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Has Botswana’s economy prospered under Khama?

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

In a rather unconventional manner, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Honourable Kenneth Matambo, prefaced his budget proposals for the 2018/2019 financial year with praises for outgoing president, Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama.

Ordinarily, such praise, if befitting, would be appropriate for an outgoing president who has served his country for the period of time that president Khama has. But the question is: is such praise warranted? Put differently, has Botswana, under president Khama’s stewardship, made significant achievements in the economic development space as Matambo asserts? 

The first accolade that Hon. Matambo gives to president Khama is that under his leadership Botswana withstood the impact of the 2008/2009 global economic and financial crisis. According to Matambo, by maintaining an expansionary fiscal policy stance, the Government was able to save jobs, both within the public service and the private sector, while investing in critical economic and social infrastructure such as water, energy, roads, schools and health facilities.

That government was able to save jobs during the 2008/2009 global economic and financial crisis is true. The question is: were the jobs saved in a sustainable manner? Considering that less than a decade after thousands of Batswana lost jobs because of the closure of such companies as the BCL mine one may argue that the jobs were not saved in a sustainable manner.

In my view, Botswana did not, as a lesson from the 2008/2009 global economic and financial crisis, do enough in diversifying its economy. According to the 2017 Ibrahim Index of African Governance ( 2017 IIAG) Botswana scored only 1%, attaining position 48 in Africa in as far as diversification is concerned.

This does not seem to be in consonance with Matambo’s assertion that efforts to diversify the economy have yielded positive results during the past decade, to the extent that the share of the mining sector in the domestic output declined from 25% in 2008 to 20% in 2017, signifying a corresponding increase in the contribution of non-mining sectors over the same period.

Hon. Matambo further states that to ensure fiscal sustainability, the budget deficits, which emanated from the expansionary policy stance, were highly contained to the extent that instead of totaling P31.9 billion as originally projected over the entire NDP 10 period, the cumulative deficit was only P9.2 billion.

But, according to the 2017 IIAG, Botswana’s budget balance performance was average at 51.5%. Remarkably, however, Botswana excelled in budget management and fiscal policy where she scored 88.9% and 88.9% respectively. Is Matambo right in claiming that as a result of government’s expansionist policies during the 2008/2009 global economic and financial crisis it invested in such critical economic and social infrastructure as water, energy, roads, schools and health facilities?

I think not. Many villages in Botswana have, since time immemorial, been faced with acute water shortage. Lack of water has become the new normal in such arears as North East and Molepolole for instance. Our energy sources have not been diversified since we are still primarily reliant on coal generated electricity and still depend of South Africa for supply of a significant portion of our domestic electricity needs.

In as far as the construction of roads, schools and health facilities is concerned, however, government did reasonably well except that many projects were delayed with some left incomplete. Most of these projects were only completed in 2016/2017 under the Economic Stimulus Programme which, rather than funding programmes with the capacity to meaningfully stimulate the economy, became a project backlog eradication programme.     

According to Matambo, the adoption of the Economic Stimulus Programme in 2016/2017 aimed at boosting economic growth, promoting economic diversification and creating jobs amid weak recovery of both the global and domestic economy, was an example of forward looking and bold leadership by His Excellency the President.

Yet, according to the 2017 IIAG Botswana raked position 48 and scored a shocking 1% in diversification. She scored 65.9% and attained position 2 with respect to employment creation though unemployment remained high at 17.84% according to Goldman Sachs. That the rate of unemployment declined from 26.2 % in 2008 to 17.7 % in 2016 is not an achievement as Matambo argues, but a failure.   

Hon. Matambo’s assertion that president Khama’s achievements during the past decade were in the areas of economic diversification, and reducing unemployment can, therefore, not be correct. This notwithstanding, Matambo is right that Growth of the non-mining sectors also reflects private sector response to macroeconomic policy decisions such as the reduction in corporate tax in July 2011, from 25% to 22 %.

He is also right that over the same period, the minimum income tax threshold was increased from P24 000 to P36 000 specifically to allow for an increase in personal disposable income necessary to enhance wealth creation, savings and participation in economic activities. He is also correct in asserting that continued supportive monetary policy also resulted in the country’s average inflation rate declining from 12.6 percent in 2008 to reach a low of 3.3 percent in 2017.

Hon. Matambo also claims that one of president Khama’s achievements during the past decade is poverty reduction. He is right. According to the World Bank’s 2015 report, poverty in Botswana declined from 30.6% to 19.4% between 2002-2010, particularly in rural areas, due to increased labor and agriculture-related incomes and more opportunities for the poor.

This, according to the World Bank’s 2015 report, resulted in 180,000 people being lifted from poverty, 87% of which live in rural areas. This is an achievement worth celebrating. No wonder, according to Matambo, the survey results published by Statistics Botswana in January 2018 show that the proportion of people living below the poverty datum line has been declining over the years, from 19.3 % in 2009/2010 to 16.3 % in 2015/2016.

That in terms of abject poverty, that is, for those people earning below US$1.25 per day, the rate declined from 6.6% in 2009/2010 to 3.3 % in 2015/2016, or in a more relevant purchasing power terms of US$1.90 per day, to 5.8 % in the latter year is commendable. 

Matambo also notes as one of president Khama’s achievements the fact that in 2017 Botswana managed to maintain an “A investment grade” rating by both Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors rating agencies. His is right because, as he assets, these ratings are necessary for attracting foreign direct investment, which is a prerequisite for economic growth and job creation in the economy.

But the question is: have we leveraged from such ratings to attract foreign direct investment as a vehicle for economic growth and job creation? Looking at our high rate of unemployment one may conclude that we have not. One area which Hon. Matambo conveniently left out of president Khama’s score card is transparency of State-owned Companies in which Botswana scored an abysmal 25%. No wonder the demise of such state owned companies as BCL which left many Batswana unemployed.

So, on the whole, it would be an overstatement to claim that Botswana’s economy prospered under president Khama’s stewardship. What is, however, without doubt is the fact that the economy remained stable. The economy was so stable that Botswana, as observed by the World Bank’s Country Director for Botswana, Guang Zhe Chen, continued being one of the few countries in Africa that fully funds social protection programs out of its own resources, dedicating 4.4% of its GDP to social spending.

While other countries fund their social protection programs through sovereign debt, something which will burden future generations forever, others rely on their foreign investments, thereby depleting their balance sheets and further damaging their economic position.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

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.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

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”

UNDERSTANDING

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.”

COMMITMENT

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.

ACCEPTANCE

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.

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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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