The time is now or never. It is the time for Botswana to speed up its economic reforms as a way of making the theory of demographic dividend (DD) work for us.
Our dear leader, President Mokgweetsi Masisi knows about the DD. He launched the DD report compiled by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) just two weeks before he became the president of this country.
For the sake of those who might not be familiar with this theory, the Demographic Dividend, or DD refers to the growth in an economy that is the resultant effect of a change in the age structure of a country’s population. The change in age structure is typically brought on by a decline in fertility and mortality rates.
In short, DD refers to the temporary economic benefit that can arise from a significant increase in the ratio of working-age adults relative to young dependents that result from fertility decline ÔÇô if this change is accompanied by sustained investments in education and skills development, health, job creation and good governance.
In Botswana, the UNFPA study revealed that Botswana youth remain dependent until the age of 32, when they start producing more than they consume. The dependency is a reflection of high levels of unemployment and underemployment of youth and young people below the age of 35 in the country. The study further shows that three to four out of every ten Batswana in this age group are unemployed. Therefore, this findings challenge the common view that young people in Botswana get jobs and stop being dependent at much earlier ages in their mid-20s. Some do work but have no houses/plot nor do they save enough to buy such in the future. Most of them live a cheque to cheque kind of life where the disposable income gets finished just on the first week of pay.
Furthermore, Dear leader will also remember that that the UNFPA study showed that the country has a uniquely high level of consumption that has produced a huge deficit between consumption and labour income. Batswana age 0 to 24 consume an equivalent of 90 percent of the total labour income generated in the country.
The dear leader will also remember that a related study by the World Bank estimates that in order for Botswana to maximise its demographic dividend, it will have to generate at least 1 million new jobs by 2050. We cannot attain this number if we do not start now. We cannot attain this number if dear is to spend most of the time on political reforms at his party, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Our view is that, now that dear leader has handed over the chairmanship of BDP to his deputy, Slumber Tsogwane political reforms which includes parading party returnees should be left to him (Tsogwane). With all due respect, the leader should remember that he is now a statesman and every Motswana’s President. He should not be spend most of his time thinking about how to lure more politicians to his party but rather find ways of luring investors who could form joint ventures with Batswana and create sustainable jobs for other Batswana. The focus of the new dear leader should be to reduce the growing gap between the poor and rich. With stagnant wages, the gap continues to grow with each financial year that passes.
We challenge the dear leader to look at this poor-rich gap from various angles. Look at wages, the main source of income for most Batswana, and do not understate the importance of health and education care. Look at household income and you need to take into account that the UNFPA reports shows that a typical Botswana household has fallen in size in recent decades, thanks to more educated women in our society. Look at statistics on spending and you find that the gaps between top and bottom have widened less than for income. Dear leader will be able to realise that every measure shows that, over the past decades, those at the top have done better than those in the middle, who in turn have outpaced those at the far bottom. The gains of productivity growth have become increasingly skewed. All these, dear leader should be telling you that you do not have time for political reforms but rather need to urgently implement economic reforms. This could mean simple things such as speeding up land allocation to the people. Give the people their land. Land is primary means of production and with it, the people of this country will be able make a living. By making a living we do not mean that they sell it. There is a lot that Batswana can do with land in their hands. Some continues to rent out houses owned by foreigners (in their own land) and pay large sums of money.
With all these in mind, as part of the economic reforms, dear leader should ensure that every Motswana’s mindset about land changes. Batswana should be encouraged to treat land as a commodity, which can be beneficiated for their wealth creation, sustainable economic growth and their economic empowerment.
President Masisi and his new administration should be aware that for land to be an enabler of citizen empowerment, new approaches to land acquisition dispensations in terms of land rights, tenure and access and delivery processes by government and tribal authorities have to be adopted.
It is quite clear that from all these years, land holding systems commonly known as land tenures with respect to rights they confer on their holders have been at the heart of our problems. In our view, the current and tenure systems were imposed on Botswana by the coloniser with intent to hinder usage of land for wealth creation. These are not the kind of issues that dear leader can solve if he is to spend most of the time at Tsholetsa House parading political chameleons.
The #Bottomline is that is that there is no foreigner who will come rescue us from our slumber of income inequality, high unemployment and landlessness. Our country needs a functioning bureaucracy, good governance of state institutions including enterprises as well as a transformed private sector that can invest in human capital. All these should be put down in an economic reform blue print by Dear leader.