Sunday, May 16, 2021

Boko calls for reforms to boost business competitiveness

Leader of the Opposition Gideon Duma Boko says business confidence in Botswana remains very low, despite the immense resources that have been pumped into promoting foreign direct investment (FDI) through the Botswana Trade and Investment Centre (BITC).

When responding to the State of the Nation Address (SONA) last week, Boko said Botswana is struggling to attract significant FDI outside of the resource sector.

“This problem is not a problem caused by the recession, weak commodity markets or laziness as some have claimed; it’s a problem of deficiencies in the incentive regime,” he said.

He added that efforts to attract FDI have been derailed by Botswana’s hostile entrepreneurship ecosystem, polluted by imperious leaders who have bred uncertainty by acting and speaking out of turn on serious matters. He highlighted weak investor protection, high costs of enforcing contracts, rent seeking regulation, government inefficiency, a failing education system, unnecessary red tape and a prohibitive immigration policy as some of the factors that make it difficult for firms to attract the talent they need to compete, grow and create quality jobs for Batswana.

“Who wants to invest in a country in which expatriates can be deported without trial, regulatory processes are slow and costly, while ministers can do business with government and find nothing wrong with inviting civil servants to follow suit,” said Boko.

He further accused some ministers of demanding citizen equity participation as a condition for renewal of a firm’s license, adding that the economy is suffocated by state lawlessness, inefficient regulation and general government inefficiency. Boko quoted former Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe, who recently told the business community that economic growth is of little value unless it addresses economic diversification, poverty eradication and employment creation.

“There can be no development without growth. But growth delivers more development if it is inclusive and sustainable. The levels of poverty, joblessness, inequality and exclusion that exist in Botswana today are a result of flawed policies that entrench economic, social and political exclusion. Inclusion requires policies and strategies that empower people and communities by building their agency and enhancing their access to productive resources and opportunities,” he stated.

He challenged the President to put merit front and centre in appointing people to positions of responsibility, implement a decentralization policy to empower local governments and communities and review the country’s settlement policy to avoid market fragmentation and make service provision less costly. Boko also called for more investment in infrastructure, adding that high speed internet access and e-government are absolute imperatives for a competitive economy.

“The water and energy crises must end. Today’s water and energy crises betray an inexcusable lack of foresight and failure of planning,” said Boko in conclusion.

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