Thursday, March 4, 2021

‘Power and water crisis a result of under-investment’ÔÇôGaolatlhe

Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington South, Ndaba Gaolatlhe says the current water and energy problems that are bedevilling Botswana are a result of gross under-investment on the two key sectors of the national economy.

Speaking at a press briefing hosted by his party, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Gaolatlhe said the government of Botswana has over the years failed to invest in the “two key sectors” of energy and water.

“Government’s decision to under-invest in these two sectors has resulted in a serious shortage of the most crucial inputs of production, being water and electricity,” he said.

He gave an example of neighbouring South Africa, which has invested at least R4.3trillion in water projects over the next three years, a figure that far exceeds the country’s annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of R3.5trillion. Comparatively, Botswana has budgeted only P3billion for both water and electricity projects annually, which is less than the country’s GDP. Botswana’s annual budget is about P55billion while national GDP goes up to P140billion. On power production, Gaolatlhe stressed that demand for electricity was exacerbated by government’s failure to invest in new plants and lack of maintenance of existing plants such as the old Morupule power plant. He also cited as a very slow developing private power producer market as amongst the factors that have led to the power deficit that is currently troubling Botswana.

Morupule A power station, which was shut down because of refurbishments, was expected to contribute at least 60 MW to the national grid by mid last year. However, Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Kitso Mokaila recently told a press conference that the power plant will only be plugged back to the national grid next year with an expected additional input of 90 MW. Mokaila further noted that Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) will build an additional 35 MW plant at the 70 MW Matshelagabedi diesel powered plant that it purchased recently. The Corporation had been renting the plant from APR Energy, an Independent Power Producer (IPP) since 2009 under a five-year contract.

Despite Mokaila’s assurance, the UDC Vice President maintains that the continued power and water shortages in Botswana are likely to scare away potential investors as no serious business wants to “throw away” money on an economy that cannot provide basic utilities. Gaolatlhe also blamed the current water shortages on poor infrastructural plans. He accused government of failing to set up the necessary piping network to draw water from multiple sources that are scattered throughout the country.

“With so much under investment, how do you expect to be able to supply adequate supply of water and electricity to industry and the population?” said Gaolatlhe.

Botswana’s power problems are historical as government’s underpinned power utility over the years failed to exploit the country’s excess resources to expand its power plant capacity, instead choosing to rely on cheap imports.

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