We now have a new Vice President in the name of Rre Ponatshego Kedikilwe. The question is; are we in a better position to resolve our economic problems? Can he by virtue of his position place the leadership of this country in a position where they can come up with economic policies and programs that generate an economy that meets the needs of our people?
Imagine a situation where someone who has been at the centre of our economic thinking since independence comes to Rre Khama and tells him the following. The Southern African Customs Union was created in 1910, long before both Sir Seretse Khama and Sir Ketumile Masire were born. Neither Sir Seretse Khama nor Sir Ketumile Masire can claim to have created this revenue earner for Botswana. Diamond prospecting in Botswana took place long before Sir Seretse Khama became President of Botswana. He cannot therefore claim to have identified this revenue earner for Botswana. He had no role to play in the discovery of the diamonds.
The person then tells Rre Khama that the impressive economic growth figures during Sir Ketumile Masire’s era were due to the fact that we were coming from a low economic base. In the Masire era we did not generate any new source for generating revenue. We relied on SACU and diamonds. For the close to twenty years that Masire was President no diversification of sources of revenue took place.
The economist then tells Rre Khama that even though Rre Gontebanye Mogae had studied economics at Oxford he like Rre Masire before him, could not diversify the economy from SACU and diamonds. Rre Mogae had been a key figure in the economic thinking of Botswana. Even as President with total control of the executive power of Botswana he could not diversify the economy.
The person then tells Rre Khama that he does not doubt his knowledge of military affairs and he then asks Rre Khama whether he seriously believes that he can achieve what his father Sir Seretse Khama, Sir Ketumile Masire and Rre Gontebanye Mogae with his Oxford education could not achieve.
I have no doubt that this question will create serious doubt in Rre Khama’s mind as to what he can achieve on the economic front.
I submit that it is this doubt that is at the heart of Rre Khama’a statement in Maun that he had no intention of leaving Botswana in a worse off economic situation than when he took office. Basically this statement is an acknowledgement on the part of Rre Khama that he cannot promise to do better than his predecessors. It is when one takes regard of the doubt that obtains in Rre Khama’s mind that one can see the importance of a Vice President who can inspire Rre Khama to seek to do better than his predecessors rather to retain their level of achievement.
One must understand that Rre Khama is a politician. Only a courageous politician goes out of his way to set targets that require self application and deployment of skills and processes that the politician does not personally possess or control.
A politician also creates room for escape in case he does not achieve the low levels that he has set for himself. Everyone knows by now that a lot of reliance is being placed on the world economy. If the low levels are not achieved the decline in the world economy can be relied upon to justify failure. One even wonders why with the excuse of the world economy readily available to justify failure, a leader does not set high standards. If they fail they have an excuse. If they partially succeed the nation will benefit.
The person further tells Rre Khama that Masire and Mogae were respected as prudent managers, not because they did anything spectacular, but because they ensured that Batswana had low expectations as regards economic growth and development, comparing Botswana with failed states. He then asks Rre Khama whether he is prepared to lose the respect of Batswana by setting high expectations. Rre Khama is a human being, he is unlikely to lightly dismiss the security provided by this approach to issues.
The economist advices Rre Khama that it is in his best interests not to set standards of achievement high on the economic front. After all if after close to fifty years the party that he leads has failed to generate a source of revenue not based on SACU, diamonds or tourism, it is highly unlikely that it can generate such a source in the remaining six years of his term. The person then promises Rre Khama that he will ensure that the economic indicators show some measure of growth, but that Rre Khama should not at any time link economic growth with quality of life of the people.
On the competitiveness stakes Botswana ranks below Britain and the United States. Both countries are having difficulties but they are spending money on improvement of their infrastructure. This serves at least two purposes. It keeps their economies going and ensures that at the end of the economic slump they will have top rate infrastructure that will ensure their competitiveness.
In Botswana we are cutting down of spending on infrastructure supposedly because of the economic slump. How do we hope to be competitive at the end of the economic slump?
We also in my view have a misguided understanding of productivity. What is the point of been productive in doing meaningless processes and decisions? There are a lot of public servants who are highly productive at frustrating economic activity. They are very quick to make senseless decisions. Why is it that we never get a report on what economic gains Botswana has made due to decisions made by our highly productive public servants? In my view we must have a report that tells us how being productive at meaningless processes and decisions has improved our economy. If we do not have such a report then there is no reason to measure productivity.
I believe that if you want to destroy a people you go after the leadership. In Botswana the top most leader is Rre Khama. If you want to destroy Batswana you must go after Rre Khama. If you want Batswana to be timid on the economic front you must destroy Rre Khama’s courage on the economic front. You must ensure that he develops a fear to listen to new ideas on the economic front. This can be achieved through various means. One of them is to first destroy the courage of those whom you know he listens to. Once these have been defeated you then ensure that they transmit their doubt to him.
I have observed that Rre Khama has a close circle of friends and advisors. What new blood is at the economic leadership at Finance and Development Planning? Most of these advisors cannot mention a single idea that has added value to the body of knowledge of mankind on the economic front. They already have doubts as to their economic prowess. It is therefore very easy to ensure that Botswana doubts its ability to look at the world’s economy in a different light.
Sir Seretse Khama is said to have once remarked that we have been taught, sometimes positively, that we have no past worth writing about. I am sure that at the time he said these words he was fully conscious of the fact that the past is created by people. It is in the criticism of ideas held and propagated by leaders that the past is created. That is why I am comfortable criticizing the economic thinking of Rre Khama. It is a thinking that seeks to keep us in an inferior position where our people’s economic needs can only be met when other people in other countries do well. That is not acceptable.
There is no way that Rre Khama can contemplate being removed from office without at the same time appreciating that people have to take prior steps of advocating and propagating ideas on the economic front that are contrary to his. It should be relatively easy therefore for people to see that they can articulate views that are contrary to his without fear. I had a laugh when I heard what Rre Khama said because it swept the carpet from under the feet of those who trade on suggesting that it is wrong to hold views contrary to his. In just a few words Rre Khama has devalued their currency to zero.
I remember that at one time Rre Kedikilwe talked about consolidation of our independence. One can only hope that he remembers what he has said in the past and what it entails and acts on it.
In the past I have suggested that I did not trust his commitment to citizen economic empowerment issues, that he said the right things when outside cabinet but betrayed the cause once inside.
His ascendancy to the office of Vice President gives him an opportunity to show the nation that I am wrong.