Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Batswana are hurting; and there is no end in sight

Economically, Batswana are beleaguered.The economy is experiencing strong headwinds.Lack of opportunities continues to bite. The more that happens, the moreBatswana get pushed to the economic sidelines of their country.For a people that have always been marginalized from the economic activitiesof their country, the situation is making a bad situation worse.The private sector in Botswana has been under strain since the globalmeltdown of 2008.A tenuous recovery was made all the worse by a long streak of power shortagethat immediately followed.

That means to-date the private sector is weaker than ever, thus employing fewer people than would otherwise be the case.The mass loss of employment at Selibe Phikwe when BCL mine closed has left ablow on the national psyche.Financial institutions; both government owned and commercial are closing inon Batswana; seizing the properties they had used as collateral to borrow.Because everybody among citizens is broke, when these properties aresubsequently put up for sale they are bought by the Asians, especially theChinese and Indians because they are liquid with tons and loads ofdisposable cash.

The foreclosures are further impoverishing Batswana, taking the economyfurther out of their reach and making efforts to empower citizens a wildgoose chase we often hear about only in official speeches or in some aimlesspolitical talk that really does not make sense to people in the trenches.The economic fundamentals are not good for many Batswana including thosethat are in work.The situation is much worse for those who are unemployed.But one has to try and put themselves in the shoes of those citizens who hadborrowed against their properties, especially houses.

This happened mainly at a time when the economy was doing reasonably well.And now that economy has collapsed and foreclosures are following.For many of these people, it feels like a race to the bottom.The psychological toll on families especially children who find themselvesall of a sudden homeless is huge.Nobody in leadership so far has had a human heart at least to tell Batswanathat he too can feel their pain.Or if there is, then at least they are not saying it.Joblessness has increased with the collapse of such sectors likemanufacturing, especially the textile.

As a country we have totally failed to take advantage of the American AGOA(Africa Growth and Opportunity Act.), a tariff free law dispensation made byCongress to allow Africa goods entry into the United States.For this industry to get back on its feet, it will not be easy.To be honest there will be no shortcut solutions and more crucially nopanacea. The road ahead will be rocky, before any smoothening cam occur.Revival will require a lot of resources.More importantly it will require political salesmanship, but also politicalwill.A way has to be found to give citizens a breathing space.

These are politically charged economic times.Everybody blames what they are going through on the absence of goodpolitical leaders.The likelihood is that economic conditions will continue to soften, therebymaking more and more foreclosures a reality.For Batswana, the economic upheavals sweeping across their country are nowtransforming into social upheavals.

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