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2018/2019, another stale budget by Minister Matambo

Kesitegile Gobotswang (PhD)
BCP Deputy Leader

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.

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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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