The Leader of the Opposition (LOO) in parliament, Dumelang Saleshando, has dismissed the Government’s proposed National Employment Policy, stating that it has no radical transformation intention and agenda.
Responding to the policy, tabled by Minister of Finance and Economic Development Peggy Serame on Wednesday, Saleshando said the employment policy is just a public relations stunt by the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and Government. “There are no proper targets in this policy. How many jobs are to be created, when? By what economic sectors, from which interventions and from how much investment by Government?” said the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), who is also legislator for Maun West.
Botswana Federation of Public Parastatal and Private Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU), Deputy Secretary-General, has also criticised the policy. Motshegwa said the policy was tabled before parliament without consulting social partners at tripartite structures. “This is contempt of the Decent Work Country programme and labour laws of this country. Worse, it is wrong for the Ministry of Finance to be tabling the bill because such matters fall under the Ministry of Employment Productivity and Skills Development, which is responsible for labour administration. No consultation, no understanding of Government process, real circus,” he said.
On Wednesday, Serame publicly set the ambitious target before parliament, stating that Government intends to have significantly reduced Botswana’s unemployment rate by the year 2030, just six years before the nation arrives at its promised land of a glorious life in 2036. Serame said the policy provides a comprehensive framework to deal with unemployment as a development challenge faced by the country.
The last comprehensive assessment regarding the unemployment situation in Botswana was done through the Botswana Multi-Topic Household Survey in 2015, which reported an unemployment rate of 17.7%. This rate has continued to rise over the years. Of late, it has been exacerbated by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, reaching 24.5% in the last quarter of 2020 (Quarterly Multi-Topic Survey, Quarter 4: 2020)
Serame noted that the overall goal of the National Employment Policy is to promote productive and gainful employment and decent work for Batswana. “In particular, the goal is to reduce the unemployment rate to a single digit by 2030,” she said.
Serame explained that this refers to employment that can take Batswana out of poverty, secure and respect fundamental rights of the human being and the worker, and is in line with the Botswana National Decent Work Programme 2020-2024. To achieve this, Serame said a well-coordinated whole of government approach to employment creation is very critical. Deliberating on the policy, she said the process entails Five Strategic Focus Areas.
STRENGTHENING THE GROWTH OF EMPLOYMENT IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR
Under this focus area, the policy envisages the growth of private investment and enterprise development for economic diversification, especially in those sectors with a potential to grow exports, such as agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism. Minister Serame told lawmakers that interventions to be pursued under this strategic focus area include providing an enabling environment for private sector growth; supporting business growth through government procurement activities, investing in a vibrant creative and arts industry; harnessing the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), and reforming economic sectors for greater labour demand and better labour outcomes.
REFORMING THE EDUCATION AND TRAINING SYSTEM
The policy also outlines the implementation of reforms in the Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP) to improve education outcomes. At the same time, the policy aims to address one of the country’s challenges of the labour market of skills mismatch, which has contributed to the high level of unemployment in the country.
Specific interventions to be pursued include: strengthening education enrolment, completion and quality outcomes supporting vocational education and training introducing a framework agreement for the development of apprenticeships preparing graduates for the changing nature of work establishing a digital academy and ICT incubation hub
IMPROVING THE FLOW OF INFORMATION BETWEEN JOB SEEKERS AND JOB OPENINGS
This strategic focus area seeks to reinforce a labour market exchange that brings together jobseekers and job openings to inform job seekers of available job opportunities through an effective labour market intermediation system. The policy proposes strengthening of employment exchange services, as well as the fast-tracking implementation of the Labour Market Information System.
STRENGTHENING OF EMPLOYMENT PROGRAMMES
Under this strategic focus, the area Government intends to ensure the effectiveness of existing employment programmes. Specific interventions include evaluating and reviewing the effectiveness of existing programmes, including those for youth; building economic links between social protection and employment; and integration of selected groups such as youth, women and persons living with disabilities into the labour market.
DEVELOPING A FRAMEWORK FOR COHERENT AND COORDINATED POLICIES WITH SYSTEMATIC MONITORING AND EVALUATION
Minister Serame also explained that the Government also recognises the need for establishing effective implementation and coordination mechanisms for the policy, a specific monitoring and evaluation framework, and evaluation of employment programmes and services on an ongoing basis. The coordination and implementation mechanism for the policy proposes that supervision is at a high level, specifically, the office of the Vice President.
The Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development will coordinate the implementation of the policy. Minister Peggy Serame further explained that Minister Balopi’s Ministry would implement a comprehensive accountability system for the policy. The system will encompass, among others, an Implementation plan with a set of sectoral employment targets and outcomes to be achieved, as well as specific labour force related indicators to measure progress towards the set targets.
The Ministry will produce regular reports on progress and remedial action while undertaking a policy evaluation at least every five years to assess the impact of initiatives and programmes on employment and ensure alignment with new developments. Serame noted that the successful implementation of the policy would depend on various factors such as availability of financial and human resources, participation of the private sector as a critical factor in job creation, and effective coordination and monitoring of the policy.
A short-term action plan to operationalise the policy has been developed and is attached to the procedure. The policy will be implemented within the first six (6) months following its approval. On the other hand, the longer-term action plan will assess and detail specific actions and the full scope of resources needed to implement the policy. Ministries are expected to budget for the implementation of the policy initiatives.
A surge in consumer spending is expected to be a key driver of Botswana’s economic recovery, according to recent projections by Fitch Solutions. Fitch Solutions said it forecasts household spending in Botswana to grow by a real rate of 5.9% in 2022.
The bullish Fitch Solutions noted that “This is a considerable deceleration from 9.4% growth estimated in 2021, it comes mainly from the base effects of the contraction of 2.5% recorded in 2020,” adding that, “We project total household spending (in real terms) to reach BWP59.9bn (USD8.8bn) in 2022, increasing from BWP56.5bn (USD8.3bn) in 2021.” According to Fitch Solutions, this is higher than the pre-Covid-19 total household spending (in real terms) of P53.0 billion (USD7.8bn) in 2019 and it indicates a full recovery in consumer spending.
“We forecast real household spending to grow by 5.9% in 2022, decelerating from the estimated growth of 9.4% in 2021. We note that the Covid-19 pandemic and the related restrictions on economic activity resulted in real household spending contracting by 2.5% in 2020, creating a lower base for spending to grow from in 2021 and 2022,” Fitch Solutions says.
Total household spending (in real terms), the agency says, will increase in 2022 when compared to 2021. In 2021 and 2022, total household spending (in real terms) will be above the pre-Covid-19 levels in 2019, indicating a full recovery in consumer spending, says Fitch Solutions. It says as of December 6 2021 (latest data available), 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose, while this is relatively low it is higher than Africa average of 11.3%.
“The emergence of new Covid-19 variants such as Omicron, which was first detected in the country in November 2021, poses a downside risk to our outlook for consumer spending, particularly as a large proportion of the country’s population is unvaccinated and this could result in stricter measures being implemented once again,” says Fitch Solutions.
Growth will ease in 2022, Fitch Solution says. “Our forecast for an improvement in consumer spending in Botswana in 2022 is in line with our Country Risk team’s forecast that the economy will grow by a real rate of 5.3% over 2022, from an estimated 12.5% growth in 2021 as the low base effects from 2020 dissipate,” it says.
Fitch Solutions notes that “Our Country Risk team expects private consumption to be the main driver of Botswana’s economic growth in 2022, as disposable incomes and the labour market continue to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.” It says Botswana’s tourism sector has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the related travel restrictions.
According to Fitch Solutions, “The emergence of the Omicron variant, which was first detected in November 2021, has resulted in travel bans being implemented on Southern African countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. This will further delay the recovery of Botswana’s tourism sector in 2021 and early 2022.” Fitch Solutions, therefore, forecasts Botswana’s tourist arrivals to grow by 81.2% in 2022, from an estimated contraction of 40.3% in 2021.
It notes that the 72.4% contraction in 2020 has created a low base for tourist arrivals to grow from. “The rollout of vaccines in South Africa and its key source markets will aid the recovery of the tourism sector over the coming months and this bodes well for the employment and incomes of people employed in the hospitality industry, particularly restaurants and hotels as well as recreation and culture businesses,” the report says.
Fitch Solutions further notes that with economies reopening, consumers are demanding products that they had little access to over the previous year. However, manufacturers are facing several problems. It says supply chain issues and bottlenecks are resulting in consumer goods shortages, feeding through into supply-side inflation. Fitch Solutions believes the global semiconductor shortage will continue into 2022, putting the pressure on the supply of several consumer goods.
It says the spread of the Delta variant is upending factory production in Asia, disrupting shipping and posing more shocks to the world economy. Similarly, manufacturers are facing shortages of key components and higher raw materials costs, the report says adding that while this is somewhat restricted to consumer goods, there is a high risk that this feeds through into more consumer services over the 2022 year.
“Our global view for a notable recovery in consumer spending relies on the ability of authorities to vaccinate a large enough proportion of their populations and thereby experience a notable drop in Covid-19 infections and a decline in hospitalisation rates,” says Fitch Solutions. Both these factors, it says, will lead to governments gradually lifting restrictions, which will boost consumer confidence and retail sales.
“As of December 6 2021, 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose. While this is low, it is higher than the Africa average of 11.3%. The vaccines being administered in Botswana include Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson. We believe that a successful vaccine rollout will aid the country’s consumer spending recovery,” says Fitch Solutions. Therefore, the agency says, “Our forecasts account for risks that are highly likely to play out in 2022, including the easing of government support. However, if other risks start to play out, this may lead to forecast revisions.”
Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) will increase rental prices effective 1st April 2022. Tenants have already received letter of rent increment dated 09 December 2021 signed by the Regional Director, Kesebonye M. J. Khimbele. The letter stated that BHC has completed review of its rentals for implementation in the financial year 2022/2023.
The letter further states that, “the review comes on the backdrop of annual rental adjustments approved for the Corporation affecting all tenants (Government, Local Authorities, Parastatals, Private Companies, individuals and other corporate bodies). To this end, notice is hereby given that with effect from 1st April 2022, the Corporation will adjust current rental for your lease. The new rentals will be payable from 1st April 2022 to 31 March 2023. Please note that all other terms of your lease agreement remain the same including the service charges where applicable.”
BHC sensitized the public about its decision to adjust rent in 2020, they stated that they will be increasing their rentals for the next five years in order to meet the market price. When addressing the media about the decision to increase rent to meet the market rate in 2020. BHC officials indicated that the Corporation decided to increase rent and that the decision was backed by the government. Furthermore, BHC had not increased rent in the past 16 years. The Corporation pointed out that it was time to adjust the rent in order to match the market dynamics.
Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development, Mmusi Kgafela when addressing the media in 2020 about the decision to increase rent by BHC, stated that it is still priority to ensure that they reach BHC’s objective of being at par with the current rental market rates. The first increment after the public was addressed by BHC and the Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development was last year 1st April, and the second increment will be on the 1st April 2022.
According to BHC website, BHC is a Parastatal under the Ministry of Infrastructure & Housing Development. The Corporation was established by an Act of Parliament (CAP 74.03) of 1971. The Corporation’s explicit mandate is outlined under section 14 of the BHC Act: To provide for the housing, office and other building needs of the government and local authorities; To provide for and to assist and to make arrangements for other persons to meet the requirements above; To undertake and carry-out and to make arrangements for other persons to undertake and carry-out building schemes in Botswana.
Execution of the explicit mandate covers provision of housing to the general population through a variety of initiatives and structures such as: Government housing pool; Sales of houses to government and its agencies; Provision of project management services; Undertaking housing projects for government departments such as the BDF, BURS etc. The Corporation’s implicit mandate is expressed through Government Policy pronouncements; Directives; Economic/business imperatives; Public & other social considerations.
Effective from 1st April 2012, the Corporation’s mandate has been expanded in accordance with Presidential Directive Cab 20 (B)/2010. The directive pronounced that all Government housing implementation programmes be transferred to BHC to operate as Government’s Single Housing Authority (SiHA). In compliance with the directive, BHC is as from 1st April 2012 responsible for the construction of turnkey SHHA projects as well as District Housing and other housing programmes pronounced by government from time to time such as the Public Housing Initiative and Youth Housing Initiative.
In executing the implicit mandate, the Corporation has to raise money through the market to sustain itself. For instance, 1990’s, government announced cessation of PDSF loans to parastatals. This meant that BHC had to do the following: Raise money from financial markets; Diversification of income stream; Reduced dependence on government.
At least three new faces are expected to join cabinet before or during the second meeting of the third session of the 12th parliament scheduled for the 1st of February 2022. This publication is reliably informed that there are currently three names from the backbench that are being assessed by the principals for possible inclusion in the Ministerial bench.
Businessmen in Gantsi North Member of Parliament (MP) John Thiite, Kanye North legislator Thapelo Letsholo and Shoshong MP Aubrey Lesaso are possible candidates for the executive arm of government. The decision on the three, according to informants, pivots on the claim that the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi finds it “very difficult to rope in MPs who have served during the era of ex-President Ian Khama.” It is not clear as to what reasons could be, except that Masisi wants his own team that will diligently articulate his game plan until 2028.