Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Another budget that blurs job creation

Could the Finance Minister Kenneth Matambo have demonstrated on Monday last week the newly acquired reclusive stance of government in the guise of a misinterpretation of its role with respect to its contribution in the economy?

It seems that the earlier pronouncements by government to involve itself directly in the task of job creation has moved further along the blurriness.

What might at face value seem to be a simple case of contradiction could actually signal the underlying glaring reality of an admission of failure by government in the creation of employment. Failure or not, the real issue at hand remains and if every year a mushrooming number of graduates enter the job market at the backdrop of extremely narrow absorption into the labor force, the problem of unemployment could beget problems that the small economy of Botswana could in time be difficult to contain.  

In the face of urgent matters such as high unemployment, abject poverty and the widening gap between the rich and the poor, it is not an ideal situation that the problem is still without a solution.      

In the last decade every year the national budget asserted a clear and direct failure in creating jobs. The language, however, unequivocally changed in this year’s national budget. The following timeline quotes the national budget with respect to the creation of employment. 

2017: With regard to employment creation, it is important to clarify that the principal role of the government is not to create jobs directly, but to provide a conducive macro-economic environment to facilitate the development of the private sector.

The private sector, in turn, is expected to take advantage of such an environment to undertake investments, which would contribute to the growth of the economy and creation of sustainable employment opportunities.

As if the declaration had not been heard, Matambo reiterated the statement which he expressed had to be clearly interpreted. A year prior, however, this is not the language that Matambo assigned to. In fact the Finance Minister specified at that time how government would directly involve itself in creating employment opportunities. 

2016: Government resolved to, among others, to use its spending power to boost economic growth and create jobs in the country. Therefore, in addition to seeking value-for-money in spending government budget, efforts would be made to ensure that such expenditure, whether under recurrent or development budget, contributed to job creation in the country. Some of the economic activities with potential for creating employment opportunities, would include: infrastructure backlog eradication, road networks and maintenance, wildlife and tourism initiatives, continued implementation of EDD initiatives, creation of Special Economic Zones, as well as regulatory reforms and improving efficiency

2015: The current unemployment rate of 19.8 percent therefore represents under-utilisation of one of the country’s important resource, namely our human capital. This is a challenge for the country, especially that it affects the youth. It is for this reason that Government will continue to implement various programmes, projects and strategies geared towards assisting the youth and women to improve their livelihood.

2014: The recent positive growth rates in some non-mining sectors are welcome developments as they reflect some success in our economic diversification efforts. Moreover, these non-mining sectors have greater potential for employment creation. Government will thus, continue to devise strategies to promote inclusive growth in the non-mining sectors of; Financial and Business Services, Construction, Agriculture, Tourism, and Manufacturing.

2013: Efforts will be continued to ensure that the economy generates job opportunities for those seeking employment by according priority to those projects with high job creation potential and ability to stimulate economic growth. Diversification of the tourism industry also provides opportunities for employment creation

2012: Let me reiterate the vision stated by His Excellency the President, in his State of the Nation Address in November 2011 that government is committed to growing the economy and expanding job opportunities.

2011: Government is particularly concerned with the issue of graduate employability, caused largely by a mismatch between what our education system provides and what the labour market requires. As a way of addressing this, institutions such as the University of Botswana are taking measures to diversify their academic programmes as well as develop programmes that will equip learners with the requisite skills.

2010: In an effort to create temporary employment on a rotational basis and to enhance Batswana’s participation in economic development, government introduced the Ipelegeng Programme in July 2008. This is a long-term programme targeting people with no or limited sources of income

2009: Government will promote the informal sector as another avenue to create additional jobs

2008: Implementation of major planned private and public sector projects, such as the Mmamabula Energy Project, North-South Carrier II Pipeline Project, Morupule B Power Station Project, Zambezi Integrated Agro-Commercial Development Project, tourism development and the construction of major dams, will provide a platform for significant growth and additional employment creation during NDP 10

2007: Government will continue to implement policies and projects designed to increase productive employment.

Local economists such as Moatlhodi Sebabole decipher from this current economic rut that it could present an opportunity to the private sector to rise to a level of hegemony in the economy which would as a result allow it to significantly influence the creation of jobs.

Sebabole said this on Tuesday, a day after Matambo delivered the 2017/18 national budget speech, at the First National Bank Botswana budget review responding to the standpoint expressed by the Finance Minister that government is not in the business of creating jobs but is rather the role of private sector.

The audience that Sebabole was addressing comprised primarily of the local business community but it did not seem from his statement that it was received with confidence and zeal.

Sebabole also mentioned businesses may not be in a position at the moment to show capability in creating employment opportunities particularly given the current operating challenges.

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