Although the entire budget proposals for the 2008/2009 financial year presented by Finance Minister Baledzi Gaolathe on Monday pivoted around 2016 vision ideals, Members of Parliament this week predicted doom over the anticipated positive results the Vision would attain.
Contributing to the budget speech, MPs decried citizenship empowerment and said progress would be unattainable unless government puts in place sound and progressive policies.
They charged that insignificant funds to main ministries and the retrogressive government policies currently in place thwart the noble initiatives of the Vision, thereby rendering the budget inconsistent with the Vision.
Robert Molefhabangwe, the Gaborone West South MP, decried the main ministries, which include the Ministry of Agriculture, Environment, Wildlife and Tourism and Trade and Industry that were allocated little funds despite the sectors being central to the mineral dependent economy.
“Every time the government presents the budget speech these sectors are almost left out, obtaining as little as 2 percent. These sectors are the mainstay of the economy. The agricultural sector is central to the majority of rural households.
“Given considerable funds, these sectors could not only provide employment but the government coveted diversification policy,” Molefhabangwe noted.
He said the agricultural sector was dwindling at an alarming rate.
“We have been reduced to an importing and consuming country instead of a producing country. Exporting countries and individuals are the beneficiaries often giving out expired commodities that include yogurts and milk to unsuspecting poor Batswana. Allocating enough funds would surely resuscitate the sectors.”
Presenting the budget under the theme “Accelerating achievement of Vision 2016 through NDP 10”, Gaolathe was adamant the budget is consistent with the pillars of the Vision.
He allocated the Ministry of Agriculture, Environment, Wildlife and Tourism and Trade and Industry 3, 9 percent and 1, 7 percent of the budget, respectively.
“It is now more than 10 years since Vision 2016 was adopted, leaving only 9 years for us to fully achieve the aspirations of Batswana as articulated in the vision,” the Finance Minister said. “While during NDP 9 progress was made towards realising both vision 2016 targets and the United Nations Millennium Development goals, to which Botswana prescribes, more needs to be done to effectively tackle vexed national development issues. For example, there is need to accelerate poverty reduction, employment creation and economic diversification, as well as to consolidate our social and physical infrastructural achievements.”
Gaolathe said since the objectives of NDP 9 are aligned to the vision pillars, it is ideal that the government embarks on the preparation of NDP 10, taking along “what we learnt during NDP 9 implementation and focus on how to accelerate achievement of Vision 2016 through NDP 10.”
Molefhabangwe singled out Tunisia saying the north African country was wallowing on a sound economy and positive developments obtained from prudent expenditure on the tourism sector.
“Tunisia has no diamonds. The country has an insignificant number of wild-life but its economy is booming. Today the naira (Nigerian currency) is almost at par with the American dollar. With a lot of animals why can’t the government invest much in the tourism industry to create employment and diversify the economy simultaneously? The budget contradicts the ideals of 2016 ideals which promote the socio-economic welfare of Batswana. Paying less attention to these sectors spells doom to the long term vision for the country which dictates prosperity for all by 2016,” Molefhabangwe said.
On corruption, Molefhabangwe congratulated the DCEC for the work well done.
“The finance minister should have in the speech congratulated the DCEC for detecting ‘the big sharks that swim deep’ but all the same looting public properties without impunity. Strange but interesting developments that recently cropped up implicating the big sharks really need to be applauded.”
He said contrary to some people’s perceptions that such developments would scare potential foreign investors away from the country, the opposite is true.
“A stable and corrupt free country attracts investors,” Molefhabangwe argued.
Lobatse MP, Nehemiah Modubule, lambasted the budget as “the budget without direction”.
He reiterated Molefhabangwe’s debate adding that enough finance should be injected to revamp the agricultural sector.
“The country is importing much from South Africa. The BDP government must use its brains. Botswana has plenty of water and land. This government enjoys learning from adverse experiences. Right now the country is grappling and struggling with power outages though the government has known the predicament a decade before,” Modubule asserted.
“Opposition had and continues to advise the government to take agriculture seriously. Foreign reserves that are said to be simmering to the brim must be obtained to revive the sector. Batswana are living in abject poverty while their monies are loitering abroad. Batswana are dying of hunger and abject poverty while few individuals in parliament sit on their revenues”.
He also condemned the budget saying it was saturated with deficiencies.
Modubule continued, “Nobody in his right mind could imagine an educated and informed nation by 2016 when pupils are sent off from school because the parents can not afford to pay school fees. Education must be free. Some parents are irresponsible to even care about the welfare of their children. Children are the future and should not be discriminated against.”
“I would like to see a budget that includes the unemployed in the future.”
On labour laws, the Lobatse MP noted the ministry was non-existent as evidenced by the latest dismissal of an expectant woman from a newly established DUMA fm radio station.
In his contribution, Vister Moruti, the Okavango MP, argued that the search for minerals underground was one sided and urged the government to visit the constituency to comb for the same.
Tswapong south MP, Oreeditse Molebatsi, complained that the finance minister did not highlight his constituency in the developmental projects in the budget speech, a move which he said translates the constituency as being excluded from national developments. Over the controversial public servants salary increment the MPs lobbied the government to double up and effect the increment as soon as possible to boost the morale of the workers whose salaries not only assist them but the dependents at home.
Gaolathe disappointed and depressed the officers when he boldly announced that the “Public Service Salaries Review Commissions submitted the reports to his Excellency the President but owing to a wide range of issues that the Commissions covered, including salaries, pay structures, conditions of service, as well as affordability, the government is still actively considering the Commissions reports. Therefore, government’s decision on the recommendations of the reports will be communicated at a later date.”