Thursday, July 9, 2020

Another letter to Dr Thapelo Matsheka. “There is need to set targets & economic indicators”

In our last edition I took you back to 2019 and reminded you to consider personalizing the challenge of “toppling” income inequality in our country. This week I want to take you even further back to the year 2012. That year of the good lord in which our government promulgated the Citizen Economic Empowerment Policy (CEE Policy).

Having been an advocate of policy change at some point, and a financial guru that you are, I would take a risk and assume that you know about CEE Policy. That you have read it and have own reservations about it. Your pronouncement the other day during the budget speech that the Policy will be turned into a law gave us an insight of what you think of the policy or atleast its impact so far.

In your own words (Budget Speech 2020), “despite the existence of these schemes, effective

citizen participation in some sectors of our economy has not been satisfactory, hence the decision to move from policy to a law to ensure effectiveness in application and implementation of the citizen economic empowerment agenda. The law will address the inequalities of the past by transferring the country’s wealth to disadvantaged Batswana, thereby allowing for more participation of citizens in the economy”

Dear Mr. Finance Minister, the failure to achieve the intentions of the 2012 CEE Policy speaks volume of us as a country. It speaks to the capacity and capability of the state to implement, but also speaks to the failure to rally around the major economic actors in the country to pull in the same direction.

The lack of implementation of the 2012 CEE Policy has already proven to be the stumbling block in the way of Botswana’s economic revival.

One can only hope that your arrival at the government enclave will, atleast, in the short-term result in increased awareness of the fact that policies do not succeed or fail on their own merits.

In our case, the CEE Policy, just like many other government policies failed (or partially failed) because of our decision not to establish some form of central “delivery unit” or “indicators”. Any of these two would have helped us track progress on its implementation. For instance, amongst the key guidelines of the 2012 CEE Policy were a) ownership of land and property by citizenship and d) reduction in unemployment by citizenship. None of these two has been achieved. There has been dismal failure on both fronts as we continue to register high numbers of job seekers while on the other hand our land applications at various lands authorities across the country are piling up. This speaks directly to the failure of the CEE Policy. The current complexion of these two shows vey well that we have not been tracking their progress. All we cared about was drafting a beautiful piece of paper and letting it gather dust at the government enclave cabinets. As a result, there is a widespread belief in our country that citizens are disempowered by foreigners who command more economic power as they control almost all sectors of the domestic economy.

As we always state in this space, the bitter pill that we all need to swallow is that we cannot economically empower the citizens without tackling the concentration of ownership, control and market dominance by foreigners. I hope one will not be labelled as negative or alarmist for saying this. But it true that Batswana have been left with no option but to scramble for crumbs of the economy.

We are now at a point where risk to appear like we are praising problems. That’s not what we desire. Infact it’s even more sad when leaders like you also fall in the temptation of repeating the problems that we know exist. Dear Mr. Finance Minister, I challenge you to ensure that rather than just letting some of the “beautiful” policies drift into full or even partial failure, your ministry – which is the custodian of our money should take an interest in ways in which the policy process – especially the implementation phase – can be strengthened and supported.

Fierce competitions from world markets that have risen from the globalisation tide continue to make economic diversification for our little Botswana imperative. That is why for so many years now we have been making numerous calls on the need to disentangle economic diversification and track it with monitoring indicators. Economic indicators will tell if we are trailing in the Diversification or Diworsification path. Dear Mr. Finance Minister, the #Bottomline here by calls upon you to set up jobs, land allocation and business funding targets. On top of that all set up economic indicators that would help the nation gauge whether indeed it is diversifying its economy.

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Sunday Standard July 5 – 11

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 5 - 11, 2020.