As reaction and comments over the Monday budget speech continue to trickle from different houses, the Botswana Congress Party Tuesday quashed the speech, arguing that it is an imprudent document never seen before since independence amid the threatening current global crisis afflicting both the developed and the developing countries.
At a press conference called to enlighten the public about the party’s stance over the budget speech delivered by Finance Minister, Baledzi Gaolathe, the BCP president, Gilson Saleshando, rubbished and poured water to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party budget speech, insisting that with trying times currently upon us, the speech failed to address the real issues presented by the financial crisis.
To Saleshando, the budget speech dismally failed to respond to the challenges Botswana faces but instead presents a “business as usual approach”, attributable to the BDP government since independence.
“The present day economic challenges demand a leadership with capacity to generate innovative interventions. This is not the time for a business as usual and casual approach that has been the BDP way of managing the economy. Ever since the Credit Crunch dominated the world media houses, with governments publicly spelling out their response to the crisis, the BDP government adopted silence as their strategy,” said Saleshando.
Against this backdrop, the BCP president is doubtful about the ruling BDP’s responsibility for the country’s developmental progress, adding that the financial crisis was there only to help expose the party’s imprudence that has been elusive for the past many years.
“Costly projects introduced through presidential directives geared at popularizing the president amid the global recession are a clear sign we are heading and marching towards a disaster,” he said, insisting on the president and his aides to “re-think and implement development options plausible for the almost embattled Botswana.”
With glaring evidence that the crisis has encroached on our shores, Saleshando is surprised at the president’s striking silence as companies embark on major retrenchment exercises. He is equally surprised by government ministers whom he accuses of being cagey with information on how their specific sectors have been affected.
Saleshando accuses Gaolathe of shrouding matters in secrecy and for failing to provide leadership to other economic players such as the private sector and the labour movement.
“Government must realize that in times of economic uncertainty, they need to engage the entire nation in formulating a plan to navigate through the crisis and not only address the nation through a budget speech that is itself a product of a highly secretive process.”
With regards to privitasation, which the ruling party has lobbied for some time but without tangible results, the exuberant BCP president insisted the current financial crisis were a result of government’s unfettered stance that, on their own, private market forces could lead and sustain themselves.
“The current problems afflicting the world are a clear sign that left on its own, the market forces can deliver confusion and crisis resulting in great loss of wealth for both the economic players and innocent spectators,” he argued, calling on the government to suspend the on-going privatization with immediate effect.
The BCP, he says, maintains that Botswana is essentially a developmental state that requires the government to take a lead in the development process, adding the key lesson arising from the on-going global recession “is that free market, just as was the case with the command economy, leads to unmitigated disaster”.
Over the diversification of the economy, which the party believes has eluded the government to-date, the BCP deputy president, Kesitegile Gobotswang, accuses the BDP government for having been blinded by the De Beers gimmick that “A diamond is forever”.
Gobotswang further notes the speech contains nothing to suggest the government intends to resuscitate the diamond industry nor the emerging small mining industries and the manufacturing sector.
“During these trying times, the government should have intervened to help these small emerging mines but nothing has come out from the speech,” he thundered.
While acknowledging the lions share allocated to the ministry of education, BCP secretary general Taolo Lucas says the party is unhappy about the allegations of misappropriation of funds and the sponsor of ghost students at the ministry, reiterating the call for the minister at the helm, Jacob Nkate, to resign as he had failed to deliver.
Adds Saleshando, “To condone Nkate as the minister is tantamount to embracing corruption by the president himself.”
In the wake of torture allegations by the newly established Department of Intelligence Services, the BCP is also alarmed and perturbed by the huge sum allocated to it, predicting such immense funding could be targeted to harass and intimidate innocent individuals.