Economic Recovery projects halted as funds dry
The government has decided to halt some development projects that had not yet commenced to make funds available for COVID-19 expenditure, BDF Mozambique deployment, and tertiary financing under the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Science, Research, and Technology.
On Wednesday, Parliament approved a Supplementary Budget request by Minister of Finance and Economic Development Peggy Serame totaling P2.49 billion. In the funds requested by Minister, Government will pump over P1.1 billion into the COVID-19 fund to purchase vaccines, PPE, and associated medical items such as syringes, needles, and surgical masks.
Ministry of Defence, Justice, and Security will be allocated P204.5 million under the Botswana Defence Force to cover the costs of deploying and sustaining troops in Mozambique. Regarding the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, over P1.16 billion was requested, of which P401 million will cater for sponsoring new students at tertiary institutions.
The Ministry will pump P762 million into restoring the amount initially approved for tuition fees and allowances. When deliberating on the source of funding, Serame explained that to finance the supplementary expenditure, the government will tap into the development budget in addition to dipping into Special Funds.
Serame explained that the Ministry of Finance will be withdrawing finance warrants for some of the approved Development Budget, “targeting projects and programs that have not yet commenced to accommodate the Supplementary budget.”
“Working with Ministries and Departments, my Ministry has taken care not to disrupt ongoing projects for now. However, if the COVID-19 pandemic persists unabated, there is a chance that ongoing projects may be suspended in the future to allow the country to deal with the disease,” she said.
The Minister revealed that the government would reallocate P2.08 billion from the approved Development Budget, given the tight budgetary situation and the uncertainty around the economy’s recovery, to accommodate part of the urgent supplementary requests.
She explained that this is to be achieved by invoking Section 28 (2) of the Public Finance Management Act. The Act provides that “The unspent balance of any warrant issued under this section may at any time be withdrawn or reduced by the Minister if, in his or her opinion, the exigencies of the financial situation render such withdrawal or reduction expedient.”
Serame, however, noted that this action does not in any way alter the Appropriation (2021/2022) Act, No.2 of 2021, as approved by Parliament in March this year, “but rather seeks to delay the implementation of some projects to accommodate the urgent needs to fight the pandemic.”
The over P2 billion withdrawal from the Development Budget will be made against the approved Domestic Development Fund (DDF) amount of P14.2 billion across programs and projects to provide room within both Consolidated and Development Funds to accommodate the Supplementary budget.
The Minister told Parliament that projects earmarked for delayed implementation have not yet started, and new contracts have not been signed. In contrast, ongoing projects will be allowed to continue for now to avoid disruption.
Expressing some reservations on the proposed source of Supplementary Budget funding, Chairman of Parliament Finance & Estimates Committee Thapelo Letsholo said Development Budget as a source of financing for recurrent expenditure is always problematic.
“We are concerned as the Finance Committee that it appears that once again, the Development Budget has been identified as a source of funding despite our caution against this practice last year,” said Letsholo, who is also a Member of Parliament for Kanye North.
The Kanye lawmaker submitted that other sources of funding within the Recurrent Budget could be explored and accessed, considering that the recurrent budget has never been fully expended over the last five years.
“While we are informed and appreciate that this time monies will be going back into the Consolidated Fund for re-appropriation, the concern remains that these are coming out of the Development Budget to fund recurrent expenditure,” he said.
Letsholo further added that the ugly head of project delays and the slow pace of movement across Government projects was a thorny issue.
“We have been informed that some of it are attributable to COVID-19. Notwithstanding, and as previously articulated, these delays have the potential to hamper economic development and deprive Batswana of opportunities and a better standard of living,” he said.
Letsholo cited the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan (ERTP), which was designed to lessen the negative impact and set the economy on a path of transformative recovery.
“We articulated our belief that should the envisaged projects of the ERTP be delivered on time, and within budget, there was potential to turn around the Botswana economy within a short time, to empower Batswana, and to set Botswana on a path of achieving an inclusive and positively transformed future.”
Letsholo decried slow utilization of development budgets expressing concerns that government will now move some of the funding for ERTP projects back into the Consolidated Fund.
On Thursday, Kwabena Antwi, Portfolio Manager at Kgori Capital, said in the company’s quarterly market insight this week that it was not clear how the government plans to navigate the uncharted territories of COVID-19 and economic slowdown. “The question remains on how the Government plans to fund its projected deficits,” he said.
Kwabena said even with the P2.7 billion loan from the World Bank to support Botswana’s economic recovery, “there is an increased likelihood that projects under its ERTP may be delayed due to insufficient funding.”
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The roles of PAP committees explained
Permanent Committees of the Pan African Parliament facilitate the effective implementation of the policies and objectives of the OAU/AEC.
The PAP Permanent Committees roles were eloquently explained by the PAP President Hon. Chief Fortune Zephania Charumbira whenÂ giving a presentation on the mandate of the permanent committees of the PAP on Tuesday in Midrand, South Africa. Charumbiraâ€™s words of encouragement come on the backdrop of the Pan African Parliament (PAP) members are attending the PAP Permanent Committee meetings that started on March 5-9 in Midrand, South Africa.
The mandate of PAP is to ensure the full participation of African peoples in the economic development and integration of the continent, therefore the permanent committees provide oversight to ensure effective implementation of policies.
According to Charumbira, effective implementation will drive the Africa Agenda 2063, African Continental Free Trade Area, AU Shared Values, Flagship Projects such the Inga Dam Project, Single African Air Transport Market, among others; and further facilitate attainment of AU Theme of the Year: â€śThe Year of AFCTFTA: Accelerating the AFCFTA Implementationâ€ť.
Relatedly, the objectives of the Pan-African Parliament promote the principles of human rights and democracy in Africa; encourage good governance, transparency and accountability in Member States; Promote peace, security and stability; Contribute to a more prosperous future for the peoples of Africa by promoting collective self-reliance and economic recovery; Facilitate cooperation and development in Africa; Strengthen Continental solidarity and build a sense of common destiny among the peoples of Africa; and Facilitate cooperation among Regional Economic Communities and their Parliamentary fora.
THE PAP PERMANENT COMMITTEES
(a) The Committee on Rural Economy, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment;
(b) The Committee on Monetary and Financial Affairs;
(c) The Committee on Trade, Customs and Immigration Matters;
(d) The Committee on Cooperation, International Relations and Conflict Resolutions;
(e) The Committee on Transport, Industry, Communications, Energy, Science and Technology;
(f) The Committee on Health, Labor and Social Affairs;
(g) The Committee on Education, Culture, Tourism and Human Resources;
(h) The Committee on Gender, Family, Youth and People with Disability;
(i) The Committee on Justice and Human Rights;
(j) The Committee on Rules, Privileges and Discipline;
The Committees shall handle business that is ordinarily handled by the corresponding Specialized Technical Committee responsible to the Executive Council in accordance with Article 14 of the Constitutive Act.
SPECIFIC FUNCTIONS OF THE COMMITTEES
As for the specific functions of the committees, the Committee on Rural Economy, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment amongst other functions: Considers the development of common regional and continental policies in agricultural sector; Assists the Parliament to oversee and assist with the harmonization of policies for rural and agricultural development; and promotes the development policy and the implementation of programs of the Union relating to natural resources and environment.
On the other hand, the Committee on Monetary and Financial Affairs shall, amongst others: Examines the draft estimates of the Parliamentary budget and submit to Parliament; Discusses the budget of the Union and make appropriate recommendations; Examines and report to Parliament on the problems involved in the implementation of the annual budget; and Assists Parliament to execute its role of establishing sound economic, monetary and investment policies.
Meanwhile the Committee on Trade, Customs and Immigration Matters amongst other roles: Considers matters relating to development of sound policy for cross-border, regional and continental concerns within the areas of trade, customs and immigration; Assists the Parliament to oversee relevant organs or institutions and policies of the Union; and Helps the Parliament to oversee external trade.
The Committee on Cooperation, International Relations and Conflict Resolutions shall, amongst others: Considers issues relating to the development of an efficient policy in matters of cooperation and international relations of the Parliament and the Union; Deals with the conventions and protocols linking the Parliament with regional and international institutions and report to the Parliament; Carries out examinations on the revision of Protocols and Treaties of the Union; Assists the Parliament in its efforts of conflict prevention and resolution.
The Committee on Transport, Industry, Communications, Energy, Science and Technology shall, amongst others: Considers issues relating to the development of transport and communications infrastructure; Assists Parliament to oversee the development and implementation of policies of the Union relating to transport, communication, science and technology and industry; Considers issues relating to the use of science and technology for the development of the Continent; Helps Parliament to supervise the development policies and the Union implementation programs for matters of industry, science, technology and energy.
The Committee on Health, Labor and Social Affairs deals with strategies and programs for the improvement of the lives of African peoples; Considers issues relating to regional and international cooperation in strategic planning and implementation of social development and health policies and programs.
The Committee on Education, Culture, Tourism and Human Resources shall, amongst others: Considers issues relating to the development of human resources in Member States;Assists Parliament to promote policy development and implementation of programs of the Union relating to access to education, promotion and preservation of culture and tourism and human resource development.
The Committee on Gender, Family, Youth and People with Disability shall, amongst others: Considers issues relating to the promotion of gender equality; Assists
I cannot reconcile with Khama – Guma
For the second time now, the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting turned into a tribalistic boardroom brawl which turned violet and was ultimately capped off with a resignation from one member of the NEC.
Samson Moyo Guma decided to leave the party after a heated exchange with the party patron Lt Gen Ian Khama who attended the Monday meeting at Arirang virtually. The meeting, according to insiders, started on a good footing with President Biggie Butale asking about the venue of their much anticipated congress.
However, things turned nasty as Butale, after the venue discussion was concluded, asked some NEC members to stop attacking the party in public. The accused included the patron, Deputy Treasurer and Deputy Secretary General. It is then that, Guma pleaded with the patron to always liaise with President Butale before he can issue out any public statement, especially about the party, as the two work together.
â€śGuma then asked Patron to comment, Khama said he did not have any comment. But Guma then told patron to always inform Butale about anything he intends to do, and that is when all hell broke loose.Â Â Khama went berserk, he accused Butale of being a thief who stole party money and accused both of them of being captured and sent by the BDP to destabilize the party. Guma then told him to stop being abusive and that they will not tolerate his autocracy and the whole meeting turned chaotic as some NEC members of Ngwato origin now defended Khama,â€ť said one NEC member who attended the meeting.
Guma was riled according to meeting attendees, and decided to walk out of the meeting and subsequently decided to resign his membership. Butale was also annoyed by the stance taken by some to defend the patron on the basis of being their paramount chief, and he too decided to leave the meeting but did not quit the party. This was after a violet attack between some NEC members. Butale is currently nursing the injuries he sustained when he tried to intervene in a fist fight.
Before all these scenes, one of the agenda items was to suspend the NEC members who disparage other members and the party in public. Failure to execute the plan frustrated both Butale and Guma.
In an interview following a tense meeting that led to his resignation, Guma said the difference between him and Khama is huge and irreconcilable. â€śI cannot reconcile with him, in fact, no one can reconcile with Khama,â€ť Guma toldÂ WeekendpostÂ before he continued. â€śHe should maybe reconcile first with President Mokgweetsi Masisi that is when we can see if it is doable. But for now, I am at peace. I have left him with his party, but I am with the UDC now.â€ť
Some in the party say the party will regret the departure of some key members such as Guma eventually. â€śWe are losing people who add quality to the party. Guma has assisted us with a printing machine for membership cards as well as assisting meaningfully to pay office rent, but since he is gone, we might be in for a hard time.â€ť
The two are, however, expected to meet at Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) as the BPF congress will ratify the NEC decision to join the main opposition party. Once they ratify, and if Khama is elected President, he will find Guma in the UDC. However, it is not clear what role Guma will serve in the UDC.
Guma and Khama have been trading blows once it became apparent that the former will contest for the BPF Presidency. Khama wanted anyone else but Guma. Khama’s political wisdom told him no one can beat Guma in the party in the race for the party leadership, but Khama was not confortable with the idea of Guma becoming the leader of the party he founded. Khama then decided to put on political garments and declared his candidature to lead the party. This is contrary to his unclesâ€™ advice to stay away from politics, especially the BPF Presidency.
Khama’s opposition to Guma leading BPF has opened a can of worms, as some believe it corroborates the popular hypothesis saying the party is the project of the Khamas and no one will be allowed to lead it. One political observer opines that, if Guma or Butale could be allowed to lead the party without any interference, it will increase its footprint in the North East, which help in making it a mainstream party, as opposed to the current perfection that it is a Bangwato project.
The BPF has had a turbulent time ever since its patron, who is also a former President, Khama, relocated to South Africa. He said acts of indiscipline and deep divisions rocked the party, something which irked him.
The partyâ€™s NEC is set to convene this weekend in Phikwe, but contents of the meeting are a secret.
More nurses heading for the UK
According to a report, the number of nurses leaving Botswana for better-paying jobs in the United Kingdom has increased significantly. This development has the potential to negatively impact the country’s struggling health sector.
Kenosi Mogorosi, the publicity secretary of the Botswana Nurses Union (BONU), in a letter addressed to union members on March 22, 2023, provides a comprehensive analysis of the factors that have affected the country’s nursing fraternity.
Through an agreement with the National Health Service (NHS), BONU was able to help facilitate the transfer of nurses from Botswana to the UK.
In a letter to the country’s nurses, Mogorosi stated that the recruitment firms Swift Trust and NEU Professionals would be coming to the country to look for 20 adult medical health nurses each.
â€śSubmission of CVâ€™s will be done at Lobatse Cumberland hotel on the 27th of March 2023 and Gaborone BONU offices on the 28 March 2023. Subsequently conducting interviews at Lobatse Cumberland Hotel on the 3rd April 2023 and Gaborone Hilton Garden Hotel on the 4th April 2023,â€ť said Mogorosi.
He added that â€śThis comes short notice because the trust is already in Southern Africa and could not reach its target in Zambia, hence coming to Botswana. All nurses who will be shortlisted for interviews should ensure that they mention that they were referred by BONU for easy coordination of sponsorship including English language tests.â€ť
He also stated that â€śSince its short notice, nurses need not to travel from far places hence nurses around Lobatse and Gaborone can ensure they do submit their CVS.â€ť
BONU is also working with the UK’s NHS to help its members secure jobs overseas as the country is going through a recruitment drive to address its shortage of 40,000 nurses.
This will increase the nursing vacancy rate in Botswana, which currently stands at over 30%. It is expected to further cripple the country’s already struggling health sector.
Last year, the Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT) said it offered roles to more than 60 nurses from Botswana. The Recruitment team at EPUT spent eight days in Botswana interviewing hundreds of nurses interested in a career with the NHS. Nesta Williams, Director of Workforce Transformation and International Recruitment, at the time said said: â€śWeâ€™re delighted that 66 nurses have chosen to take the next step in their nursing career with EPUT.”
â€śThe interview panel was impressed by the applicantsâ€™ commitment to their patients, understanding of good team working, and their approach to providing excellent care.
â€śSome of the nurses are trained in both mental health and physical health, and this means they could choose to work in a range of services.â€ť
The NHS’s clinical workforce is the largest in the world. Nurses play a vital role in delivering person-centered care.
Professor Natalie Hammond, Executive Nurse, said: â€śThe last two years of the pandemic have been extremely challenging. A robust nursing workforce helps us provide safe care, meet the needs of our communities, and is key to achieving our vision be the leading health and wellbeing service in the provision of mental health and community care.”
â€śItâ€™s an exciting time; our EPUT clinicians will have opportunities to share their experience and expertise with our new colleagues from Botswana.â€ť
A recruitment team of the Essex Partnership University NHS Trust spent eight days in Botswana two weeks ago during which they say they interviewed â€śhundreds of applicantsâ€ť who want to work in the UK.
In the first round of their recruitment campaign in Botswana, the NHS had hired 66 nurses from the huge parade of applicants and revealed that more recruitments are expected to follow.
Indications are that a nurse in England earns an average P52 000 per month; and the figure goes up to P70 000 for a nurse in Ireland and other places in the UK. In Botswana a registered nurse earns between P12 000 and P20 000.