“Unless Batswana change the present government and replace it with a new and visionary leadership, it would be na├»ve of people to expect any radical changes in the way the budget is allocated, because this is essentially the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s conception of managing public resources.”
This was said by Nehemiah Modubule, Member of Parliament for Lobatse.
Citing a statement by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), Kenneth Matambo, Modubule pointed out that the BDP government should be ashamed that it is no longer possible to pretend about their long-time overreliance on diamonds revenue at the expense of other sectors of the economy.
Modubule also expressed the view that it is interesting news that, “They now realize the need to re-examine their way of doing business, and only just found out that its worthwhile prioritizing human resource development .”
He said that the opposition has always maintained that education without production cannot take the country far, and that people must be equipped with appropriate skills from an early age at primary school level through to tertiary level, so that ultimately there would be a pool of experts for every imagined vocation necessary to regenerate the economy.
The former BNF veteran highlighted the fact that had there been recognition in time of the importance of investing in education with production, by the same token there would have been sufficient basis for giving due attention to adopting a broad-based economic spectrum.
Matambo acknowledged in his budget presentation, that due to the recent global financial and economic crisis, Botswana experienced an unprecedented loss of national income.
“Global demand plunged, particularly for luxury goods such as diamonds, and so did Government revenue that we used to finance development initiatives,” said Matambo, adding that the crisis therefore threatens to stall the hard earned progress that has been made towards achieving the aspirations of Vision 2016 as well as the Millennium Development Goals.
Again, the Finance Minister on declaring the theme of the Budget, “Transforming our economy after the Crisis: 2010 and beyond”, warned Parliament that the theme challenged Government to find strategies to resume rapid growth, while broadening growth beyond the mineral sector.
Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang, Vice-president of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), said that the budget was a disaster, given that it offered the nation neither a progress report on delivery or otherwise of projects promised in the previous financial year, nor categorical statement of what specific measures are intended to reverse the situation.
“To compound the situation for those already impoverished by the recession, the budget proposed an escalation of taxes and costs of water and electricity, without any indication that the revenue collected from such taxes will be directed at productive activities,” posited Gobotswang.
He added that, the BCP was worried that over and above the fact that amounts to taking from the people’s pockets the money would rather serve to prop up the President’s “pet” projects which are never accounted for.
“What needed to come out clearly and specifically was, what milestones have been achieved regarding the Zambezi Projects, How far is the Coffee processing and the Soda ash derived glass which were promised in the last budget,” quipped the BCP leader.
In conclusion, the Botswana National Front’s Moeti Mohwasa, expressed disappointment, saying the BDP government owed Batswana an apology for refusing to pay heed to sensible advice to diversify the economy.
“Now the entire nation had to pay the price before the authorities had a rude awakening in the form of the recession, after many years of devoting money to unproductive sectors,” said Mohwasa critically, adding that the 12% in Vat increase proposed by the budget will certainly heighten inflation in addition to eroding the people’s purchasing power.
That is despite the fact that there are no salary increases this time around.