The Botswana government pumped in P 10.5 billion into the development budget targeted at addressing the ills of the society, such as poverty, and ensuring that building blocks for economic growth are in place.
The national budget presented to parliament on Monday will ensure that, among other things, the country becomes self-sufficient in power supply and portable drinking water ÔÇô some of the key ingredients in stimulating the already battered prospect of economic growth as a result of the international financial crisis.
“As we refine our anti-poverty initiatives, we will now place emphasis on improving the livelihood of Batswana, and engaging in productive activities,” Finance and Development Planning Minister, Baledzi Gaolathe said.
He said some of the measures which government will embark on include strengthening the poverty data base and information systems and coming up with some improved social safety nets.
The budget represents a P 2 billion increase from the 2008/9 financial year that will end at the end of March.
Botswana, with a population of about 1.8 million, is estimated to have nearly 50,000 orphans and over 30,000 vulnerable children while the number of destitute is thought to be around 40,000. The diamond rich- southern African state is expected to resort to a raft of measures to fund its ambitious plan by drawing down on its mountain of foreign exchange reserves and borrowings.
Some of the projects to be introduced include labour, intensive public project and bolstering the contribution of agriculture to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Agriculture’s contribution to the GDP has collapsed from 65 percent at the time when it gained independence from Britain in 1966 to less than three percent to date.
Its contribution to the economy has been overtaken by the mineral sector ÔÇô especially diamond mining ÔÇô that accounts for 33 percent of the GDP.
However, the diamond industry got a hit from the global credit crunch as the United States of America, which accounts for 50 percent of the world’s diamond jewelry market, entered a recession.
“In this regard, starting 2009/10, the focus will shift towards psycho-social support and empowerment to prevent people from falling into the poverty trap,” Gaolatlhe said.
The minister further stated that government would burn cash in ensuring that the country got sufficient power supply that will include the expansion of Morupule power station, which is expected to be concluded by 2012.
Botswana, together with the rest of the southern African countries, is faced with power shortages as some of the power stations have aged and some of the coal mines in the region have reached their lifespan.
The move has resulted in a series of load shedding that has affected businesses in the country.
“In addition, a substantial private sector energy project, which will use some of the extensive reserves of the Mmamabula coal field to generate power for both export to the South African market and for the domestic supply, has been reconfigured by the project sponsors CIC Energy,” he said.
He said as part of ensuring that the country is self-sufficient in water supply, government has decided to build five dams that will see the combined yield reaching 948 million cubic meters.
“Water and sanitation reforms are being undertaken to address administrative and structural bottlenecks associated with multiple water authorities with a view of improving service delivery throughout the country,” he said.