Two months, maybe three or four. That’s how long graduates in Botswana used to wait before they get a job at the government enclave. But that was some 21 years ago. Fast forward to 2021, university and college graduates now have a slim chance of finding employment opportunities in the public sector. The best they can get its internship placement for a period of 12 months.
The Government has for the past two or so decades struggled with creating a conducive environment for employment creation within its enclave and even at the private sector.
This past week Minister of Presidential affairs, Governance and Public Administration Kabo Morwaeng was at pain explaining how the Government through the Department of Public Service Management (DPSM) has been unable to recruit new personnel.
Morwaeng said due to an unavailability of funds, DPSM has been merging existing position and new positions without necessarily creating new ones.
According to Morwaeng, across the public service there exists a total 5 016 vacant positions and the length of the vacancies vary from one year to about four years.
“As much as the recruitment into vacant positions across the public service is continuing, ministries are actively managing existing vacancies to cater for emerging critical man power requirements. In other words, some vacant positions deemed surplus to requirement are used to create new positions according to the need. This is due to the fact that there is no additional budget for new position therefore ministries have to continuously rationalize existing positions for creation of new positions”, said Morwaeng in Parliament.
When quizzed on what changed in the civil service, as back in the day Batswana used to get employment upon graduation and whether Botswana has regressed in terms of employing the youth, Morwaeng explained that back then, things were different because very few people had skills similar to those who graduated and vacancies were abundant.
Morwaeng acknowledged the need to employ more youth but cautions that they must not place their options on Government alone.
“They must also try their luck in the private sector”.
The usual cash flush Botswana has been on the race to the bottom in the last four years as it continued to spend more than it was earning, and eventually using a large chunk of its savings to finance the budget shortfalls. Already, the budget deficits between 2017 and 2019 have added to P21.8 billion while projections for 2020/2021 financial year points to an all-time high deficit of P21 billion.
Part of efforts to reduce government expenditure to align it with the dwindling fortunes involves restructuring the public service, which accounts for the largest formal employment in a country that is battling with soaring unemployment.
The former minister of Finance and Economic Development – Dr Thapelo Matsheka said in February 2021 that a major challenge facing government is the unsustainable wage bill, which for many years has been a thorny issue between politicians and officials from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In a defiant move, in 2019 the government increased salaries for some government workers.
“In order to address this challenge, Government needs to right-size the public service. Meanwhile, as an effort to reduce the wage bill, Government will abolish 50 percent of vacant positions, in value, as of 1st April, 2021. In this regard, the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) will be expected to review the size of the public service and, during the 2020/21 Financial Year, recommend measures to rightsize it as part of over-arching public sector reforms,” Matsheka said earlier this year.
According to Morwaeng, in a month Government parts with over P2.3 billion from maintaining the public service.
Currently the number of people employed in the public service stands at 140 050 made up of of 125 203 in Central Government and 17843 in the Local authorities.