Thursday, October 29, 2020

Budget speech: Has Government lost the plot?

Umbrella for Democratic Change Vice President Ndaba Gaolatlhe says he does not understand how a government faced with the physical condition that Botswana is facing would want to triple the capital expenditure of the army which will not invigorate the economy or even improve the Botswana Defence Force (BDF). 

Gaolatlhe who is President for Botswana Movement for Democracy was responding to the Minister of Finance and Development Planning Kenneth Matambo budget Speech delivered to the National Assembly on Monday. 

The Ministry of Defence Justice and Security was allocated P4.95 billion or 13.4 percent of the development budget to cater for among others operational costs for; the BDF, Botswana Police, and Botswana Prison Services. 

“The impression we are getting is that this expenditure is going towards the purchase of aircrafts. We are facing difficult conditions as a country. In this current budget we are seeing a deficit of just over 4 billion, for the coming year we are expecting a deficit of over 6 billion. Given those circumstances I believe what the government should have done is to have asked herself more difficult questions that were never asked before,” said Gaolatlhe.

He wants government to “ask herself whether De Beers is the right partner in the mining sector.”

“Diamonds are our major revenue earner. I do not believe that this is the time to be saying we hope that the recovery of the global economy will improve our revenue circumstances in the coming years. What we should be saying is that, given our mining sector are we managing diamonds the way we should be. Do we have the right type of technical partner who is able to assist us to optimise our diamonds revenue,” said Gaolatlhe.

Gaolatlhe is of the view that despite the global worsening situation, there are companies in the mining sector globally who have been improving their revenue in the previous years, including this very past year.”  

Botswana Congress Party (BCP)  is of the view that there is no harmony between what the Minister is saying and what the President and the Vice President of the Republic have been saying about Economic Stimulus Program (ESP).

Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West Dithapelo Keorapetse told The Telegraph in an interview shortly after the presentation of the budget speech that President Ian Khama and Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi make ESP sound like a new thing that will stimulate the economy while Minister Matambo’s presentation made it clear that there is no such thing as ESP.

“As usual the Minister does not want to commit to any number of jobs that will be created by this ESP. He is not telling us how the challenge of decline in mineral revenue or the low performance of the mineral sector has affected the economy; he is not telling us how many jobs were lost in the last financial year due to the poor performance of the mining sector. We know that mines are downsizing in so many ways,” said Keorapetse.

The BCP does not understand why a chunk of P4.95 billion was allocated to the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security. 

“We do not know what kind of war the government is preparing for. The agricultural sector is declining, tourism is in the hands of foreigners yet we are spending money on the Ministry of Defence,” said Keorapetse.

Keorapetse said it appears from the budget speech that government has given up on economic diversification as there are no clear strategies on economic diversification.

“We are saying the voter should be listening and pinning their hopes on the opposition come 2019 because with this government we are not going anywhere,” said Keorapetse.

Botswana Federation of Public Sector Union (BOFEPUSU)  is happy that for the second year running the government has recognized the fact that the prerogative to bargain for and negotiate the conditions of service for the public service is the domain of the public service bargaining council. 

“For that we applaud government. We however on a cautionary note would like to point out that the Minister should not have bordered with stressing the lack of money when he was talking about the public service salaries as that amounts to preemptory remarks. Such issues of economic growth and lack of money should be left to the council to canvass,” said Rari. 

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