Thursday, June 4, 2020

Gov’t must address citizen empowerment with the speed it deserves

The thorny issue of citizen economic empowerment must be addressed with utmost urgency. There is no justification why Botswana after more than 50 years of independence has not yet produced a large pool of citizen bred millionaires despite the economic success story that the country is renowned for.

It has to be recalled that almost twenty years ago former minister and Member of Parliament for Shoshong constituency Duke Lefhoko tabled a motion on citizen economic empowerment that was overwhelmingly adopted by parliament.

Why the motion was shelved and allowed to gather dust somewhere in government offices instead of being timeously implemented remains a mystery to date. There has been no mention of the motion since adoption.

Is the shelving of this noble motion not a clear indication that government does take the work of parliament with the seriousness it deserved? What problems did government encounter that hindered it from implementing the motion to ensure that Batswana are turned into serious economic players in their own country?

It must be eloquently explained that currently Batswana remain spectators in the economic development of their country while the economy is being driven by foreigners while Batswana are mere suppliers of labour to the foreign owned businesses.

The issue of citizen economic empowerment is a ticking time bomb that needs to be diffused quickly before it explodes. Batswana are needlessly burning inside their hearts when looking at the current economic status that has unwittingly relegated them to spectators in their country’s economic development agenda.

It may be most appropriate that in the next session parliament, a member of the new National Assembly revisits this issue and seeks government to account on why it has not been able to implement this noble motion that sought to liberate Batswana from the prevailing economic status quo.

It is not only the issue of citizen economic empowerment that needs serious attention. The other issue that needs to be addressed seriously is the issue of enhanced industrial development. Economists inform us that the current commercial property development boom that is not accompanied by industrial development is a recipe for economic disaster once it explodes.

It has in fact been argued in some quarters that government must move expeditiously to enact a citizen economic empowerment that will address this thorny issue once and for all.

It is asserted by economists that once the commercial property boom bursts, Botswana will be flooded by unprecedented white elephants of commercial buildings that are unproductive in all facets, and whose maintenance will become an insurmountable task.

Once the commercial property bubble bursts, the developers may find themselves in an untenable situation where their financiers are foreclosing on them as they may to fail to fulfill their repayment obligations. That will be a terribly sad day for the commercial property developers who will in a single day likely lose their hard found investments.

 In a research article authored by Lesego Sekwati titled:”Economic Diversification: The case of Botswana” underscores that one more peculiar feature is the low level of industrialization. The author argues that over the years the manufacturing sector has received preferential treatment from the government, both in terms of targeted policy and financial support, but the sector has consistently failed to perform to expectations.

This bring us to another harrowing question on what happened to the Industrial Development Policy, which was designed to engage in targeted entrepreneurial development incentives and support mechanisms to promote industrial growth.

Sekwati further explained that the industrial sector (narrowly defined) continues to struggle to make a significant in terms of contribution to gross Domestic Product as well as employment. That being the case, what are government economic planners to doing to address this pertinent issue?

Development economic has long held that industrialization is an essential component of development and growth in that it provides greater potential for long-term income growth compared with resource-based economies. Why does government not take of heed of this important aspect in its economic planning agenda?

Government in 1984 introduced an Industrial Development Policy whose main thrust was to diversify the economy through import substitution. What happened to the policy? Why has it not been implemented?


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