by profit. Unfortunately job creation is not in the profit making equation. Private business is there to maximise profit through exploitation of the working class. Brothers Malema a decorated professor of economics with the University of Botswana asserts that since government controls massive wealth, it is deceptive to then expect a private sector that is at its infancy to lead the job creation crusade and to cope with the ever rising unemployment levels. It is only through government intervention that permanent and decent jobs can be created. The Chinese model is there for all to draw a leaf from.
When it comes to job creation government has abdicated its responsibility. They continue to follow an economic model that has dismally failed to create sufficient jobs despite abundance of natural resources. For this reason government finds nothing wrong in allocating billions of pula to purchase sophisticated military equipment in the form of Swedish Gripen Fighter jets.
Sadly not a single part of the aircraft will be manufactured or assembled in Botswana to create the much needed employment opportunities. We have a government that sees nothing wrong in exporting unprocessed salt and cattle by-products. This is what Botswana Congress Party (BCP) calls job exportation.
A budget cannot be given a thumb-up on the basis of the amount allocated to specific ministries but should be assessed on the basis of service delivery. Any excitement based on the proportion of budget allocation is misplaced. For example Botswana is well known for a relatively high percentage of the national budget allocated to the Ministry of Health and Wellness yet health care delivery has deteriorated in recent years. The same is true in respect of budgetary allocations to the Ministry of Education.
Another fallacy is to glorify economic growth as if it is a panacea to economic development and job creation. In the past Botswana experienced one of the highest levels of economic growth. During the same period income inequality was on the rise as well as joblessness. GDP growth and per capita income have long been discredited as good measures of economic development. Even friends of government such as Business Botswana describe the current budget proposals as unexciting. It is yet another stale budget that is uninspiring.
Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.
The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.
Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.
At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.
Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.
Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).
This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.
In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.
Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?
Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.
POSITIVITY Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.
“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)
We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”
Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.
Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be. You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”
Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.
When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.
Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.
However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.” “Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)
COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT
Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.
It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.
Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.
Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.
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.