Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Private sector, not Gov’t will create the much needed jobs

These past two weeks the Government controlled media has been awash with vacancy adverts available in the public sector.

Almost all of the jobs advertised are classified as temporary.

A closer look at some of the job descriptions reveals a deeply ingrained level of desperation on the part of Government.

This is a Government under pressure to be seen to be creating jobs.

When people talk of employment creation, they are not referring to government being the one employing people.
That is simply not possible.

The world over, it is the private sector that is capable of creating jobs.

This is because the world over, it is only the private sector that is capable of creating wealth.

The anomaly that exists in this country where the government is richer than the private sector has now caught up with is.
And until this anomaly is corrected, no real jobs will be coming forward.
We may boast of economic growth and budget surpluses, as happened at the budget speech recently, but all those indices are ultimately meaningless to people in the streets who are looking for jobs that in fact do not exist.

Botswana Government has over the recent past been under pressure from both the World Bank and (IMF) International Monetary Fund to reduce the public sector wage bill.

And for a moment it seemed there was an undertaking on the part of government that indeed such a decrease in wage bill was not only desirable but also attainable.

That was until the elections last year in which the ruling party performed badly mainly as a result of protests of high unemployment levels.

Now the government is yielding to temptations to go against concessions earlier made and instead adopt short term measures and take easy way out by creating artificial jobs in the public sector.

Employing more people in the public sector solely to ease unemployment levels means going back on the promises of cutting the wage bill.

It also means putting the still fragile economic recovery under enormous risks on the back of unsustainable political expediencies that could easily be avoided.

It all smacks of political desperation.

Botswana is perhaps the only country in the world where the government looks at itself as the creator of both wealth and employment.

The world over those are the supreme and sacrosanct responsibilities of the private sector.
For their part, the government’s role is to empower the private sector and collect taxes.

In Botswana the tax regime is not yet fully developed, which means that it is not broad enough making it inefficient and thus unable to collect from a broad number of candidates.

That is not the only shortcoming on the part of government in its quest to fulfill what should be its overarching roles; there is more. Botswana Government is instinctively hostile to the private sector.

While in their speeches senior government officials including the Head of State endlessly talk about their wish to see the private sector playing a bigger role, all evidence on the ground talk to a totally different set of realities.

Botswana’s immigration policy is infinitely hostile to the development and eventual thriving of the private sector. There is a refusal on the part of government to accept the simple and plain truth that our economy has over the years failed to produce the kind of skills needed to grow this economy under the currently existing set of circumstances.

Under the circumstances, such skills can only be imported from abroad.

And yet because there are many unemployed citizens many of them educated, albeit not in skills required by the economy the Government feels the pressure to be seen to be doing something.

This is called political expediency.

This has led Government to reject applications for work and residence permits submitted by expatriates willing to come and work here.

This has had the net effect of making investors very jittery.

Nobody is going to commit their money into a jurisdiction where there is no guarantee that they will be allowed to import skills to manage their businesses when such skills are not available locally.

Instead of deceiving the nation by creating an impression that they can become an employer, we call on Government to sit down with the private sector and make demands on them to create jobs.

Those jobs will of course not come on their own.

First there has to be a clear set of opportunities to create wealth and along the way profits.

This would mean Government as regulator coming up with a totally new mindset and attitude towards the private sector.

The starting point under the circumstances would be to be genuinely pleasant and receptive to the private sector, especially those people who are willing to invest their money into Botswana hostile against other many competing destinations.

In short we have to change our immigration policy and make it not only more receptive but also more transparent.

This newspaper will support government efforts to keep out of our borders people who are deemed to be a risk to this country.

This includes not only terrorists, but also people perceived to have links to such underworld activities like drugs and other related activities.

Our concern though is that our immigration policy, in its quest to address existing political dynamics inside the country is putting the economic future of the country at risk.

Training people especially in some specialised vocations has not been part of our Human resource agenda for years.

That shortcoming has now caught up with us.

We have to admit that as we are addressing these defects, the economy still has to run.
And the only way for it to do so would be through importing such needed but locally unavailable skills.
It is one thing to place scores and scores of job adverts in the newspapers.

It is quite another to make sure that those jobs are wealth generating, sustainable and indeed needed by the economy.

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