Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Gov’t resists calls for ad-hoc unemployment survey

Government is currently not in a position to avail the latest unemployment figures because such analysis would be incorrect, given recent signs of economic growth on the one hand, and a spate of retrenchments by some companies on the other.

An example of such retrenchments occurred at Statistics Botswana, which will not be renewing the three year employment contracts of handymen and drivers who were engaged when the organization underwent a transformation process that gave it a certain degree of autonomy.

“Statistics Botswana will not conduct an adjustment unemployment rate following the spate of retrenchments. The analysis will be incorrect as the unemployment rate of the country could be increasing or up-down,” said Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo on Thursday.

He added: “Like I said during the budget speech, the economy is showing some signs of growth which means some sectors could be doing well and employing more individuals. Against this backdrop, it will be improper to conduct a survey to respond and correspond with the current situation based on the crisis faced by some individual companies or sectors.”

Matambo called on parliament and the entire nation to wait for a comprehensive national survey that will incorporate all sectors to present a well informed unemployment rate. The Minister was responding to a supplementary question from Gantsi South MP, Noah Salakae who asked if Statistics Botswana could be asked to conduct an immediate survey to ascertain the true levels of unemployment, given the recent spate of retrenchments by various private companies and parastatals organizations, including Statistics Botswana.

Salakae was posing a follow up question from MP James Mathokgwane, who expressed concern about retrenchments at Statistics Botswana, especially among lowly paid employees. Besides demanding an explanation from Matambo as to what prompted the retrenchments, Mathokgwane also wanted Matambo to explain whether Statistics Botswana was too broke to initiate renewal of the employees’ contracts. The two MP’s hackled over the exact definition of “non renewal”, as Matambo preferred to call it exactly that while Mathokgwane preferred to call it “retrenchments.”

“I believe that what the MP is referring to as retrenchment is actually non-renewal of contracts for some employees who were engaged on three year contracts during the transformation process of Central Statistics Office to Statistics Botswana,” Matambo said.

He further said retrenchment was different from the normal end of contract process.

“The handymen and drivers were employed on temporary three year contracts which would eventually come to an end at some time.”

As to whether Statistics Botswana was too broke to initiate renewal of the employees’ contracts, Matambo said given the current budgetary challenges faced by government, all public enterprises are obliged to contain costs and ensure prudent use of available resources.

“Therefore operating within the given financial constraint or budget ceiling by any organization should not necessarily be termed broke but rather a prudent way of managing available resources,” he said.

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