Sunday, April 21, 2024

BOCCIM President’s speech at Special High Level Consultative Council

Your Excellency, with your permission I wish, on behalf of the Private Sector, to congratulate the New Vice President Dr Ponatshego Kedikilwe for ascending to this very important post. BOCCIM shares in this vote of confidence in Rre Kedikilwe, a worthy appointee who needs no introduction in terms of both his achievements and his abilities. Mr Vice President, we look forward to a united leadership as you assist your boss leading cabinet in tackling economic and other national issues and placing the country on a vantage position in the global business arena. 

Sir we also take this opportunity to congratulate and well as welcome to this forum, the new commander of the Botswana Defence Force and the New Commissioner of Police. We trust that we will be able to work with and cooperate closely with them just as we did with their predecessors.

Your Excellency, again with your permission I wish to touch on another topic of the moment, being issue of the Share Options in De Beers, which we learn from both the local and regional media that government has decided not to take up the option of buying these shares ÔÇô and for a good reason.

Sir, one however wonders if it had not been possible, or thought about that the shares could have been secured for Batswana to buy. Another option could have been to make use of the Pension Funds as the bulk of Pension Fund money is currently invested out of the country this could have been an opportunity for investing some of this money in these shares by Government borrowing from the Pension Funds or the Pension Funds buying these shares directly. 

I wish to start off by thanking you, Your Excellency for your commitment and perseverance in ensuring that issues that affect the Doing Business Environment in our country are tackled head on! It gives courage to us in the private sector that government is serious about facilitating and ensuring that enterprises in Botswana are successful and sustainable.

As Private Sector we are grateful for this unique opportunity to have a direct contribution to the efforts to relook at Government processes with the aim of improving the business environment in Botswana.

Sir we also continue to do our part independently as the private sector. One such initiative we have undertaken is a monthly on line publication by BOCCIM called ‘EconBusiness’. This provides a monthly review of topical issues on the Botswana Economy and is aimed at both the private sector and government readership. It covers themes such as business costs, the business environment, diversification and so on. It will also monitor progress in reforming the business environment as reflected in various indicators. We will welcome your feedback on the publication.

For purposes of this exercise we looked at 2 aspects of business experience in trying to access government services; being Processes required, and efficiency.

A) Processes: we looked at the number of stages that one has to go through in order to attain approvals, permits or licenses. 

B) Efficiency: Having to do with issues around, Attitudes, Completeness of responses and advice from officials, Willingness to assist and Commitment of and by the officers, dealing with a particular request which then end up in, inordinate or unwarranted delays. Cases under this area are in the majority as will be seen from the reports that will be presented under each Ministry.

The process we followed involved a wide consultation with our members to get their input. This was done sector by sector to ensure that as much information is gathered. We debated at BOCCIM before we compiled the issues into an interim report which was shared with the Ministries in the form of Special Sectoral Level Consultative Councils meetings in order to get comments and further input into the report.  Sir, we note that it was not easy to convene the Ministerial meetings, however in the end, the majority of meetings were held in time for us to refine the report and submit it accordingly. It is interesting to note that when these meetings were held, there were very lively debates on the issues that were raised.

Your Excellency, I must hasten to point out that we have recognized that this exercise cannot cover all issues in one or two sittings. It is a continuous process which has given us in the private sector and the government direction on how our future meetings and engagements should be conducted. We thank you for your visionary and strategic approach which will help us to address key issues that affect the business environment we are operating in.

When one goes through the report, it will be realized that a number of the issues are repetitive and nothing new has been presented. This goes to show that there has been very little or no movement in resolving previously tabled problems. As long as these are not resolved, they will always feature in any engagement that we will have.

Your Excellency, the presentations that follow generally are in the form of a table presenting the impediment identified, recommended action and proposed timelines. Sir we request that these timelines be taken seriously by all parties. In particular we would request that apart from the proposed reforms, that specific cases currently before the different ministries and departments be fast tracked -  perhaps under some kind of moratorium if necessary, as in some cases business has come to a standstill and frustration is mounting.
I thank you Sir! 

*Alex Monchusi is President of BOCCIM


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