Sunday, June 16, 2024

Now that the admission has been made…

I did not think the indirect admission would come as soon as it did. I am, however, grateful that it did. You see, by saying that we were unlikely to meet the Vision 2016 objective in terms of economic growth, the Minister of Finance and Development was admitting that the government does not have a solution to youth unemployment and provision of infrastructure and services to our wider population. Because we have the admission we now have an opportunity for government to look at what outsiders say.

What is the point of admitting that you do not have a solution and then insisting on not listening to what others have to say? It would be folly of the greatest order for government to tell the nation that, in its view, under its watch, it is unlikely that the nation will achieve the Vision 2016 objective and then turn around and say: “There is still no alternative”. That is the sort of claim that politicians make, but not a serious leadership that is in charge of a country.

The beauty of the admission is that it gives our country an opportunity to introspect. Do we need a political solution where there is a change of government, or does the current government change the way it does things? A political solution in the form of a change of government can only take place in 2014. A change of attitude in the way the government conducts the business of getting solutions to national problems and meeting objectives can be achieved in a shorter time. We therefore have a choice between a political and an administrative process.

Establishing a committee or task force of the same ministers and public servants together with their private sector counterparts, who are really part and parcel of the admission, does not make sense. I have in the past suggested that if you have a group of people who do not know that one plus one equals two, it does not assist them if they form a committee to investigate what one plus one is, if they do not add new people. This is particularly so if they still insist that they can rely on their limited knowledge. That is why for me establishment of a committee or task force as mentioned in the budget is a joke if it does not include outsiders.

I have in the past suggested that outsiders are the sort of people who are excluded from the government process because they are seen as being trouble makers, purely because they think differently to the establishment. There is no point bringing together conformists when the same have led us to the current situation where government makes the sort of admission that has been made by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning. It is now time to listen to what outsiders have to say. Conformists are necessary for implementation of policies, but when such policies lead us to stagnation it is time to look at non conformists.

I wonder if the Minister of Finance and Development Planning could have made the sort of admission he made under Rre Mogae and Rre Masire. I have a suspicion that like some of us he holds the view that Rre Khama has so much support that these admissions can be made without too much harm being done on the political front. If I am correct then perhaps we might get to exploit Rre Khama’s pull. For a long time the BDP drew a rosy picture of its management of the economy and never made any significant admissions because of fear both of loss of support within the BDP and outside.

One must also see the admission within the context of loss of influence of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. It is a matter of record that there has been movement of some government entities from the Ministry to that of Trade and Industry. I believe the thinking has been that we can generate revenues if we allow the Ministry of Trade and Industry to play its role by giving it control over entities responsible to trade and industry. One wonders if the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning would have made the admission if it was still handicapped by self interest.

I can only hope that the admission is borne out of the lightening of the load on the part of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning can now look to the Ministry of Trade and Industry for revenue generation. The Ministry of Finance now has every right to say that it is not alone responsible for lack of funds for development, that it is also the responsibility of the Ministry of Trade to ensure that business activity takes place to generate taxes.

In law an admission by necessary implication admits all that may be seen to be part and parcel of the admission. It has been suggested that in order to create new employment opportunities the economy must grow at 7 percent. In view of the admission we are therefore unlikely to create new jobs to improve the situation of our young. We are therefore likely to see continuation of schemes that are effectively holding stations. Our young must therefore brace themselves for difficult times. Their best option is to put pressure on government to listen to what non establishment figures have to say.

I have a problem with economists who focus on the balanced budget issue. To me it does not make sense to say I have a balanced budget if some of your children go to bed hungry. We must relate economic numbers to people’s lives. What good is it to have a balanced budget without meeting the needs of our people? Our economists must in glorifying a balanced budget have regard to the fact that we each have one life. What good is it to me to hear that there is a balanced budget if I am leading a miserable life because of that?

Assuming that the opposition have solutions, must they volunteer their solutions to the economic problems? This is a difficult one. For, if they do, then the government implements and takes care of the 2014 elections. If they do not then they sacrifice our people’s lives for the remaining two years before elections. Ultimately the issue becomes personal. Do those who have solutions but do not support the BDP speak out, or do they keep their peace? Do we have those who do not particularly support the BDP but like Khama? What are they to do? Do we have those who like the BDP but not Khama? What are they to do?

The Minister also made mention of the need to improve productivity on the part of both the private sector and the public sector. In my view these calls though seemingly reasonable are really not taking into account the full picture. We must distinguish between the two sectors. In regard to the private sector I do not see how half a million productive people can compete against 300 million.

The issue for me is that we should first identify niche areas where we already have some advantage and then become productive in those areas. There is no point in trying to be productive in areas where you have no real advantage.

In regard to the public sector, there is no point calling for productivity if some promotions are based on sex. A country cannot be run on sexual relations. Sexual relations do not generate economic or development ideas, at best you try new sexual positions. I have heard of a book called Karma Sutra. Apparently it covers nearly all positions known to man. I have never heard it said that it deals with economic policies, development issues, productivity or governance.

A long time ago when we got our Cambridge results an Indian classmate who had gotten the best results, in the school, cried when he thought he may not qualify to enter a preferred university. In hindsight the young man may unconsciously have seen the ambit of the competitive world. At that time the concept of international competition did not exist. Our young and workers are competing not with their local counterparts, but internationally. Our leaders likewise must disabuse themselves of the notion that they are competing with their local counterparts. They are competing with their global counterparts on our behalf. They need to up their game.

Talk about productivity suggests that we are very much conscious of a competitive world. I am sure there is no leading country where sexual relation is used as an assessment tool for progression within any establishment that wants to be globally competitive. Why then should we think that in the case of Botswana sexual relationship can be an attribute that ensures a productive and competitive nation? When male politicians use sex as a campaign tool chances are we are likely to remain globally uncompetitive.


Read this week's paper