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Gov’t embarks on cost-cutting 

Minister of Finance and Economic Development Peggy Serame

The 2022/23 Financial year will be underpinned by massive cost-cutting and contain exercise across all government operations, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Peggy Serame has announced. 

Delivering the budget speech for the financial year 2022/23, which begins on April 1, 2022, the Minister, said various initiatives have already been introduced to contain costs, and a further set of measures will be introduced in the coming financial year.

These will target expenditure that can be reduced without compromising on service delivery, and require the beneficiaries of some public services to share in the costs of provision where they can afford to do so. Particular attention is being paid to the amount of money spent on scarce skills allowances in the public service, much of which may no longer be justified in terms of the need to recruit and retain employees.

Further, the Finance Minister announced that the amount spent on overtime allowances will be cut back as it appears to be excessive. “Government also spends large amounts on tuition fees and maintenance allowances for students in tertiary education. This is an area of possible cost-sharing with parents, where they have the ability to pay” she said. Minister Serame however said in line with the practice and commitments of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Government, extensive consultations will take place before any major changes are introduced.

REDUCING THE WAGE BILL

In an effort to restore fiscal stability government intends to reduce and effectively manage the Government wage bill. This according to Minister Serame will be implemented through the Workforce Planning System which is being developed by the Directorate of Public Service Management  (DPSM), through the Botswana Public Service Workforce Strategy and  Workforce Plans Project that started in July 2021.

The key objectives of this project are to manage the Government wage bill, promote workforce flexibility and improve productivity in the public sector. The Minister said this helps to identify where public sector employment can be restructured, and hence identify possible savings in the wage and salary bill.” This will directly address the problem of the ever-growing wage bill, which was estimated at over 16 percent of GDP in 2020/2021, compared to the acceptable 10 percent recorded by comparator nations,” the Minister said.

She explained that the benefits of this initiative will start to be realized in the coming financial year. “However, since the DPSM is taking a long-term approach to this initiative, and given the transitions required, the project is envisaged to run over a period of three years for effective implementation.”

Over 143 000 men and women are in the employ of the Government, cutting across ministries and state agencies, with 125, 203 employed by the Central government and 17, 847 employed under local authorities and councils.

To remunerate this workforce government has to part ways with over P28 billion from state coffers annually. Think tanks, authorities, and decision-makers at the Ministry of Finance & Economic Development have long raised red flags against this status quo, labeling it “unsustainable and too draining to state coffers”.

In pre-budget consultations, late last year the Finance Ministry technocrats led by Permanent Secretary Dr Wilfred Mandlebe said the restructuring of the public service is inevitable.

“In terms of the wage bill expenditure, we are around 38.9 percent of our total budget, which is almost 40 percent, this is huge, and this is one of the elephants in the room, for us as Finance, this is not sustainable, rationalization of government is long overdue,” Dr Mandlebe said in September last year.

The Permanent Secretary however observed the paradox that comes with the rationalization exercise. “I  know that when this conversation comes to the surface we will have divergent views about it, even in Parliament, there will be questions as to why do we have to retrench people when there is already a rise in unemployment.”

Mr. Mandlebe said the bottom line however is affordability: “At the end of the day its affordability because governments do go broke, I have seen governments going broke, we don’t want to come to a stage where come month-end people are not paid, and I don’t think employed Batswana can afford to go for a day without a salary, the way we survive on hand to mouth and indebts.”

The Finance PS further told members of Parliament that the conversation about reducing the public service is however coming and there are no 2 ways about it.

“Let’s engage Batswana and put this conversation on the table, to even the public servants themselves, because it will come and it shouldn’t come like someone is holding a gun to our head , like we have seen it in other  African countries, where they go out to borrow on somebody else ‘s terms, at that point in time the degree of maneuver is very little, we should do this as a self-reform undertaking when we still have time and space to look and consider all the sensitivities around this matter,” said Dr. Mandlebe.

The government spends over P2.3 billion on public servants’ salaries monthly, which totals almost P28 billion on an annual basis, almost 40 percent of Botswana’s national budget.

In a post-budget interview with WeekendPost on Wednesday Minister of Finance & Economic Development Peggy Serame said retrenchments are the purview of the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) The Minister however said she does not anticipate retrenchments because there is a lot that can be done without necessarily retrenching.

“For the next coming financial years we will freeze recruitment save for special cases like Education, We use existing vacancies to provide for critical needs, also some officers are not replaced when they exit or retire,” she said.

REDUCING SUBVENTIONS TO STATE-OWNED ENTERPRISES 

Another space that Government seeks to explore to contain costs is reducing subventions to commercial SOEs Minister Serame explained that in addition to the ongoing process of rationalization and restructuring of SOEs, Government will reduce the size of subventions to commercial SOEs.

The approved subventions to SOEs from the Recurrent Budget for the current 2021/2022 financial year amount to P4.08 billion, or 2.05 percent of projected GDP. The proposed provision for the next financial year is marginally lower at P4.02 billion, which amounts to 1.85 percent of GDP. “Subventions will be further reduced in the coming years, through a combination of requiring commercial SOEs to cover their own costs, improved efficiencies across the SOE sector, and SOE rationalization,” she said.

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Food prices continue to rise, but at a slower rate

28th November 2022

Prices for cereals or staple foods in Botswana and other Southern African countries continue to rise at a slower pace, following trends in the global markets, according to the latest November 2022 Food Price Monitoring and Analysis by Food Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

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Still doing business the old way?

18th November 2022

It’s time to get business done better with MTN Business Botswana’s ICT Solutions.

Running a digital businessMTN Business Solutions Botswana, popularly known as MTN Business is an Internet Service Provider. We are a subsidiary of MTN Group Limited, a multinational telecommunications Group headquartered in South Africa, which operates in 19 markets across Africa and the Middle East.

More and more, clients are looking for ways to keep their staff productive in a dynamically changing business environment. Whether your people are working from home, the office or abroad, there is a growing recognition that digitising your operations can offer unprecedented commercial value in flexibility, productivity and growth. This new, digital reality means that it is more important than ever to stay agile – if there is anything that can slow a business down, it is being burdened by othatld technology.

Having made substantial investments in fibre technology, high-speed terrestrial and undersea networks and new frequency spectrum across the markets wherein it operates, MTN is perfectly positioned to respond to this shift in the market.

A few years ago, MTN also made the decision to build an IP capable radio network for its mobile services, giving its core network the ability to seamlessly integrate with enterprise IP networks. The mobile towers deliver services to enterprise clients absolutely anywhere it has a network, shortening the last mile and removing complexity and cost.

Now there is increasing demand from clients to connect their remote sites in all areas, including rural and semi- rural. MTN has assisted clients with overcoming this connectivity hurdle, enabling their staff to get the job done wherever they are.
MTN’s evolution

For MTN, the focus has shifted from just being a core telecommunications services provider, towards also becoming a technology solutions provider. The service offering now also includes Unified Communications, Data Hosting and Cloud Solutions, Security-As-A-Service and Managed Network Services. The scope has changed to being client and industry specific, so the requirements and service portfolio vary from one client to the next. The expectation is that a company like MTN must respond to these challenges, helping clients to get business done better as they shift from old to new technologies.

As many businesses continue to grapple with a digitally dynamic world, they face new challenges that have to be solved. This environment will benefit those that are more digitally enabled and agile. It is a brave new world that will favour online over on-site, wireless over wired and fluid over formulaic. Businesses will seek out partners and suppliers that are every bit as flexible and forward-looking as they are.
Ultimately, clients need partners like MTN Business that will invest in infrastructure, deliver the services they require, have market credibility, are financially sound and have a long-term commitment to their market presence.

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BIE to vitalize the Dignity of Engineers

9th November 2022

Botswana Institution Of Engineers (BIE), has last week hosted a gala dinner in  which they appreciated engineers who worked tirelessly and with dedication for 10 years from 1983 to steer the BIE to its current status.

The event that was held at the Phakalane Golf Estate had brought together young, experienced and veteran engineers and was held under the theme “Vitalize the dignity and eminence of all professional engineers”.

Explaining the theme, the institution’s treasurer, Thanabalasingam Raveendran said that engineers were looked upon reverentially with respect as the educated but with time it seems to have deteriorated. He indicated that there is a need to change the narrative by all means.

“The BIE exists for the welfare and the betterment of us Botswana engineers, we need to recognize specialised units within our Institution. We Engineers strongly believe in Engineers make it happen” Raveendran said.

He indicated that under the theme they appeal to all engineers to energize, to attain quality of being worthy of honour and respect and to achieve recognized superiority amongst the Society.

Raveendran stated that engineers need to ensure their end product is of good quality satisfying the end users expectations and engineers must be honest in their work.

“Approximately 8000 engineers registered with Engineering Regulatory Board (ERB) are not members of the BIE, engineers need to make every effort to recruit them to BIE” he said.

He alluded that BIE being a society, it currently needs to upgrade itself at par with professional institutions elsewhere like the UK and USA.

He further stated that BIE has to have engineering units of specialised disciplines like Civil/Mechanical/electrical etc

“As President Masisi indicated in his inaugural speech, the young people, who make 60 percent of the population of this country, are the future leaders and therefore investing in them is building the bridge to the future” said Raveendran

Kandima indicated that BIE has a memorandum of Understanding with Engineers Registration Board (ERB), where BIE is a recognised provider of CPD training, mentorship programmes and more importantly IPD undertaking to upgrade the skills and know-how of our engineers.

“For us to achieve our mandate and make worthwhile changes to engineering in Botswana, we have to be totally focused and act with intent” said Kandima.

Furthermore, Stephen Williams, past president of the BIE from 1986-1988 told the engineers that  the BIE provides a fertile environment where they can meet, share ideas and grow professionally.

“The BIE is also a nesting place for graduate engineers to learn from their peers and seniors, it also cater for engineering technicians and technologists and so nobody in the technology field is left out” he said.

He further indicated that Botswana Government provides a conductive environment for growth of engineering professionals.

“It must be stated that the Botswana Government recognises the existence of BIE and it can further be stated that the government enables ERB to carry out its mandate as a regulator of engineering professionals” said Williams

He plead with engineering companies to recognize and support BIE as it is the only source of engineering personnel’s for various Industries .

Furthermore, when giving his farewell speech, Michael Pinard , a past president of the institution  said how they are viewed as engineers by the general public might be due to some lack of appreciation as to exactly what role they play in the development of the country.

“The BIE slogan is aptly coined-Engineers make it happen, in other words, what man dreams engineers create” Said Pinard.

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