Government has been urged to make efficiency a priority if Botswana is to continue as a success story among its peers in the developing economies. The diamond rich country has been a success and a global benchmark, but analysts have warned such success was not a result of productivity or competitiveness.
Former Bank of Botswana Deputy Governor and Econsult Managing Director, Dr Keith Jefferis said at the ‘Connecting Resources and Society’ conference on Monday that competitiveness needs to be elevated in government.
“The success of Botswana is not a result of productivity or competitiveness,” said Jefferies. “We are prosperous, but not producing. Competitiveness needs to have a higher profile in government as it drives down costs and heightens efficiency.”
Jefferies was simply buttressing a point raised in the Global Competitiveness Report (GCR) 2015-2016, which ranked Botswana 71st out of 140 countries in terms of competitiveness, but punched holes in the country’s measures to address productivity concerns. The report showed that Botswana performs better on the factor driven pillars relative to efficiency and innovation driven pillars of competitiveness.
“The severity of this problem has increased by 0.5% in relation to the previous report. Inefficient government bureaucracy has moved to second as the most problematic factor followed by restrictive labour regulations. Policy and government instability still remain the least problematic factors for doing business in the country,” read the report.
Botswana continues to be outperformed by its peers in Sub-Saharan Africa where growth continues at close to five percent, but competitiveness and productivity remain low. This is something that countries in the region will have to work on, especially as they face volatile commodity prices, closer scrutiny from international investors and population growth.
Mauritius remains the region’s most competitive economy (46th), closely followed by South Africa (49th) and Rwanda (58th). C├┤te d’Ivoire (91st) and Ethiopia (109th) excelled as this year’s largest improvers in the region overall. South Africa, which is Botswana’s largest regional trading partner rose seven places in annual WEF Global Competitiveness Index.
The concern about low productivity and inefficiency was also raised by Dr Grace Tabengwa, Ag. Senior Research Fellow and Macroeconomist at Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA), who advised government to look at ways to address issues affecting country’s competitiveness.
“…delivery and programme management I guess should be given priority,” Dr Tabengwa said at an Afena Capital Press Club meeting at Gaborone Sun. When delivering the 2015/16 budget speech, Finance Minister Kenneth Matambo also acknowledged the challenges to promotion of growth and economic diversification, saying productivity has been declining in the domestic economy, especially labour productivity.
“In this regard, government will continue to put in place measures to promote productivity that include: reforming the country’s education and training system; improving work ethic through training the workforce; as well as reviewing labour legislation; with a view to promoting efficiency in the labour market,” he said.