Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Now is the time to turn the “Talk” into “Action”

The counting of days of the Mokgweetsi Masisi’s presidency continues. As of last week Wednesday when he met the press for the first time as head of state Masisi was making his 59th day in office.

The press conference was ideally an explanatory one. The president needed to hint on his economic roadmap. The points he raised during his address were not as precise more especially when it comes to the “how” part. This is understandable considering the tension that has been there between the government and the press more especially private one. The idea is to rebuild the relationship between the two parties and ensure that the level of trust is at a desired level.

This commentary is not however about Masisi’s inaugural press conference as head of state ÔÇô actually the first press conference by head if state in the past ten years. The commentary intends to highlight why the President’s economic decision matters, eventually.

Indeed, when in crises be it economic or social, a presidential action can have an immediate and measurable effect.

While President Masisi cannot control how fast the economy grows, he has more influence over how the growth, even if it is little is divided. President Masisi probably cannot do much, for example, to bring back lost jobs at Choppies Hyper store in Westgate Mall, but he can try to help the workers who lost those jobs. He can initiate a new debate on minimum wage vs. living wage and ultimately ensure that the country’s biggest retailers and other employers who hide behind the law of minimum wage to pay peanuts to the already impoverished Batswana. Yes, the President can see to it that thousands of citizens of this country who have been waitlisted at various land boards and authorities for over two decades finally get a piece of residential land to build own houses

No matter what the media, retired politicians, and academics might suggestÔÇöand no matter how vehemently they might express themselvesÔÇöthere are no short cuts. President Masisi should make major policy changes that will ensure that the country’s threesome problems ÔÇô joblessness, landlessness and lack of business opportunities for the locals do not become an everyday song.

As the UNFPA demographic dividend report that was released earlier this year stated,

the first component of our economic priority should entail focusing on diversifying the economy to expand sectors with high job multiplier effects, reforming the agricultural sector to be more attractive to youth, providing incentives to companies that consciously create livelihood opportunities for youth, and empowering youth with resources and technical capacities to start and grow businesses. It is a good thing that President Masisi is the one who launched it thus we assume that he is fully aware of the huge task that is before him. The report give hints and serves as a reminder that broad-based improvements in living standards matter as much. Let’s not kid ourselves, the change of personnel at government enclave will not on its own bring bread to a lot of tables. We should also be honest to ourselves that praising the problems that are before us will also not bring any bread to the many of our tables. What we need is to stop talking about these problems and do something about it. Now is the time to turn the talk into action. We cannot be a progressive nation if we are going to spend half of the time talking about the problems and not implementing any strategy that will bring such problems to an end.

The truth of the matter is that persistent economic inequality and a geographically uneven recovery have left many Batswana deeply frustrated.

President Masisi might not have shed much light on his economic roadmap but as said before in this space we need economic reforms today, not tomorrow. In our view, to reform entails turning the inevitability of change in the direction of progress. To reform is to improve the life of every citizen of this country, more especially indigenous Batswana. 

As we slowly gears towards where we want to be as a nation, President Masisi and his cabinet should bear in mind that they can harness the energy of the people of this country either towards constructive work to generate optimism and hope by proving basic services efficiently or towards tensions and unrest by failing to provide the basics such as land, jobs and business opportunities.

Fresh thinking is certainly required from government policymakers precisely those at the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry. This is one ministry that houses key institutions such as CEDA, BITC and BDC that can help create wealth for our people. The #Bottomline is that people cannot eat hope but if we put some action to the promises we make, then maybe, and just maybe our rankings in World Happiness Index will once again improve.

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