Tuesday, May 18, 2021

“Employment must be central to national budget,”- Prof Siphambe

Government has been urged to develop an employment and labor market framework that will position employment creation at the center of the national development plan.

This was said by Professor Happy Siphambe, Dean of Social Sciences at University of Botswana, during the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) 2014 budget review. He challenged government to scrutinize all development projects to determine how much employment they can create.

“This will allow for good estimates of employment targets that can be monitored and evaluated,” he said.

He added that there has to be a link between the national budget and issues of employment in the labor market. He further explained that employment is a function of two aspects; demand and supply of labor, which interact to determine employment and wages. He added that the main influence for the national budget is through its influence on labor demand, which is derived from demand for commodities that are produced by labor.

“When demand for products increases we expect demand for labor to also increase, meaning a rise in employment. Therefore we expect the budget to enable the private sector to flourish and create employment,” said Siphambe.

However, Siphambe cautioned that pumping money into development projects will not automatically create employment, saying such is not always the case as there are other factors at play, among them availability of local skills, how labor intensive the projects are and whether there are policies and programs in place to make labor employable. He cited the 2015 national budget, which stated that the P12.93bn reserved for development projects is expected to go a long way in creating new employment opportunities without clearly stating how that will be achieved.

“The main question is how? Is there a framework to ensure that employment is created? Have the big projects been unbundled?” asked Siphambe.

He further cited the 2013 national budget, which also said programs such as internship, youth development fund and LIMID will address issues of youth unemployment without stating how that will be achieved.

“We must interrogate how that will be achieved, at what cost and how many jobs will be created,” said Siphambe.

He further cautioned that economic growth and provision of a conducive business environment will not automatically enable the private sector to create employment, saying there is need to implement active labor market policies with clear targets that can be evaluated. He further encouraged government to produce more data that will enable proper planning and evaluation of the employment situation.

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