Following the presentation of the 2008 budget speech by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), wishes to make the following observations:
The theme for the budget was presented as “Accelerating Achievement of Vision 2016 through NDP 10.” As usual, the Minister has chosen a theme whose relevance to the contents of the speech is difficult to appreciate. The 2008 budget speech does not spell out what the achievements of NDP 8 in relation to attaining the goals of NDP 8 have been and, further, how NDP 9 will be used to accelerate those achievements. It has become apparent that the Minister regards the crafting of a theme for the annual budgets as a routine only necessary for completing the budget speech without paying attention to its relevance. It is our view as the BCP that a theme must encapsulate the key proposals of the budget.
As we pointed out in our response to the last State of the Nation Address, available economic data demonstrates that the BDP government has failed to move Botswana close to the pillars of Vision 2016. It is ironical that the budget speech makes repeated reference to a prosperous life for all when the reality is that the BDP has prevailed over an economy that has promoted high levels of inequality. Various Household Income and Expenditure Surveys have revealed that Botswana’s wealth is by-passing significant sections of the population. Our view is that the Minister should have given consideration to interventions that can enable the economy to grow in a distributive manner and be more inclusive than has been the case in the past. This has not been done, making pronouncements of prosperity for all shameful rhetoric.
The country is facing an unprecedented power crisis as a result of poor planning and lack of vision on the part of government. It has always been our contention that given the resources available to Botswana, allowing the country to overly rely on external sources for electricity defies logic.
The destiny of the country will forever be at risk for as long as the government of the day is more comfortable with securing critical services from external players on the justification that local resources are more costly. We should have long utilized the Morupule coal to generate electric power to meet domestic demand to the greatest extent possible. The current crisis could have been avoided if the BDP was more willing to use simple common sense.
It is surprising that the Minister decided not to give a detailed analysis of how the power shortage will affect the economy. The reality is that a number of businesses have been hard hit by the loss of revenue, loss of stock, loss of hours of work, which all will result in a slow down of the economy and rendering the country unattractive to investors. It is even more worrying to note that there is no short term plan to the crisis. Government appears to have resorted to baseless hope that the problem will resolve itself with time. There is no leadership provided as cabinet appears to have run out of possible solutions, which explains the silence that Minister Kedikilwe has maintained as the erratic power outages presided over by his parastatal gain frequency.
Government should also explain how it will satisfy the additional demand that it is creating through the rural electrification project. What is the purpose of rolling out the electrification network when present demand can not be satisfied? We call on government to announce a short term plan and give further details of how the Mmamabula and Morupule upgrade projects will be speeded to address the power shortage.
The Minister announced an overall budget surplus of P 7.66 billion arising primarily from significant under-spending of both the recurrent and development budgets. The reason for the under-expenditure remains the legendary excuse of poor implementation capacity.
As will be recalled, about 8 years ago his Honour the Vice President was released from the need to preside over any ministry so that he could focus on better administration of government projects. The result of the efforts, if any, by the Vice President remain unknown and Batswana continue to pay a huge cost emanating from cost overruns due to delayed projects.
The government annual statement of accounts for the financial year ended 31st March 2006, indicate that the Ministry of Education recorded an under-expenditure of P 635,940,470. Minister Gaolathe reports that The Ministry of Education remains one of the key culprits of under-expenditure of both the recurrent and development budgets.
It is clear that the key problem facing Ministry of Education and other government departments is not lack of resources as government Ministers normally allege. The key problem is inability to utilize available resources for the assigned projects. The decision to reintroduce school fees was based on the argument that government alone can no longer carry the financial burden of providing education. We call on government to reconsider the school fees requirement in public schools as the cost of the exercise does not justify the benefits that could possibly be anticipated.
The 2008 budget speech has not addressed the key challenges facing ordinary Batswana. We are faced with an economy that does not avail opportunities to the majority even when it is said to be at its peak, many remain unemployed, income distribution remains disproportionate and we are over dependent on a finite mineral resource. The budget has not suggested new interventions to tackle the key economic issues and resorted to making unattainable wishes.
We trust that Batswana will come to appreciate in larger numbers that the BDP government has run out of ideas and has become irrelevant to the modern day dynamics. Past achievements, as usually parroted by agents of the BDP, do not guarantee a prosperous future. The need for an alternative development plan is more critical than ever before and we call upon Batswana to study the BCP proposals as contained in our Development and Democratic Programme as well as our election manifestos.
Information & Publicity Secretary