The 2011/2012 Budget delivered by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Mr Kenneth Matambo, is unimaginative and routine.
It does not address innovatively the pressing problems that confront our country and economy. The budget uses a failed template to address structural challenges such as undiversified economy, poverty, unemployment and income inequalities.
The BCP sees the budget as both a tool for economic transformation and management. A closer examination of our budget reveals that it does not set a clear economic diversification programme that would steer the economy away from diamond dependency.
Instead the budget is a confirmation that our economy is mono-cultural and its growth is dependent on the recovery of the mining sector.
The BCP believes that to fundamentally transform the superstructure of the economy the government must play an active role in industrial development. There should be conscious and deliberate efforts to expand the country’s manufacturing base and connect it to global manufacturing systems.
As the BCP we also believe that the Botswana Development Corporation should lead the rural industrialization programme as a way of revitalizing and diversifying the rural economy.
It is only through a diversified economy that unemployment and poverty can be tackled. Mr Matambo expresses concern about unemployed graduates but he does not propose a remedy to the problem.
What is even more worrying is that the budget does not have a clear cut strategy of creating employment for thousands of unskilled young people who dropped out at terminal points of our education system. The assumption is that these young people will benefit from Youth Development Fund, Young Farmers Scheme, constituency league or alcohol levy.
This is faulty economic logic.
Unemployed young people need to be equipped with economy relevant skills that would allow them to take advantage of financial assistance programmes. The BCP believes that a massive skills training programme for out of school youth and discouraged job seekers should be mounted using existing facilities. There is also need to support in a meaningful and structured way the informal sector which is largely dominated by women. It is a serious omission by the 2011/2012 budget to leave out strategies for women economic empowerment.
There are about 500 000 Batswana who live in poverty. The budget is very shallow on its proposals to tackling the problems that afflicts large numbers of our population. It is our position at the BCP that Ipelegeng, backyard gardens and some periodic rations cannot eradicate poverty.
These schemes are petty and sadly inadequate. Programmes to eradicate poverty must be tied to economic diversification and employment creation as the best form of welfare is a quality and decent work.
The bulk of the budget allocation is towards completing on-going projects such as dams, airports and schools. Whilst Batswana will benefit from the infrastructure created, the bulk of the earning from the current budget will go to foreign companies that have been awarded the projects.
This defeats the citizen economic empowerment drive that we as a party have so strenuously talked about in the last decade. Until as a country, we come up with a citizen economic empowerment law, Batswana will continue to receive crumbs from their own budget.
The failure to award a salary increase to civil servants is ludicrous to say the least.
For three successive budgets, there has been no salary adjustment for the civil service which in essence means that their purchasing power has been heavily eroded. This will no doubt affect the morale and productivity of the civil service. The Government is one of the largest employers in the country and the erosion of the buying power of its employees would negatively affect a host of other businesses that depend on them for survival.
As much as we acknowledge that the bargaining process should determine wages and salaries of the civil service, we expected the minister to have explicitly recognized the need for an increase in salaries. We were disappointed by his tone and spirited that suggested the contrary. As the salary negotiations ensue, we will expect the government to show sensitivity to the plight of its employees.
In conclusion, the BCP would want to observe that the 2011/2012 budget is a repeat of the same old BDP economic strategy that has failed to usher a diversified economy, create quality jobs or eradicate poverty.
It is an economic strategy that continues to leave Botswana as vulnerable as ever to external shocks. It is also an economic strategy that has failed to deliver equity and social justice. The BCP believes that as long as there is no concerted effort on the part of government to transform the superstructure of the economy, the daunting problems that affect our nation will continue to escalate,
Lucas is BCP Information and Publicity Secretary