The Geneva-based World Economic Forum (WEF) said Wednesday that Botswana has fallen far short of achieving its 2003 ranking in terms of competitiveness, according to the annual report the Global Competitiveness report.
Although the country moved 20 points up to number 55 against last year’s number 76, it is was still far from the score of number 36 that it reached five years ago.
The report said Batswana still has poor work ethic, inefficiency in government institutions, poor education standards and people still lack access to finance, which makes it difficult for its citizens to compete in the cut-throat global economy.
Some of the key problems were related to labour issues where Botswana scored very poorly saying that it is difficult and costly in the country to fire an incompetent employee.
The report’s findings attracted a lot of criticism from participants who were hosted by the Botswana National Productivity Centre (BNPC) for breakfast at the Gaborone International Conference Centre.
Participants observed that it is high time the labour laws were made investor friendly so that the country can attract the much needed foreign direct investment that would help it to deal with issues of poverty.
“Having been the Commissioner of Labour before, I now find that most of the laws that we do have are unfavourable to the private sector. Probably, it is a historical thing and reflects the thinking of the legislature, but I think, if it is a historical thing we must now review them because we might need some of them now,” head of BNPC, Thembo Lebang, said.
Participants said, in Botswana, it is easier to fire late comers and those who come to work drunk but the majority of peopleÔÇöespecially in government officesÔÇöspend most of their time reading newspapers rather than attending to their work.
They further complained that the process of firing an incompetent employee is so laborious and time consuming that when companies think of firing people they end up giving up and hiring more people than they need.
“The problem that we cannot sack people quickly makes it difficult to improve our competitiveness,” one participant said, adding that we have now resorted to hiring people on a temporary basis.
Top government officials blamed politicians who interfere with the running of their departments saying the civil service is over politicized.
“You can’t fire people in the civil service unless he shows up at work drunk. There are many incompetent people but the problem is the procedure is long and needs consultation. And before you finish with the consultations a Member of Parliament from any of the political parties will be summoning you,” she said.
“Work ethic is the most problematic thing,” the Chief Executive Officer of CEDA, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, said, adding that “if we do not address this no foreign direct investment would come to this country.”
The report’s findings were given weight by a survey conducted by BNPC which did a poll among the country’s chief executives on the productivity of the staffs. Fifty- five percent of the CEOs in the country said the work ethic of their juniors is poor while six percent said very poor.
The CEOs said almost all their juniors lack initiatives and blamed some of these on cultural values while 34 percent said it could be a lack of individual drive.
This comes at a time when Botswana is negotiating for services and investment with the EU in a bid to bolster its economy ahead of the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) mandatory implementation of trade rules in 2016. If the situation does not change, Botswana will be wiped off the map of competitive international trade leading to more poverty and loss of jobs.