Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Current fuel shortage situation should have been handled far much better

Botswana is currently experiencing an acute fuel supply shortage across the whole country. Almost all filling stations were at the time of writing this commentary without fuel supply completely and a few fortunate ones were also operating on near empty.

The acute fuel supply shortage comes at a critical time when the national economy has just been slowly emerging from an economically draining Covid-19 pandemic lock down which saw almost the entire economy grounding to an abrupt halt.

It is an understatement not to acknowledge how terribly the Botswana economy has been brutally battered by Covid-19 pandemic. Some business operations are already facing foreclosures on account of the Covid-19 pandemic while thousands of Batswana are on the verge of losing their jobs, equally thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is completely disheartening to Batswana in general and the business community in particular to be hit by yet another economic disruption in the form of fuel supply shortages. The current situation brings to focus another important point on Botswana preparedness in terms of fuel supply preparedness.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic on the Botswana shores, government through BOL should have at the bare minimum, worked out appropriate strategies on how to ensure a seamless fuel supply chain. This is especially so given the common knowledge that the country is net exporter of petroleum products.

Fuel falls under the essential goods category that the country should always put at the forefront agenda in its Covid-19 planning agenda and beyond because there is no how, even at minimal operation, the economy would run without sufficient, reliable and uninterrupted fuel supply. It is also common knowledge that all the country’s fuel supply is by way of truck and train deliveries.

These two important modes of transport should have been analyzed to the core by the Botswana Oil Limited and its parent of Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security. It has always been an obvious case that any supply chain disruption, irrespective of cause, held immense potential to negatively affect national economic operations.

At the time of writing this commentary, social media was abuzz with questions of where fuel could be possibly be found in and around Gaborone. This is the dire situation the whole country is finding itself grappling with, an acute fuel shortage. With proper planning, this particular shortage could have been avoided. However, to the relevant authorities it was business as usual, completely unbothered with the imminent shortage.

To add salt to injury, it is in order to suggest that the fuel supply shortage situation should have been handled better by the relevant authorities in Botswana Oil Company and the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security. Last week BOL officials were on the national television talking about the fuel supply situation in the country.

Unfortunately at that briefing, no mention was made by the officials on potential; fuel supply shortages save to say they faced transport challenges. The officials never indicated to their audience that that there was a looming possibility of fuel supply shortages.

While the tendency to blow certain issues out of proportion through the use of social media must never be condoned, the circulating voice message on fuel supply shortage was triggered by the relevant authorities’ failure to alert the nation about the imminent shortage.

Government should wake up from its slumber and ensure that all the time there is proper advance planning on the efficient supply of all critical components that fuel our national economy to function optimally.

While other advisors on the composition of the Covid-19 task team are not known, it is critical that the team has its own economic experts who from time to time judiciously advice the team on economic imperatives and decisions that border on the economic operations.

There are certain decisions made and imposed by the Covid-19 task team that independent economic experts feel bode ill for the national economy. It would be prudent if these experts from the different sectors sit around the table and cobble up together, decisions that are not only health issues biased but rather all encompassing to ensure national health security and efficient economic operations.

The assurances that have to date been fed the nation on the restoration of maximum fuel supply should not be just another rhetoric. The authorities must deliver on those assurances. We can’t afford to have another economic lapse, as we have just emerged from a deleterious two months lock down.

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The Telegraph October 28

Digital edition of The Telegraph, October 28, 2020.