Sunday, February 5, 2023

Morwaeng secures P60 billion for “targeted citizens”?

Christmas came early for scores of Batswana who for the past 50 years have been  closed out of the country’s economic growth, now they are in line to cash in on a P60 billion largesse.

The minister of State President Kabo Morwaeng last week led his cabinet colleagues to sway Parliament into approving a Transitional National Development Plan (TNDP) which set to be implemented from April 2023.

The two year plan budget set at P64.07 billion, is the largest development budget in Botswana’s history, TNDP will run for a period of two years covering the 2023/24 and 2024/25 financial years. With Botswana’s Economic Inclusion Plan which came into force April this year, a good portion of the money is expected to end in the pockets of “targeted citizens”, see lead story for details.

Although the Citizen inclusion Plan does not define “ targeted citizens”, sources close to Cabinet say this refers to Batswana who have been left out of the country’s economic growth mostly women , the youths and small scale investors.

The transitional plan is touted as a fixer to the economic mishaps of the NDP 11, which began in 2017 and ends next year March. The six year plan has been characterized by a decline in GDP growth; high levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality, slow growth in exports, fiscal deficits with government finances reaching their lowest levels, and rising levels of inflation, especially in the second half of NDP 11.

When NDP ends in March 2023, it is estimated that it would have accumulated P45 billion in budget deficits. Still, the government will increase its spending through the P64 billion Public Investment Programme (PIP) which forms the TNDP.  This is a massive increase in development budget, considering that the national development budget for the current financial year 2022/2023 was P16.4 billion.

“The PIP provides an estimate of the amount of investible resources that have been allocated to various ministries, departments, and agencies for implementation of projects and programmes aimed at addressing the national development priorities during financial years 2023/24 and 2024/25, covered by this transitional national development plan,” said State President minister Kabo Morwaeng this week in parliament when swaying lawmakers to approve the plan.

Morwaeng said due the country’s infrastructure development lacking, the PIP for the TNDP goes beyond the fiscal ceilings set by the Ministry of Finance, but assured members of parliament that the government is committed to seeking alternative sources of finance to close this funding gap.

The PIP largely comprises of ongoing projects, where part of the funds have already been approved, contracts signed, and are currently being implemented. The projects have an allocation of P37.3 billion or 58.2 percent of the total PIP.

The other set of projects in the PIP are new projects, whose implementation has not started, but have been identified for inclusion in the new plan. These projects have been assessed and found to be consistent with current priorities, but are yet to be prepared in detail, Morwaeng said. The new projects constitute an amount of P26.8 billion, or 41.8 percent of the total PIP.

Out of the total PIP of P64 billion development expenditure proposed for the two years, P29 billion or 45.2 percent is for the financial year 2023/24, while P35.1 billion or 54.8 percent is for 2024/25 financial year.

“Infrastructure development remains critical to unlock opportunities for trade, value chain and export-led development, economic diversification, competitiveness increased productivity and private sector engagement,” said Morwaeng.

Vote buying scam……

In response to Morwaeng, the leader of opposition in Parliament, Ditlhapelo Keorapetse expressed worries that budget has been ballooned without justification of where the source of the funds will come from. He also noted that it is a wrong move by the government to triple the development budget when the country is faced with implementation problems.

“The government has not demonstrated that it has doubled the capacity to spend, yet there is a plan in place to spend huge amounts of money. This is a vote buying scam”, said Keorapetse.

Keorapetse further stated that the government has not revealed the source of the funds for the transitional NDP except that it would be funded with debt. He cautioned that following the repeal of the PPADB Act, the transitional plan could be turned into a cash cow by those in control of the public purse.

In his final response to Members of Parliament, Morwaeng acknowledged that government has over the years experienced major challenges in project implementation, ranging from inadequate project planning, inaccurate costing, appraisal and assessment of feasibility. The poor implementation has been worsened by insufficient monitoring and evaluation of projects, resulting in cost overruns, and service provision that is below standard specifications, the minister said.

To ensure that the mega billions public investment projects are a success, Morwaeng said government will use the development manager approach for project delivery, allowing for major public projects to be packaged and their implementation outsourced to private companies with requisite capacity to assist in addressing some of the capacity constraints that continue to undermine efforts towards successful project implementation.

“However, this model on its own will not be sufficient. There is therefore an urgent need to address capacity limitations across the board,” said Morwaeng.

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