Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Here is why we need new brooms!

On 1st April 2018, our country is expected to have a new Chief Executive Officer ÔÇô Mokgweetsi Masisi. Honourable Masisi as we all know is not entirely new to the “system” but he will be new to the highest office in the land.

This commentary though is not about Masisi but rather on the need to express our thoughts on the impact that “fresh blood” can have on our economy. Given the current status of our economy we certainly need new brooms at key institutions including some posts within the executive arm of the government.

We therefore need to state, from the onset that we believe that one of the first things that Masisi needs to do as Botswana’s fresh Chief Executive is to send some of his Executive Committee (cabinet members) packing. Harsh as it maybe, and with due respect, we believe that amongst those he should let go are ministers responsible for Finance and Trade respectively. The two ministers need to go with the current President to make space for fresh blood. They have not been as imaginative as they should. No one can grow an economy if they are not imaginative.

That said, we strongly believe that for our economy to grow at a higher rate than it is now, we need imaginative servants of the people in the form of trade and finance ministers. These two ministries are of no doubt engines of economic growth. We can only attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) if we have a trade minister who is imaginative and can think of ideas that can lure investors into this country. Not only the kind of ideas that are thought by our neighbours or even further world. Surely, we can all agree that it is difficult to make money or economically succeed out of a view that just about everyone shares. For example, if the rest of southern Africa is generally classified or ranked as peaceful to do business in, we cannot expect to use that “perception” as a selling strategy for our country. Unfortunately that is what we have been doing. That is what the minister of trade and his predecessors have been preaching and the end product is that multinational companies have shunned us ÔÇô peaceful as we are. Hyundai left. Cadbury left. Textile companies closed shop in Francistown and Selebi Phikwe and we are left with Chinese shops which sell cheap stuff and probably even skipping tax.

With the leadership of the current trade minister we have since forgotten that all good things which exist are as a result of originality. His finance and economic development counterpart aids him in the sense that he has, as a matter of fact funded some of the failed projects which lacked innovation. To them a solution lays on throwing money to every crisis we meet.

To repeat what we all know, the solution is definitely not to meet every crisis, including unemployment by throwing unlimited amounts of money at the problem. The notorious Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) is our reference point or rather case study when it comes to throwing money at the problem as it has achieved little of its major objectives. Even after pumping out millions of Pulas through the ESP, our labour market remains in terrible condition, and the economy continue to grow slowly with no sight of new jobs created.

First things first – an economic stimulus is about pumping money into an ailing economy quickly to spur growth. Can we say our ESP has done that in the last 24+ months? The answear is NO! Clearly ESP has failed to achieve what it was created to do ÔÇô jerk the local economy. Given the pinch that local companies continue to feel, clearly, this whole economic stimulus thing was grossly oversold. But guess who endorsed it? A rhetoric question then becomes whether Botswana’s incoming Chief Executive would continue with such a financial director or there is need to consider dropping him off for fresh blood.

In all his speeches, the finance minister enjoys stating how broke the government of late is. What he fails to accept is that it is not shortage of money that holds back our economy, but rather shortage of good imaginative ideas and the character to purse them. Money alone, whether less or more will not generate growth. If we continue to overlook home grown institutions such as Botswana Building Society (BBS) or National Development Bank to carry a simple task such as paying students allowance then we still have a long way to go.

Whether we like it or not, the overall status of our economy point to the two minister’s failures, atleast during the period they presided their respective ministries of finance and trade.

As a result, Botswana remains one of the few countries in the world where the government wealth is so immensely higher than that of citizens and companies put together. This is an anomaly that we are failing to confront. Rich state, poor citizens ÔÇô what a shame.

The #Bottomline however is that the development of our economy has long reached a critical juncture, as indicated by the slowing pace of economic growth, chronic unemployment and mounting pressure on government budget. We strongly believe that we reached this pint partially due to lack of being imaginative, even at ministers’ levels.

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