At least P9.9 million has been budgeted for the newly established Botswana Trade Commission (BOTC) for the 2016/17 financial year.
The budget proposal, which was presented and approved by Parliament this past week after presentation by junior Minister at Trade and Industry Sadique Kebonang, proposed a total of P908 million recurrent and a further P73 million development budget for all parastatals and departments under the Ministry of Trade.
The Botswana Trade Commission (BOTC), a new kid on the bloc at the Ministry, was set up by parliament in 2013 as a secretariat body that will consist of units responsible for tariff investigations as well as trade remedies. The commission is also expected to regulate imports and exports to and from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and determine eligibility for infant industry protection. The establishment BOTC was however not welcomed by some trade analysts who believe it could simply have set up as a unit in either Botswana Investment Trade Centre (BITC) or the parent Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI). Professor Roman Grynberg, who used to work for the Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) said last year that although the Trade Commission was a SACU obligation, there was no need to establish other parastatal which will in the long term fight for the same resources with BITC.
“Prudent economic planning dictates that the Trade Commission should have been created as a unit under the Ministry of Trade and Industry manned by a few experts instead of setting up of a fully fledged corporation. Alternatively the Trade Commission should have been established as a unit under BITC because of its overlapping functions. This is a clear waste and mismanagement of the few resources that the country has,” said Professor Grynberg.
He further opined that instead on establishing a fully fledged parastatal, government could have recruited two or three experts in the field of trade who would then manage the unit under either MTI or BITC. Prior to the 2002 agreement, neighbouring South Africa had been mandated by the SACU Council to manage the Common External Tariff on behalf of other members of SACU. However, Article 7 of the 2002 SACU Agreement established institutions such as the Tariff Board, the Secretariat and the Tribunal. The then Trade Minister, Dorcus Malesu indicated when presenting the Bill that established BOTC in 2013 that the SADC agreement further provides for establishment of independent and dedicated national bodies which will carry out preliminary investigations and recommend any tariff changes necessary to the SACU Tariff Board. It is expected that BOTC will claim that role for Botswana.