Saturday, October 31, 2020

Gov’t should use this time to prepare for eventualities

Even before a single case of coronavirus has been confirmed, Botswana is already in the jaws of an economic implosion, which at least from the early signs might turn out to be far worse that in 2008 when Botswana was forced to close diamond mines to stem the tide through cutting of operational costs.

To be honest, Botswana’s economic authorities – both fiscal and monetary are yet to demonstrate that they understand what is at stake, and also that they will be equal to the task.

Mistakes will be made in times like these. What is important is for citizens to rally behind their government.

Batswana should appreciate that there is no rules book for fighting coronavirus.

Government, on their part should be upfront with citizens.

Transparency is the best policy.

Where mistakes have been made, the policy is to own up, and not try to justify them.

Should coronavirus arrive, God forbid there will not be catch-up time.

We need to procure things like ventilators as early as now.

Surely Botswana can use its relations with China to get those.

On a bigger note, up to now there has not been any movement towards protecting the economy.

Protecting the economy against coronavirus is actually as important as containing the disease.

If we don’t do the same at the same time, the whole strategy will not last long.

Before coronavirus arrivers on our shores, we need to get protect clothing, especially for the medical staff.

In the next few weeks Botswana will face up to counting the true costs of coronavirus. This will happen with or without any confirmed cases inside the country.

Botswana is almost entirely dependent on South Africa for daily subsistence. Everything is ferried from South Africa, one way or another.

Literally, Botswana cannot function for even a few days if South Africa closed its borders.

The story of coronavirus is like a moving target.

As uncertainty rages on Batswana have a few concerns top of their mind; they need assurance that they will be safe. They also want assurance that food in shops will not run out. And also that the economy and their jobs are safe.

So far Government has done well in making promises of readiness and preparedness.

It remains to be seen if delivery will match those promises when crunch time comes.

In Botswana businesses, like households are heavily indebted.

The culture of hand to mouth is rife, mainly because of thin margins, low productivity and a failure to diversify sources of income.

For many small companies, the bottom line will be one of the earliest casualties of coronavirus.

Even before the world was hit by coronavirus, demand for diamonds across the leading global markets was looking shaky and even fragile.

Now all the key markets are in the cross-hairs: United States, China, Japan, Europe at the centre of the still unfolding global crisis.

Sustaining employment is going to be hard for many companies, as will be meeting salary obligations by companies.

Botswana’s economy is unique in that government dominates every sector.

Everybody ends up relying on government for business.

Those who don’t rely on government for business soon find out that their clients do.

There is a need to understand the human costs of coronavirus.

Its impact go way beyond the psychological and social impacts, which are on their own huge and far reaching.

Economic costs are immediate, aggressive and unmistakable.

In Botswana families have already started paying such costs.

And as we say, the situation is that  not a single case of coronavirus has as yet been confirmed inside our borders.

Across the world, Governments are pledging part of salaries of private sector workers to cushion company from collapse but also to help workers stay on.

It is unlikely that Botswana Government could go that route.

Long before coronavirus, Botswana Government was already battling a budget deficit crisis.

The collapse in tourism has been telling.

Tourism, like mining provides Botswana with the much-needed foreign currency.

Tourism also provides employment to large number of people.

A way has to be found to protect these people.

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