The lack of relevant capacity at the Attorney General’s office to prepare laws coupled with legislature’s lethargic passage of bills stalls Botswana’s privatisation efforts.
This observation emerged recently during a breakfast seminar hosted by the Botswana Guardian newspaper to take stock of the country’s privatisation progress.
“There is no relevant capacity at the Attorney General Chambers to prepare laws,” admitted the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Solomon Sekwakwa.
With the Public Enterprises Evaluation and Privatisation Agency (PEEPA) mandated to drive the privatisation policy, there are observations the agency cannot fully execute its mandate without having a dedicated legislation in place to empower it.
BOCCIM Executive Director, Maria Machailo-Ellis, said there was also the need to fast track the passage of bills in parliament.
“There is no reason why we cannot develop a privatisation model unique to our country. We are still stuck with privatisation of Air Botswana. We have different pieces of legislation that facilitate the privatisation process that have not achieved desired results. We need a legislation to empower PEEPA,” said Machailo Ellis.
Sekwakwa said his Ministry was more than ready to see that the National Development Bank get privatised.
“We are waiting for parliament to sit to conclude the privatisation of the NDB,” he said.
“As government, we have picked very good lessons as far as privatisation is concerned. We underestimated the debate around privatisation. We need to deal with the different views and see how powerful the varied views are,” said Sekwakwa.
A representative of the Botswana Manual Workers Union Victor Moupo said the labour movement has a pragmatic approach to privatisation as a necessary evil.
“The traditional labour view has been that privatisation comes with job losses and the transfer of public assets into foreign hands,” said Moupo.
Moupo said labour applauds some aspects of privatisation such as that of the Government Motor Vehicle and Advancing Scheme which conceived UNIGEM.
It would later emerge throughout deliberations that privatisation is not the answer to efficient service delivery but that institutions need to be managed efficiently. It was pointed out that the Ethiopian Airline is one of the most efficient around the world yet it is not privatised or raking in profits.
“Roles need to be clearly defined so that the process of privatisation becomes more fluid,” advised Machailo Ellis.
CBET chairman Dr. Howard Sigwele called for an oversight responsibility to be put in place noting that the global financial crisis which wreaked havoc in the United States was the result of unchecked bankers.
Sigwele said privatisation should to lead to concentration of wealth going to the same few people as was the case in Latin America.
Sekwakwa begged to differ saying those who are good at making money should be allowed to make money to help the poor.
“Privatisation should also address the issue of land ownership. South Korea is using land in Africa to produce food. The land issue is always a recipe for instability,”
Standard Chartered Bank Botswana Chief Executive Officer, Moatlhodi Lekaukau said Botswana has a Public-Private Partnership model that has worked well between De Beers and Botswana.