President Ian Khama’s pet projects have come under fire from an unlikely quarter ÔÇô the ruling Botswana Democratic Party.
At a “Budget Pitso” interaction with Members of Parliament this past week, the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo, together with MP for Serowe North East, Ramadeluka Seretse, came to the conclusion that the President’s pet projects are tailored for political expediency. Both Seretse and Matambo have appeared before the courts with graft charges hanging above their heads.
Seretse, the President’s cousin, was so emphatic┬ásome of┬áKhama’s programmes,┬álike the┬áIntegrated Support Programme for Arable Agricultural Development (ISPAAD), are┬ánot yielding the intended results. Matambo added that Ipelegeng (Self-sufficiency) is but one of the many projects that are not sustainable.
“There is a lot of political expediency at the expense of production. Our projects like ISPAAD put more emphasis on satisfying a political agenda rather than making sure they are productive. We must have milestones on every programme that we bring up,” Seretse said.
“I agree with Honourable Seretse. ISPAAD is not the only programme. I similarly have doubts with Ipelegeng and other many others. It is nice for politicians to say let us do this programme for purposes of political expediency. At some point, we must evaluate some programmes. The problem is: How do you balance political expediency with the objective of getting value for money?” the Finance Minister wondered.
Seretse argued that while it was justifiable for the government to provide for its people at independence when the country was poor, he felt it was inconceivable that the ruling party has failed to create opportunities that should have catapulted Batswana to graduate from state dependence.
“While we talk about capacity [constraints], we can’t turn around and say we don’t have capacity. We have killed capacity. Instead of creating opportunities and say this uplifting must be something that is temporary to capacitate you to later take on to provide for yourselves, we have not changed. We are slow as a country. We still continue to provide for people. There is a lot of political expediency at the expense of production,” Seretse said emphatically.
Seretse regretted that foreign investors, especially the Chinese, have benefited more from the economy than citizens.
“We have killed the capacity of Batswana. The Chinese have killed the domestic industry. We are not willing to accept our mistakes,” the MP charged.
MP for Kgatleng East, Isaac Mabiletsa, pleaded with the minister to reduce the flight of profits from the country realised by foreign investors by reserving certain projects for citizens as an economic empowerment component.
MP for South East South, Odirile Motlhale, said the cost of building ministers and legislators’ houses is prohibitively high. He suggested that government should look into providing car allowances┬áas a cost cutting measure. That was before he dismissed the “Budget Pitso” as a government public relations exercise. He bemoaned that the input made by legislators at such gatherings is never reflected whenever the budget speech is presented.
“This is not the first time we have a “Budget Pitso”. Do you take our suggestions seriously?” he asked the minister who replied in the affirmative. “Judge us when we present the budget,” Matambo said.
MP for Kgatleng West, Gilbert Mangole, said the government should not worry much about the current budget deficit saying it is an indication that there is project implementation.
“A large portion of budget surpluses was due to the lack of capacity to implement projects. We must live with the fact that in order to finance diversification of our economy there will be times when the budget deficit is a necessary evil,” Mangole said.