Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Creating employment with salt is commendable but paying Degree Holders P600 is an insult

In about two months, retailers will no longer be allowed to import packaged salt that is less than 100 kilograms. This is a deliberate decision taken by the government in a bid to protect local producers. We need to state from the onset that we fully applaud the Ministry of Trade for the bold move, which was long overdue.

We believe the ban should have long been imposed given figures provided by Statistics Botswana which show that between 2008 and 2014, average imports of pre-packed salt stood at approximately 5, 100 tonnes annually. At the same time, the Ministry of Trade says local salt packaging companies’ current production level is close to 9, 000 tonnes annually, more than the imports.

What is more interesting is the fact that at full capacity, a production capacity for local salt packagers is more than 10, 000 tonnes annually. As such, it is clear that local salt packagers with their current production are able to meet the local demand and export some of their produce.

We hear that there are numerous companies that are packaging salt and have invested substantially into their businesses. Some of these companies are said to be ISO certified and are already exporting their products, both fine and coarse salt. These companies are operating below capacity and have the potential to increase production and employ more people. With the implementation of the ban, we believe that this will result in the creation of the much needed jobs as well as growth of local salt companies. Bravo to Trade PS, Peggy Serame and the whole MTI team.

Insulting our graduates

Elsewhere in this edition we carry a story about a proposed social programme that government intends to roll out in the near future. The disheartening aspect of the proposed #Graduate Volunteer Scheme is the remuneration. The government says it will pay out an allowance meal P600 to the volunteers. Imagine the sleepless nights that graduates had at University as they worked toward their ultimate graduation, only to be told by their government that it cannot create jobs for them. We know that government will come and say that this is just a temporary solution to the unemployment crisis. But where is the permanent solution? We are all sick and tired of short term measures that are at the same time eating on tax payers’ money without necessarily being helpful to anyone.

The latest scheme follows a few months after the state owned newspaper, Daily News carried adverts calling applications for part time jobs in government ministries and departments from the same youth. We are convinced that planning in our country or atleast at the government enclave is purely incremental; there is clearly no sign of through research on all the programmes that government continues to introduce one month after the other. This lack of planning and thorough research by government executives remains a source of concern given records that show that our greater predicament as a nation today is the ever growing level of youth unemployment.

Whoever set down and thought of Ipelegeng, YES, Tirelo Sechaba, National Internship Programme and lately Graduate Volunteering Scheme need to be reminded that our economy cannot sustain a situation where a large proportion of the youth population are cut adrift mainly through such programmes. These progammes, as we can already see can only result in an upward trend in the welfare bill while allowing desperately needed talents to lie fallow.

The truth of the matter is that the aforementioned programmes are only good in as far as they are stop gap measures. We continue to make the mistake to think that in any measure they can be counted as solutions to the crisis that we have at hand. We are even tempted to advise graduates to avoid government’s insults towards them by boycotting this new scheme.

Perhaps another reminder to the current administration, as stated before in this space, could be the fact that these high levels of unemployment, if left unchecked, will result in a groundswell of anger, resentment and disillusionment among those directly affected. The #Bottom-line is that as it stands, and given the many useless schemes being sponsored with tax payer’s money, there is need for government to say just what it plans to do for our unemployed youth. If there are none, the government should feel free to say so.

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