The economically-challenged European Union (EU) promised this week that it would continue providing development aid to Botswana despite the fact that some economies in the 27 member states have gone into recession.
Paul Malin, the head of Delegation of the European Commission to Botswana and SADC, told Sunday Standard on Thursday that the development expenditure would be maintained at EU level.
“There is no doubt that the (financial) crisis is extensive and maybe we do not know the extent it will go. Big economies are in a problem,” Malin said.
“(However) money will continue to flow as long as government maintains prudent financial management,” the ambassador promised.
The assistance that the EU provides to Botswana goes directly to the national budget, unlike other countries like Zimbabwe where it is difficult to work with government.
In that country, which is in an economic abyss, assistance is given directly to the people who are in a humanitarian crisis.
Malin conceded that there might be a review of expenditure, reiterating Louis Michel, EU Development Commissioner’s concerns that the financial crisis would affect EU expenditure.
He said they are working on forecast for this year with prospects of maintaining the P190 million for 2008.
However, this will depend on the outcome of Finance Minister Baledzi Gaolathe’s budget speech in which Malin says they will be monitoring following concerns of sharp fall in mineral exports, according to latest trade statistics.
“This is a government with prudence and we will continue our support,” he said in reference to Botswana.
EU’s support to Botswana cuts across government to the private sector. The support is visible in education, Human Resources Development and capacity building for the Non State Actor (NSA).
He said the education support is 51.4 million euros and it is expected to be completed in the next few years.
In the past, the EU made a P120 million contribution towards the construction of the Francistown Technical College to increase access to education.
He said the idea is to improve quality of education and also see to it that access is achieved.
“This is an incentive for government to improve education. If targets are met, budget will increase,” he promised.
Malin also revealed that the EU is helping the NSA with capacity building so that it helps them in planning, budgeting, capacity to gather funds and the capacity to advocate for change and act as the voice of the poor consequently contributing to debate.
Most of the organisations in the NSA sector have suffered financially since the withdrawal of lenders, leading to a fall in aid.
The EU last year launched the P56 million Non State Actors capacity building programme, which will last for the next four years as from 2008.
It is hoped that after being equipped with capacity, advocacy groups, like unions and NGOs, will base their arguments on facts and its impact on Botswana, especially at a time when the EU and Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries are negotiating the thorny Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).
Civil society movements across the ACP region have dismissed the EPAs as neo colonialism and as a new ‘Scramble for Africa’ by the EU.
“We want the Non State Actors to be able to play their role,” Malin said, adding that there is a need for Botswana to prepare for free trade era because of the small market and to also embrace service trade manufacturing.
Sometime this year, the EU will be launching a 1.8 million euros Fund for the NGOs to help Civil Society Orgnaisations develop and implement long term strategies and projects to ensure financial sustainability that will empower them to implement their missions.
Malin added that they have committed their programmes to 2013 and said that EU will support the National Development Plan Ten (NDP 10).
Botswana and the EU drew up a Country Strategy Paper (CSP) and Indicative Programme (NIP) of Community Aid between 2006 and 2007, which became a blue print of general approach to cooperation for the period 2008-2013.
In 2007, the EU announced an increased in the 10th European Development Aid (EDF) allocation to P610 million after Botswana made a commitment that it would improve its achievement in the area of governance.
The agreements include improving, among others, control of corruption, public procurement and finance management, implementing economic reforms and strengthening support of the civil society.
The EU has also supported the mining sector in the country with previous P250 million assistance towards BCL and Tati Mining Company. It has helped the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) in tax collection leading to a 19% increase in collection.
The EU is the largest donor in the world (because it comprises 27 states) accounting to 60% of global development assistance┬áand seconded by the US, which accounts of 21%. ┬á
New President Barack Obama has promised to double the aid.