A leading economist and Chief Executive at AON Insurance, Thapelo Matsheka has said it is now time for government to provide more details on the policy frameworks they have been outlining over the years. Dr Matsheka who also chairs the tourism lobby group, HATAB (Hotel and Tourism Association of Botswana) and the Botswana Meat Commission was speaking to Sunday Standard after the Minister of Finance, Ken Matambo presented the national budget speech on Monday.
The business leader has called on government to now get more specific on each economic sector where reforms are either proposed or envisaged. He said while there is consensus for reforms, there was little information provided on what is going to happen to enhance government delivery for example. “With its size and a wage bill of P12 billion is government getting any more entrepreneurial? While you want to help the private sector you also want to know how government is itself getting efficient. Turnaround time in government is a big issue for those of us in the private sector,” said Dr Matsheka.
“The caveat is that everybody wants to hear something about themselves. For example on tax, including VAT the minister was very specific. But you have to search very hard to find what reforms government is proposing say on tourism for example,” he said. He said it is no longer enough to reiterate that government policy is premised on growth of private sector without addressing such key and specific private sector concerns like licenses, permits, residence and work permits. The economic framework of this country in as far as the fact that government wants the private sector to be the engine of growth was laid out explicitly in the first National Development Plan, said Matsheka. What is today important, he stressed is to give meaning to that framework by way of providing sector specific reforms. “As business we need specific information on enablers. There is talk of ease of doing business. But without direct statements from policy makers the whole pronouncement remains vague especially when there is so much talk about difficulties on getting work and residence permits.
More direct statements will be very helpful and we now have to be moving those at the centre of national dialogue like the budget speech.” He said bottlenecks that impede Foreign Direct Investment as well as domestic investment have to be addressed once and for all. On tourism, Dr Matsheka said the sector has great potential on product diversity and employment creation but added that reforms are long overdue. He observed that it is time an appreciation is made that tourism cuts across all economic sectors. “Tourism Policy is very important. Its creation is long overdue. What it will do is to provide guidelines to every player.” He said authorities have to appreciate that tourism is one sector that has developed thus far without direct government subventions. “It developed on its own as opposed to agriculture which is not performing notwithstanding all the assistance.” He said electricity, water and infrastructure are things that tourism operators do not enjoy from government.
The irony, he observed is that no efforts are made to create rebates against investments that tourism operators make all on their own. “I think it’s time we engaged each other on tax rebates for businesses that run on their own costs. It would make tourism sector more efficient and profitable if there were tax deductions made on diesel components for example. All the private sector is asking for is an efficient implementation of government policies. We all know what the policy is, what we want is implementation,” he said. Commenting on the Botswana Meat Commission of which he is Chairman, Dr Matsheka said overall the Minister has rightly picked that BMC has made loses after it lost the European Union market while continuing to support higher prices for farmers.
“If government had done nothing the beef industry would have collapsed and farmers would today be worse off. It’s important to point out that BMC is now back on its feet.” He said what is now needed is to invest on controls and processes that will ultimately attract higher supplier prices. These he said included controlling Foot and Mouth Disease.