Responding to a question in parliament, the minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Daniel Kwelagobe, revealed that the total amount of money spent by President Khama and his entourage to attend the meeting of the Board of Conservation International in the United States of America was an astounding P1 361 321.44.
Breaking it down, Kwelagobe indicated that P342 756.59 was used for diem payments while P898 174.00 was for aviation fuel.
The other remaining monies, including landing fees, catering and handling charges shot up to P89 277.25 while air tickets used up P31 113.60.
The revelation comes amid growing economic uncertainties currently weighing heavily against world economies, with Botswana now coming out of the closet to reveal she feels the pinch.
Addressing parliament Thursday, the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Baledzi Gaolathe, did not mince his words, insisting the impact of the recent financial crisis “will be substantial with serious implications for the economy”.
“The expected substantial reduction in mineral revenue due to the global financial crisis is a cause for serious concern, given that such revenues have accounted for about 35 to 50 percent of the total government revenues over the past 5 years.
The decline in mineral revenue will also adversely affect the government budget balances, which will have to be cushioned by borrowing and draw down on foreign exchange reserves, if government spending is to be sustained in the face of a short-term revenue downturn.”
Gaolathe dropped another bombshell: “In the face of uncertainty as to the duration of global economic slowdown, the cushion provided by the foreign exchange reserves may not be sufficient to ensure long term budget sustainability.
Therefore, belt-tightening will have to be implemented, targeting not only the development budget but some recurrent expenditure items such as personnel emoluments and the cost of travel.”
Notwithstanding those astounding expenses, Kwelagobe indicated that Khama’s entourage was for a cause and a purpose.
“The main objective of Conservation International is to address urgent environmental threats as well as long term health of the Earth, most vital land and marine ecosystems.”
A body with membership drawn from a number of countries, Conservation International works with 40 countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, targeting unique and sensitive places, such as priority marine areas, biodiversity hotspots, earth biologically rich and most threatened places including high-biodiversity wilderness areas (vast regions of relatively undisturbed land that are home to many species found nowhere else).
Kwelagobe says Khama attended the meeting by virtue of an ten-year membership.
“The Board holds three meetings a year of which the president has not been attending for one year due to other engagements. The last November session was a meeting called to review new strategies to deal with effects of climatic change on Earth.
It is a matter that all governments and people should be concerned with.”
He added, “It is for this reason that our representative in the Board in the person of our president is important and indeed an honour to our country.”
Kwelagobe was answering a question from Member of Parliament for Gaborone South Akanyang Magama, who was not impressed by the expenses and the purpose of the trip.