Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Botswana accedes to IMF calls to cut wage bill

The government has secretly implemented an unpopular advice of the International Monetary Funds (IMF) to downsize the civil service behind the backs of public service unions, confidential documents show. 

A document marked ‘secret’ dated 4th March 2021 from the Director of Directorate of Public Service Management, (DPSM), Goitseone Mosalakatane addressed to government ministries, departments and agencies, shows that Botswana has officially bowed to pressure and agreed to IMF’s demands to downsize its public service. 

Since 2011, Botswana which is SADC’s fourth largest economy and retains the same position in terms of the youth unemployment rate had been resisting calls by IMF to downsize its public service. 

Botswana has more than 100 000 public service workers for a population of more than two million people. According to official figures from Statistics Botswana multi-topic survey labour force report of first quarter of 2020, the country’s unemployment rate stood at 23.2 which was higher than the 22.2 percent unemployment rate in 2019.

In the same savingram, the DPSM boss informs ministries and government departments that, “The policy discussions during the 2018 IMF Article consultation with the Botswana Government has highlighted the need for Public Sector Reforms, including a gradual reduction in the size of the sector over time, which would allow the state to focus on providing high-quality services more efficiently. It has further revealed that the Government’s overall expenditure envelope as a share of GDP, is very high by International standards, thus warranting a thorough assessment of pockets of unproductive spending and ways to increase efficiencies.”

She further stated that “As you might be aware, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MFED) has revealed during the 2021/22 budget preparation that a major challenge facing the Government of Botswana is the unsustainable level of the personal emoluments.  This entails the wages, allowances, overtime and pension contributions which currently stands at the acceptable level estimated at less than 10% of GDP.”

Another savingram dated 4th May 2021, from Mosalakatane titled “Management of the Public Sector Wage Bill,” states that, “Addressees are reminded that the deadline for submission of an equivalent of 50% of vacant positions, as at 1st April 2021, in value terms to be abolished as directed by Cabinet through Presidential Directive Cab 06EXO/2020 has long passed. In view of the above, addressees are informed that failure to comply by Friday 7th May 2021 will result in the DPSM indiscriminately implementing the directive.

In another savingram dated 23 December 2020, Mosalakatane had informed ministries and government departments that “following the issuance of our Circular Savingram DP 19/72VIII(48) dated 23 October 2020, the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) has been inundated with requests from various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) for waivers to fill vacant positions across Government despite the decision made by the Cabinet.” 

She added that, “Recently, DPSM has received numerous inquiries regarding whether or not to continue appointing officers to act for vacant positions.”

“Recruitment for vacant positions has been frozen and funds for the vacancies will only be reinstated in 1st April 2021. In this regard, may I appeal to MDAs to exercise patience.

“In the interim, addressees may commence/undertake other aspects of the recruitment process, but make appointment offers to successful candidates to effect on or after 1st April 2021,” said Mosalakatane. She also informed ministries and departments that those “who are already at an advanced stage of the recruitment process are advised to withhold appointments until further notice.”

Commenting on the latest development, Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) deputy secretary general Ketlhalefile Motshegwa states that this depicts an ideological battle.

“It will be naive and stupid of Government of Botswana to listen to flimsy and imperialistic advice of IMF. The Bretton woods institutions of IMF and World Bank serve to push the neo-liberal agenda of Western world so that Africa continues to economically depend on the West. They lure naive African countries to get loans with conditions of structural reforms such as downsizing which will lead to people losing jobs and resulting in abject poverty,” he said.

He added: “This is a policy aimed at extending Western countries’ power and influence through neo-colonisation disguised as loans and aid. The IMF and World Bank are agents of Western Neo-liberal imperialism. Their policies are instruments aimed at promoting and imposing western neo-liberal ideals of trade liberalization, and capitalism in developing and borrowing countries and often results in the control of the borrowing country’s economy by the institutions and more beneficial to the North than the developing South.” 

Motshegwa warned that…”The Government must be at the forefront of development and employment. Taking this path of neo liberalism by Government will throw the economy into ruins and we may never recover. These are the same structural reforms that destroyed countries such as Zambia and others.”

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