The new budget speech by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo, has caused displeasure among the Botswana Council of Non Governmental Organization (BOCONGO) members.
During a forum organized by the Environmental Heritage Fund in Francistown last week, the panelists swiped at the government for disregarding the civil society on issues pertaining to national interest such as the Budget speech.
One of the panelists Lebogang Moeti pointed out that the budget does not say much on sustainability of the low income earners and those people who are poor. He indicated that the budget was undemocratic as it shed the Civil Society in the dark because they were not consulted during the drafting of the budget.
He indicated that the Civil Society contributes a lot to the economic development of the country and therefore the government did not play a democratic part in excluding BOCONGO when drafting the budget.
“Consultation with us has not existed in setting the budget,” Moeti said.
He took issue with the fact that Social Economic issues were failing because government programmes such as Ipelegeng were not a solution to poverty reduction as they only promoted a dependency syndrome. He added that it did not help the citizens to sustain themselves by empowering them to survive on their own without leaning on the government. He also pointed out that the government was also failing to recognize the civil service which then backfired on their service delivery.
“For the past two years, the inflation rate has skyrocketed and the government has not increased the salaries of the civil servants,” he added.
Moeti mentioned that the recent announcement on the increment of the electricity tariffs and the Value Added Tax (VAT) would be a vicious circle to the low income earners as it would only increase the effects of the inflation rates and also affect the buying power of the ordinary Batswana. He went further to attack the government, indicating that the budget was mum on issues concerning climate change and gave the example of the Selibe Phikwe mine. He said that the poisonous fumes emitted by the mine were hazardous to the environment and the health of the people.
Another panelist representing the Francistown Youth, Lesego Kwambala, attacked the government for failing to address the problems of the youth in the recent budget speech. He pointed out that the recent speech is silent on the youth and also mentioned that the youth were vulnerable, especially to poverty issues.
Kwambala also stated that although the government had come with some initiatives on helping the youth with programmes such as Young Farmers CEDA, the efforts are fruitless as the youth are limited due to lack of property rights.
“Property rights are a problem to the youth because for one to be an entrepreneur he or she needs land to be successful,” he said.
He added that on entrepreneurship programmes the government does finance the youth but fails to mentor them and provide them with land.
Kwambala indicated that most of the time these businesses then close up because the youth lack the skills or experience to manage the projects. He also added that in some instances the youth have an abundance of skills and knowledge but due to corruption in the government departments, the proposals are rejected and human capital ends up wasted.
Ditiro Mojadibodu, who was also one of the panelists, highlighted that his concern was much on the disabled. He pointed out that the disabled have long been marginalized in society and they continue to be discriminated. He took issue with the fact that they have never been included in the country’s budgets, which clearly showed that the government was undemocratic and unjust to the disabled. He mentioned that it was time that the voice of the disabled was heard.
“The disabled are also one of the most vulnerable people to poverty in Botswana because they are overlooked,” he mentioned.
Mojadibodu further added that the disabled should not be taken as a homogeneous society but they also need to be encompassed in the community to be all entitled to the same rights and benefits as everyone else. He pleaded with the government to introduce special programmes that would cater for the disabled including the promotion of entrepreneurship among citizens
The theme of the forum was Budgeting for Social Justice towards realization of vision 2016.