One needed to have been in the parliamentary public accounts committee sitting on Tuesday last week to witness first-hand the grilling of brains on a subject that appears to be holding the economy at ransom, and that being unemployment.
What innocently begun as a question from Tati East Member of Parliament Guma Moyo turned into back and forth dissection of this critical subject, what was referred to as a difference of perceptions on the same issue.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Development planning, Solomon Sekwakwa whom the question on how the economy is going to generate jobs was directed towards, seemed more invested in explaining what the economy needs to do first so as to make way for the generation of jobs than he was at spelling out where specifically the jobs will come from.
Sekwakwa highlighted that there are three things that the Ministry has a bird’s eye view on which he expects will guide the creation of jobs, one of which he alluded as “addressing infrastructural areas that will assist us as an economy to move forward and generate jobs.
Unless we address the power and water issues, we have a problem. We might not have a formula to calculate their impact but in common theory we know the impact is huge.”
Frustrated that he was not being given a direct answer to what seemed a straight forward question; Moyo reiterated his question, as he had done before. “I’m trying to understand you.
Water and electricity are support but you’re still not telling me that once I have this, this is what I’m going to do to grow the economy. I want you to zero in on that,” said Moyo vehemently. Sekwakwa appeared unshaken on his view and responded to Moyo that they might be heading the same direction but starting differently. “I don’t think we are imagining the amount of cost that we are going to have to sink into those sectors for the coming years and what it means to the limited budget that we have. These areas are going to absorb a sizeable amount of resources to get them right,” Sekwakwa emphasised.
Permitted by the PAC Chairman Abraham Kesupile to ride on Moyo’s question, Selibe Phikwe West Member of Parliament Dithapelo Keorapetse augmented Moyo’s question on whether Sekwakwa found it acceptable to include Ipelegeng in the employment figures, a question which sought to determine if in actual fact the unemployment figure sits at 20 percent as has been recorded.
Sekwakwa appeared to struggle in giving an undeviating answer, leading Moyo to conclude that he was avoiding the question. Sekwakwa tactfully responded by saying that the unemployment figure is calculated against what is accepted internationally. “I would have to get figures from the statistician because I’m not a statistician, to appreciate how they compute. I would not have a ready answer for that,” he said.
The debates that went on at the sitting prove what the Economic think tank, Econsult had summed about unemployment, that it cannot be solved quickly or easily. Sekwakwa disclosed that his Ministry is currently working on an employment policy so as to provoke ideas on what to do with the rising unemployment.