With a few months left before the dawn of 2016, there is a pertinent question that we must unashamedly be asking ourselves as a nation: Are we still on track to attaining the lofty goals as spelt out in the Vision 2016 blueprint?
2016 is the year in which we will celebrate 50 years of independence.
If we are not on track, what measures are we putting in place in the last few remaining months to ensure that the set goals are achieved? What is it that we did not do right?
In 1996, former President Sir Ketumile Masire appointed a Presidential Task Group to develop a long term vision for the country. The task force, chaired by the late Baledzi Gaolathe traversed the length and width of the country on a consultative process that culminated with the country’s long term vision dubbed Vision 2016.
This was an undoubtedly noble idea for which Masire must be commended.
The task force did a splendid job coming up with seven pillars to guide the country’s long term vision. The pillars comprised; an educated and informed nation, a prosperous, productive and innovative nation, a compassionate, just and caring nation, a safe and secure nation, an open democratic and accountable nation, a moral and tolerant nation, as well as a united and proud nation.
The pillars were clearly defined and key result areas identified. In identifying the seven pillars the task force adopted the firm view that Botswana is operating within a rapidly changing world economy and social order.
At the time of conceptualizing the vision it was realized that Botswana had grown significantly thanks to the good fortune of being a mineral rich country that had grown from a poor and low-income to a middle-income country. The momentum had to be maintained, full throttle so to speak.
The achievements notwithstanding, it was clear that a lot of challenges lied ahead. Vision 2016 blueprint provided a bold decision to tackle them head-on, providing ideas of how to sustain and even surpass past achievements.
As we interrogate whether we are still on track to attain the pillars espoused in the vision document, we are mindful that government will in the near future begin the process of compiling National Development Plan (NDP) 11.
We are however apprehensive and concerned that with only a few months before the dawn of 2016, the chances of attaining the set out goals in the national vision are at best slim and at worst outright non-existent. The onus thus rests on all of us as citizens to ensure that the noble goals espoused in the Vision are achieved. However difficult, the task, it is not insurmountable.
Botswana is still immersed in high levels of poverty. At least 20 percent of our people still live in abject poverty ÔÇô below the symbolic $1 a day datum line. President Ian Khama’s resolute drive to reduce the levels of poverty within our midst is quite commendable, but owing to its idealism we are deeply skeptical of its viability and sustainability.
A more sustainable, evidence and science based poverty eradication strategy must occupy a centre stage in the NDP 11 and beyond.
The high level of unemployment is another challenge that needs to be tackled expeditiously. Time is ripe to create an enabling business environment with potential to create massive jobs in the manufacturing sector by way of beneficiation of our minerals of and processing of other commodities.
The majority of our two million people are subsistence farmers.
Deliberate efforts must be taken to uplift the agricultural sector whose contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is at it its lowest since independence in 1966.
Citizen economic empowerment is another challenge that has the potential to upset or worse erode national security.
A lot of our people are at best economic spectators in their own country, and this calls for concerted efforts to prop up all efforts at empowering the indigenous citizens.
Economic empowerment agencies like the Citizen Entrepreneurial Agency (CEDA), Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) and the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) must be overhauled, not just by new and innovative leaderships but also by changes in mindsets that amount to paradigm shifts.
It is high time that Batswana played a meaningful and beneficial role in the economic development of their country.
All these challenges call for concerted efforts directed at propping up domestic development as a prerequisite for attracting foreign direct investment.
FDI is important, but under the current global economic climate, it is not something we can bank on for the goals of our national development.
Crime is another challenge that we must tackle head-on. Crime scares away potential investors. This is the very reason why the fourth pillar of the vision envisages a safe and secure nation.
Gains made against HIV/AIDS must not be allowed to regress. New infections especially among the youth and other vulnerable groups must be averted at all costs.
Political will must be mobilized in all fronts to ensure that the noble goals we set for ourselves in the long term vision are attained.