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One ‘flu over the cuckoo’s nest

STUART WHITE
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE

On the news this week was a report that  sales of Jaguar cars in the UK had been halted due to a shortage of key fobs.  Yes, you did read that right!  To alleviate the problem, the report went on, senior staff from the company were flying to China and bringing back stocks of the  items in their suitcases. 

The company is also expected to run out of other essential parts (I had to resist the urge to write ‘key components’!) in its UK factories within two weeks. In addition  JCB has cut working hours and suspended overtime for its  4,000 UK employees after the corona virus outbreak prompted a shortage in parts coming from China.  Factory workers will work a 34-hour week until the disruption ends, although they will still be paid for a 39-hour week and will work them back later in the year. 

Explaining the move, JCB’s chief operating officer, Mark Turner, said: “More than 25% of JCB’s suppliers in China remain closed and those that have reopened are working at reduced capacity and are struggling to make shipments.  It is therefore clear that the inbound supply of certain components from Chinese partners will be disrupted in the coming weeks as they seek to replenish their stocks.” The World Economic Forum issued these statistics on the current and potential knock-on effects of the virus, now renamed Cobid 19

‘Apple’s manufacturing partner in China, Foxconn, is facing a production delay. Some carmakers including Nissan and Hyundai temporarily closed factories outside China because they couldn’t get parts. The pharmaceutical industry is also bracing for disruption to global production.

Many trade shows and sporting events in China and across Asia have been cancelled or postponed. The travel and tourism industries were hit early on by economic disruption from the outbreak as well as global airline revenues. A total of 24 airlines have so far cancelled flights in and out of China, including  British Airways, Air France, and Dutch airline KLM, which axed flights through much of March. In the US, American Airlines and Delta halted flights until the end of April, as did the Spanish carrier Iberia. 

Asian and Middle Eastern airlines were also heavily affected. Emirates and Etihad are among at least 16 to scrap some routes to China. The worst effects  are, of course,  being felt in China itself with thousands of businesses – shops, offices and factories- closed or  on short  time. The boss of China’s biggest listed company, the online sales platform,. Alibaba, described the corona virus outbreak as a “black swan” event that could have a significant economic impact.  CEO Daniel Zhang  said the outbreak would present significant near-term challenges for Alibaba, with many of the merchants who use its facility unable to return to work.

French spirits maker Pernod Ricard said profit growth would be slower than previously expected for the year to 30 June.  “Nightclubs and bars are all closed in China ,and those bars and restaurants that are not closed are empty,” said Alexandre Ricard, the founding family scion who serves as chief executive, according to Reuters.

Ralph Lauren, the US fashion brand, said the outbreak would cost it between $55m and $70m in lost sales. Two-thirds of its stores on the Chinese mainland had been closed for the past week.  Disruption to the company’s supply chain could have a knock-on impact on orders around the world in the first three months of the year, it said.

The EU said the virus was “a source of mounting concern” and a key downside risk to global growth.  The downgraded expectations, particularly for the fast-growing Chinese economy, have dented oil prices.  And according to the IEA  (International Energy Association) “There is already a major slowdown in oil consumption and the wider economy in Chin.,”

Clearly what began as outbreak of a new ‘flu virus has catapulted itself into a major global problem in just a few short weeks.    Much of this slowdown can be attributed to a combination of 2 factors – the fear  felt by the Chinese population  itself of catching the virus and their efforts to self-isolate and the measures taken by the government to contain it, issuing directives concerning workplace initiatives to stem the disease spread. 

However, all of that comes down to a single factor – the global reliance on Chinese goods, whether it be cheap clothing and electronic goods – consumer end use – or manufacture and export of components – start-up and assembly producer consumption in almost every industry worldwide.  Wherever you live, it is fair to assume that if you had not already been affected by the virus, you very soon will be, even though you of course stand only an infinitesimally tiny chance of actually catching the ‘flu strain.

For years it has been clear that if China figuratively caught a cold, the whole world would sneeze, and that has now almost literally come to fruition.   Reliance on parts and products from that country is absolute and everywhere.  Accordingly, global manufacturing has been slowed down, international travel severely disrupted, the entertainment and leisure industry is feeling the pinch, consumers are faced with shortages and all of this has come about through panic and preventative measures.  We’re not just running out of cheap Chinese watches, we’re running out of time!

I would like to say that one upside might be in the production of face masks since shops all over Asia have run out of stocks trying to meet the huge demand but alas, I fear those factories are also on a slowdown, as are the distribution firms carrying  the goods to retail outlets.  Masking the extent of the problem, perhaps?

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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