Botswana government is on the verge of a major restructuring.
When it is done everything about government will look differently.
The hope is that it will also function and do things differently.
This government desperately needs something it can point at as a success.
And if it is done properly – not for expediency, not for convenience and not for a benefit of the already empowered, this restructuring promises to be one such thing.
The restructuring comes at a time when the Masisi government is battling to gain traction.
For the size of Botswana’s economy, parastatals are not only too many in number, they are also bloated. They cost too much.
And are not serving the purpose for which they were intended.
If these parastatals did not rely on Government for their upkeep, none of them would survive for a day as going concerns much less as pure commercial undertakings.
It is too early to say, but already some pitfalls are already discernible.
It would seem from a distance that the restructuring is being approached from the type; self-praise. Lack of detail. Politically driven and not backed either by data or evidence.
If that is true – and we sincerely hope it is not – it would have serious consequences going forward.
Given the scope and magnitude of the restructuring there are too many legal instruments, MOUs and even international agreements that will have to be taken into consideration.
Government should not approach the undertaking like it was a personal project.
Some in-depth analysis of each decision is necessary.
This is important so that we do not as a country appear like our government is impulsive and even reckless when it comes to international treaties and agreements.
The rules must be clearly established, first on what the government wants to achieve and then on the process, that is how they intend to carry the undertaking.
More particularly, it should be established who else will be affected by decisions taken in Botswana by Botswana government.
The parastatals have become a burden and an albatross round the government neck.
All of us accept that.
Some of them have become not just archaic but also obsolete – in their roles but also how they operate.
There was a time when the model of parastatals served a purpose.
That was when the public service was itself very small and the private sector literally non-existent.
That was also a time when money was not such a big deal for Botswana government because the diamond sales ensured constant flow of cash.
That is a long time back. And those times are unlikely to come back.
But Botswana relied too much on responding to every public service challenge by creating a parastatal.
There is one thing that we can all agree on.
This restructuring could not be postponed forever.
It is long overdue.
And we must give credit to the current government for showing courage to go ahead with it.
But on its own, the restructuring is very unlikely to achieve the kind of saving that is now necessary and overdue.
The entire public service should be overhauled and be slashed.
The wage bill, especially of the civil service has become menacingly too big.
The economy is far from optimal on account of some of these parastatals.
Take Air Botswana for example.
Botswana Government can keep its Air Botswana for pride purposes if it likes. But it should open the skies to new players who might be coming from the private sector.
After covid-19, economic recovery is not coming fast enough.
And there are other pressures like inflation.
This restructuring will demolish quite a bit of institutions.
But it should not be the last.
Perhaps more importantly there is need to pay attention to detail.