Whilst it has previously avoided setting job creation target, the Botswana government has during the 2018/18 financial year, which starts in about three weeks set itself a target of 5, 783 jobs.
Eric Molale, Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, when making presentation on his ministry’s budget said that the newly proposed positions are estimated to cost P808.6 million, with P538 million going towards 3,888 positions that have been approved to cater for emerging critical areas across the public service. The other 1,638 jobs valued at P225.4 million will be funded from the overtime budget.
The proposal to bulk up the public service comes amid mounting pressure for the government to deal with the rising unemployment, particularly amongst the graduates. The recent proposal also goes against government’s long held stance that it has to downsize the public service due to a huge wage bill. In 2013/2014 financial year, the government decided on a recruitment freeze and ban on creating new posts.
Following the recruitment freeze, many government departments operated with unfilled vacancies, and some took advantage of the internship programme to make up for the shortage. Furthermore, the overtime allowances skyrocketed as a result of understaffing, forcing existing personnel to work extra hours.
While the Botswana government has been advised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to cut on its huge bill, the government continues to face serious criticism back home, with opposition parties accusing the government of failing to create decent jobs for citizens. The government maintains that it is not its mandate to create jobs but rather to provide a conducive environment for private sector led job growth, however the government has not escaped the criticism that it failed to diversify the economy.
Diversification has been a challenge for the country. Past administration have failed to wean the economy off diamonds, consequently the private sector has been largely dependent on government expenditure as government is dependent on mining revenues. A slowdown in the economy usually results in subdued business activities and widespread retrenchments. In the last two years the private sector has bleed more than 10,000 jobs.
Official figures put the country’s unemployment figures at less than 20 percent, a figure that has been strongly rejected by various stakeholders who posit that the figure is much larger than that. The rejection is premised on the methodology used to calculate unemployment rate as it leaves out discouraged job seekers, and that it is not comprehensive nor reflect the reality on the ground.
The incumbent Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi is expected to assume the country’s presidency on the 1st of April, and the latest pronouncement by the government to create new posts in the public service is seen as his handiwork. While as a vice president he was mandated with driving government’s efforts to curb unemployment through developing job creation related strategies, something which has gone unnoticeable as unemployment continues to spiral. With a year left before the general elections, Masisi knows very well that he has to find a way of putting an end to soaring unemployment rates that threaten to be a thorny issue during the campaign season.