Why Khama promised so much, only to deliver so little?
by The Watchdog
What explains the lack of material change when so much was promised on April 1st, 2008?
The size of the deficit, measured against that which was promised has been truly dramatic.
The dominant narrative is that with the economy on a sickbed, there is not much that can be done.
As an alibi, the collapse of the economy can only account for so much.
There are other factors which add to the inertia and conveniently not being mentioned because they are a result of a failing leadership.
Just what are those factors?
Because the economy seems such an easy and favourite alibi for those in power, let’s address it first.
The real problem why Botswana’s economy is in such a mess is that those tasked with managing it are doing a majestic mess at the job. Traditionally, the ministry tasked with managing the economy is that of finance.
It has not escaped our attention that over the last four years, the Ministry of Finance has more often come across as out of depth.
The ministry does not seem to have even the vaguest of answers to the many economic problems besieging this country.
The more uncharitable have said the economy is on auto-pilot. And they are not exaggerating.
I have no memory of any administration in our history that has been so fixated with balancing the budget such as this one. Just why is the budget deficit receiving so much attention when there are so many pressing issues that should be more prized?
The manner with which the Ministry of Finance seems to be out of its depth is indeed spectacular.
Not only has the ministry run out of ideas, there is also a real danger that their misplaced priorities could plunge the country into an economic abyss from which it would take longer to come recover.
The technocrats therein, and we are told they are some of the best in government, are providing neither the required leadership nor imagination to give us hope that things will one day turn around.
While in the past the Ministry of Finance was the bastion of economic thinking, that role, it would seem, has now been awkwardly abdicated chiefly to the Office of the President.
At a time when their skills are most at need, the people at the Ministry of Finance are themselves groping in the dark, in no terms anywhere better than the rest of us.
More often, the Ministry of Trade seems to be in charge of what are traditionally the roles ascribed to that of finance.
The only time we ever hear from people at the Ministry of Finance is when one of them comes into the public to churn statistical data that has no resonance with what ordinary folks see happening on the ground; effectively telling us that even as we feel things are going bad, it cannot be as terrible as we think.
There is no proof that economically Batswana are today better off than they were during the days of Festus Mogae. A couple of people I have talked to say they feel worse off today than five years ago. And we are referring to people with regular jobs in government.
Although Ian Khama came to office on the ticket of a Father Christmas, when it comes to delivering bread and butter, his track record has fallen far short of his promise – at least thus far.
Immediately after his inauguration in April 2008, President Khama held marathon meetings with his cabinet ministers and senior civil servants.
There was only one item on the agenda; a paradigm shift on how things will be done by those tasked with serving the public. Civil servants were especially reminded that their days of loitering were gone, probably for good.
A few hours earlier, the president had mesmerized the nation with his 4Ds – democracy, development, discipline and dignity.
The fifth “D”, delivery, came two years later, probably as an afterthought.
True to his word a good number of senior civil servants, including Permanent Secretaries were sacked.
There was a shakeup that misled us into believing that Khama meant business.
The entire civil service was gripped by fear at least while the shakeup lasted.
But four years down the line, the civil service is back to its old ways.
Not only are civil servants calling the shots, they also are dictating the terms of all that goes on inside the country.
More telling is the fact that nobody in the civil service is scared of Ian Khama anymore.
The more discerning of the civil servants are beginning to discount the President as a key figure in the medium to long terms.
In ever increasing numbers, people are beginning to look beyond the Khama era.
And this is a man who still has about six more years at the top, that is if the constitution is anything to go by.
Just where did President Khama go wrong?
For a man who came into office promising so much, just why is it that he has so far delivered so little?
The biggest mistake is that President Khama wanted to be everything to everyone.
He brought together people who, on their own, had nothing in common other than an instinctive willingness to be his cheerleaders. Khama’s inner circle consists of a loose band of hangers-on who, instead of telling the President unvarnished truth, have chosen to convey only that which they believed the President would be more comfortable hearing. This motley crew is made up of businesspeople, journalists, judges, tribalists, militarists and his family retainers.
Unless he changes strategy, President Khama will leave office with Botswana worse than when he inherited it.
We don’t think that is the legacy he wants, given his pride and past record.
This is not an academic debate.
Rather it is a clear demonstration of how easily the entrenched institutional powers, especially those with access to power, are more often to undermine even the best of intentions by a most powerful president in recent times.
What is needed are serious reforms, which unfortunately cannot happen under the current leadership of the civil service.
Only President Ian Khama knows why he is beholden (enslaved is a more appropriate word) to the current head of the civil service, Permanent Secretary to the President, Eric Molale.
If he wants to make changes that he once promised, Ian Khama has to go back to the same ideals with which he arrived into the presidency.
And what better way to do that than by cutting the power of the civil service!