Monday, November 28, 2022

Gov’t mulling setting up super state construction company

Talks are under way within cabinet for government to set up super state construction company.

While opinion is divided over how the company should be setup, those for it say the company will be used to fill the void left in the wake of government’s unofficial decision to stop issuing contracts to Chinese construction companies.

The private sector is, however, worried that a decision by government to setup a huge construction company flies in the face of a decision to privatise and allows the private sector to play a bigger role.

One leader of the private sector, who is totally against the setting up of the super state construction company, has, however, conceded that would be almost impossible to argue against the government decision, especially in the wake of failure by the Botswana Housing Corporation, to live up to its mandate.

There are those in government who are of the view that instead of setting up a construction company, efforts should be increased in tightening project management.

“Botswana Housing Corporation has been unmitigated failure. Those of us against government setting up this construction company are standing on one leg because the facts on the ground are stacked in favour of government,” he said on condition that he is not named because he is involved in negotiations with government.

While the government of Botswana has been talking about disinvesting from the parastatals, the same government has on the one hand been setting up new companies, a development which, on the face of it, puts doubts on the sincerity of government intentions to give the private sector more voice in the economy.

A few such new companies that have recently been formed, and are wholly owned by government include the Minerals Investment Company, Okavango Diamond Trading Company, Botswana Oil Company and now the Super State Construction Company.

Over the recent past Botswana Government, including President Ian Khama, has expressed frustration and exasperation at the failure by Chinese companies to deliver projects on time.

Over the last five years, the same Chinese firms have enjoyed a near monopoly of the country’s big infrastructure capital projects like roads, dams, schools, stadia and power plants.

The straw that broke the camel’s back resulting in a fallout between government and the Chinese firms can easily be traced to a failure by one Chinese firm to finish a power plant on time which has now resulted in perennial power outages that are feared will cost the country dearly.

Interestingly, many of these Chinese firms are in more ways than one linked to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party functionaries, including some of President Khama’s close friends and aides.

BDP functionaries have either been fronted as country managers, directors or, in some bizarre arrangements, proxies that are often paid large amounts in commissions to ensure that contracts keep flowing to the same firms.

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