In what in many respects could amount to the closest the opposition Botswana National Front has ever come in giving its own alternative national budget, on Wednesday afternoon BNF President Otsweletse Moupo spent most of his time on the parliament floor dissecting and punching holes on the national budget presented by Finance Minister Baledzi Gaolathe.
Moupo started by pointing out what he said are careless flaws on the national budget, before offering an insight of what his party would do were they in government.
He said the present government lacks a clear and cohesive strategy of employment creation.
To demonstrate his point he said the present government has over the years failed to use the substantial mineral resource in Botswana – especially diamonds to create employment.
The decision by government to confine itself to diamond mining only at the pit at the exclusion of downstream activities like cutting and polishing has robbed the country of thousands of job opportunities, he said.
He said the latest efforts to go the beneficiation way have come “too little, too late.”
He shot down the optimism spirit breathed by Minister Gaolathe that Botswana is experiencing an economic resurgence thanks to mining.
He said the large projects announced by Minister Gaolathe are capital intensive and will not bring high employment volumes unless accompanied by a political will on the part of the BND government.
Moupo said international diamond polishing and cutting industry is worth $56 billion, yet Botswana does not have a slice of that despite being a world leader in diamond production.
He said Israel which does not have a single diamond mine has carved itself a $3 billion a year diamond cutting and polishing industry.
The way to go, said Moupo would be to set aside about 25% of the country’s diamond production to feed the local cutting and polishing houses, rather than have them buy with everyone from De Beers in London.
“The good thing is that we will then have not just over 20 000 direct jobs, but there will also be the multiplier effects in the growth of related industries like banking, security and insurance.”
Moupo said there is no one area where the BDP government has been as “socially irresponsible” as in housing.
He said as a result of a lack of political goodwill, the Botswana Housing Corporation has “abandoned” its original mandate of building houses to concentrate on sale of houses.
“BHC should go to its original mandate,” he said.
On food production the BNF President said government has not been concerned at all.
He said agricultural programmes as dished over the years were “poorly thought out and incoherent.”
“The biggest problem is BDP’s dogmatic fixation with the idea of the private sector creating employment.” This he said fails to take into account the simple fact that the capitalist class in Botswana remains very weak.
He also called for basic living income grants, saying such an idea would uplift multitudes from poverty.
In the same breath he blamed the across the board salary increment announced by Minister Gaolathe saying it aggravates inequalities while giving more to those who are already overpaid.