Thursday, October 22, 2020

Ministers fumble for answers as opposition quizzes ESP

Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Philip Makgalemele shied away from giving the nation the exact number of local companies currently benefitting from the much-touted Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) except to say they are in the majority.

Answering a question in Parliament, Makgalemele indicated that a total of 221 companies, most of them citizen-owned, had been allocated ESP projects as at the end of July and “are benefiting from such awards”.

Pressed to provide the number in percentage form of the local companies of beneficiaries he appeared non-committal, preferring instead to adopt Cabinet’s traditional tendency of evading critical questions in Parliament.

“Madam Speaker, I did not prepare for the answer. I did not anticipate the question,” the Assistant Minister responded curtly, responding to a supplementary question by Gantsi North Member of Parliament Noah Salakae.

The brainchild of President Ian Khama’s administration, ESP is intended to cover infrastructure development, manufacturing and tourism industries amongst others, employing local contractors who in turn are expected to hire locals to cushion the high level of unemployment.

Makgalemele promised to continue the awarding of tenders for the remaining ESP projects which will “further benefit our citizen companies and subsequently stimulate the economy”.

Gaborone Central MP Phenyo Butale had originally wanted to know the number of companies that had benefited from the programme since its announcement.

Alongside colleague Salakae, Butale was doubtful of the intended ESP project take-off.

Meanwhile, Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry Vincent Seretse could not provide the analysis for the growth of companies since the inception of ESP; reluctant to admit that the rise in the number of companies registered with the Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA) was the result of project.

“I have not made any analysis whether the jump-start could be attributed to ESP or not,” Seretse responded, answering a supplementary from Butale who wanted the Minister to compare the trend of companies that registered since inception and provide his analysis.

Between November 2015 and July 2016 , CIPA incorporated 18 778 companies compared to 14 855 during the same period the previous year.

“However, I cannot confirm that the increase of 3 923 incorporated companies can be ascribed to ESP alone,” Seretse concluded.

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