In both his inaugural speech after re-election last year, and a letter widely circulated to the citizenry during the run to the elections, President Ian Khama stated that his government will make job creation a priority.
We therefore hope we are not being unfair to Khama’s minister to make a commitment related to job creation or unemployment rate reduction during the budget speech slated for Monday.
Our sincere plea to the Minister responsible for development planning and government’s finances, Kenneth Matambo, as he takes the centre stage on Monday, is therefore that he must NOT forget to make a CLEAR announcement related to job creation.
We all know that last year and the year before last – Matambo and his predecessors have been telling us that the rate has been going up. But nonetheless everyone who has had access to political parties manifestos for the 2014 general elections can testify that the unemployment situation in the country was one of the loudest issues the politicians promised to deal with once voted. We therefore believe that the government of the day has set itself a target at which it will reduce unemployment rate at, atleast just for this year. Just in case the Minister or anyone else need a reminder of the figures, the 2013 unemployment rate among population aged 18 years and above was estimated at 19.8 percent while for persons aged 15 years and above was estimated at 20 percent.
It is therefore of paramount importance to have the minister have a line like, “The jobless rate will fall at…..% this year.” Or put better, “We expect to create… (this much) jobs this year.” ÔÇô These are the kind of statements we are looking forward to hearing from the minister not the usual “surplus” or “deficit” boring numbers. Growth is just a meaningless number for average citizens, but jobs are surely welcome of course.
We all remember that in his previous addresses, Matambo highlighted the need for government to continue providing resources for social welfare programmes such as destitution allowances, school feeding programmes and other measures aimed at the vulnerable groups in society. To be honest we are sick and tired of such lines. The truth of the matter is such programmes are only good in as far as they are stop gap measures. We continue to make the mistake to think that in any measure they can be counted as solutions to the crisis that we have at hand.
There is no need to remind Minister Matambo that it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that the economy keeps growing, providing more jobs and more money in the pockets of its own people.
But as it stands, we all know that every year our education system churns out thousands of youth into the streets to look for jobs that are non-existent. That should get any serious government worried.
By serious government i mean one that provides a roadmap for accelerating economic growth, expanding opportunity for all Batswana, and ensuring fiscal responsibility. Such a government invests in infrastructure, job training, preschool, and pro-work tax cuts, while reducing deficits through health, tax, and immigration reform.
Perhaps another reminder to the minister could be the fact that these high levels of unemployment could result in a groundswell of anger, resentment and disillusionment among those directly affected should the problem be left un-attended. Already a bunch of graduates who are currently on the government internship program are disgruntled. They are disgruntled because they feel that they are being used as “cheap labour” by both the government and some private companies. We know of IT specialist graduates who have since been turned into “typists”.
Is that really what we want for our citizenry? In the past few years there has been mention of the “economy”…”the economy is not doing well.” Can we really afford to blame the economy forever?
In 2013 the United Nations indicated that youth unemployment is one of the biggest security threats facing the world. Are we ready to let our country reach that level? As Sunday Standard we do admit that Government cannot be expected to resolve this crisis alone. The private sector through its mother body BOCCIM should come to the party and play their part. The business community should as matter of urgency make suggestions to government on how to confront the scourge.
As it stands now what is needed most is goodwill on the part of all the concerned parties, particularly from the powers that be. The #Bottomline is that we need a budget that aspires to meet the needs of all of our citizens, not just those who are in the high earning notch but also for those who do not have a regular disposable income.