Sunday, July 25, 2021

Gaps showing as Botswana lags behind in executive leadership in the civil service

The country is lacking when it comes to executive corporate leadership.

And the pandemic has only made the gaps more glaring.

This also extends to the public service where Permanent Secretaries seemingly do not match the scale of challenges presented by Covid-19 pandemic.

These challenges go far and deep.

Chiefly they include management.

But they could also be about intuition and personal resourcefulness.

In this pandemic, there has been too much emphasis on political leadership.

No doubt, it is crucial.

The truth though is that politicians, no matter how good are supported by technocrats.

The reason why the late president Sir Ketumile Masire succeeded is because he had powerful brains surrounding him. These people included Festus Mogae, Elijah Legwaila, Quill Hermans, Titus Madisa, Baledzi Gaolathe to name but a few.

These are people who proved themselves during hard times.

They used those hard times to excel and show their mantles.

Covid-19 offers an opportunity for the leadership in the civil service to shine.

It would look like many of the Permanent secretaries and indeed Chief Executive Officers in the government owned companies and parastatals were chosen looking at some other qualities that do not include strong leadership.

We normally decry the dearth of political leadership, but the truth is Covid-19 has exposed the vulnerabilities of Botswana’s leadership outside of politics.

By far the pandemic has been the most devastating and most challenging to Botswana’s economy.

Clearly the human toll will by far be the biggest loss for a long time to come.

It is on the economy that leaders should be showing us that better times are ahead on the other side of the river.

This should have been an opportunity for the far-sighted and more imaginative to shine.

We continue to talk vaguely and somewhat generally about the new normal, post the pandemic.

Yet what is needed is a strong path out of the morass and an even clearer one to live beyond the pandemic.

Covid-19 and the challenges it presents to Botswana should have catapulted these CEOs and these permanent secretaries to action.

Lo and behold there is nothing of the sort.

CEOs of government owned companies and agencies are failing to show imagination in the deployment of resources government has offered them.

These resources include the more than a billion Pula that government has issued out as part of its economic recovery plan.

There is as of now little uptake of these facilities, firstly because little is known about their existence outside of a circle of the connected elite.

Secondly because government has made it harder to do business with its raises of taxes.

This alone has meant that people are not even confident of the future.

There is a jarring fear that what government has set aside as stimulus will not even be enough.

More worrying is the high conditions set for access.

The likelihood that the economy will be going back to growth in the near future is almost non-existent.

This is borne of the difficulties that diamond sales are in.

No less a big concern is the reduced productivity and also high unemployment rate that the country is already in even as it is set to surge significantly post the State of Emergency powers.

More attention has to be given to encouraging new investments.

Long before covid-19, Botswana was experiencing very low capital investment volumes.

Government needs to step in to deliberately support new investments.

Shockingly, rather than telegraph the money to the potential customers, the people appointed to manage these government backed facilities are happy to keep these facilities in their balance sheet to create a false impression about their own performance.

Another factor is the unreasonable conditionalities attached to accessing these facilities.

There is no question that businesses want support – especially financial support.

They are unable to take support offered by the Industry support facilities precisely because the conditionalities could easily have been drafted by people who have never run a small business.

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