Friday, July 19, 2024

Our elite are aloof to the social and economic ills besieging the country

At a time when the economy is still struggling and many young Batswana are struggling to find employment, it is hardly a wise decision by the economic elite who straddle politics, business and indeed the judiciary to be stashing away millions in places where such money is of no immediate benefit to the country.

Thanks to the Panama Papers we now know that our elite, like the rest of the world’s footloose investors have stashed away millions in tax havens ÔÇô presumably as a way of avoiding tax, or even engaging in some unknown illegalities.

It cannot be right, much less convincing for our rich to say they are putting their millions offshore because there is nothing illegal about it or give lame excuses that there are not enough investment opportunities in Botswana.

The argument by our rich that Botswana does not have foreign exchange controls and that notwithstanding the money hidden abroad, they are back home paying their fair share of tax on income is as absurd as it is morally moribund.

Clearly our rich are less concerned about creating economic opportunities at home than they are in advancing their chances of joining the world’s ivy league of the super rich.

While poverty, unemployment and inequality have all been deepening at home, it is clear from their behavior that our rich are almost solely concerned not about these fierce social problems but only growing their wealth and that of their families.

Fairness and morality clearly do not rank very high among our leaders.

Based on the general attitude of our elite following the leak of the so called Panama Papers, we now know why our elite never show any interest in the public discourse of the many social afflicting this country.

As long as they can continue to make profits from their shady investments in say the Cayman Island or the Isle of Man it does not matter to them that the policies of their allies back home are killing this country.

The leak of Panama Papers has been a catalyst for reforms across the globe.

Those reforms have at their core the induction of fairness, morality and inclusivity in such regimes like tax payment, but also in shouldering the social and economic burdens of the various states coming up with such reforms.

It is unpardonable, in fact repugnant that the wealthy are carving all sorts of tricks so that they could avoid paying a fair share to the sustenance of their countries, notwithstanding the fact that they are the ones who get the most from the economic activities of their countries ÔÇô Botswana included.

As has been proved all over the country, this attitude fuels resentment against the elite.

And we are seeing early symptoms of that happening here.

It is our hope that the fallout from the Panama Papers will be used to make strong case for a final push at reforms ÔÇô socially, politically and indeed economically.

There is need to close all the legal loopholes that allow the rich to avoid playing their roles to the upkeep of their countries.

First and foremost there is need for those holding positions of power to declare their interest in a meaningful way.

These include but are not limited to cabinet members, members of parliament, senior civil servants and the judiciary.

Only a root and branch reform process of the public service with transparency at its core can restore the public trust that our key institutions have now lost.

There is also a need for a whistle blowers’ protection legislation.

We are aware that Government is coming up with something that looks like such a law.

Our view is that such a law as suggested by government is nothing more than an apology. The piece of law is so watered down that it is a mockery to the values of openness that we pretend to uphold.

After addressing the legal aspect of the defects, then push has to be towards addressing the moral wing of it.

It cannot be right that in this day and age, that the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) is allowed to literally invest almost all their money outside the country.

That in our view is morally wrong, especially when we have our financial services sector that is on a deathbed as it grapples with liquidity problems.

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