Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The Economy and the Education system: It’s a case of chickens coming home to roost

This past week, an announcement was made to the effect that the Botswana Government had secured a loan of over $US 1 billion from the African Development Bank.

The loan is to be used, among other things, to finance Botswana’s budget deficit as well as help drag the country out of the economic ditch inside which it presently finds itself.
That Botswana has never had to access such a kind of facility for at least the past 17 years is sign of the good times we have had over a long stretch during those years.

There are many opinions on just why and how Botswana has been successful as an economy over the years.

One school of thought holds that austerity and visionary leadership have been exclusively crucial to the so called success story that Botswana has so often been hailed to be.
Another school holds that diamonds alone have been responsible.

This view holds that even the most reckless spendthrift government would still have produced the good results given the amount of money that diamonds continuously, and without fail, pumped in over the years.

We have gone past the stage of patting ourselves on our shoulders for what used to be an economic success surrounded by a sea of failure and official plunder that have been so much a character of many other African countries.

If we are not careful we will very soon be welcome into the club of failed economies that make up so many of the African continent.

But that is all beside the point.
But the fact that we are now groveling before such institutions such as the African Development Bank for assistance, which only last year we could ourselves hand to others is a sign of the changed times we live in.
That alone is a sign of the bad economic times that we are wailing through.

In trying to explain Botswana’s economy, somebody has used the analogy of a drug addict who is not able to do anything without the help, support and intake of a habit forming substance.
They could not have been more imaginative and succinct.

Its difficult to imagine Botswana’s economy without diamonds.

Yet that is what is happening today.
The drug like effect that the diamonds have had on the Botswana economy over the years is collapsing before our eyes.
While we still have diamonds underground, the world economic circumstances are such that at least for now there simply are no buyers.
That is proving a disaster.

The economy of Botswana’s over reliance on diamonds almost at the exclusion of anything and everything else should be a source of shame for us as a nation, especially given the amount of time and resources we have over the years invested in trying to reduce our over dependence on just one commodity.
Not since the arrival of diamonds in the early 1970s has Botswana had it so tough.

The difficulties we are going through as a country and nation are a far cry from the false assurances we received from some of our leading economists late last year when they almost sworn with their lives that Botswana would not be touched by the world economic meltdown that was at the time confined only to the West.

“Botswana is immune,” they misled us in unison.

Apparently, taking its cue from these economic brains (many of whom have direct access and influence to official policy formulation platforms) the Government of Botswana relaxed and missed a valuable opportunity to prepare itself and put in place contingency measures with which to face what has turned out to be an unfolding economic disaster.

As it were, we have been caught with our pants down.

The meltdown is hitting us like a bomb.
If only we were not being lied to that we were immune!

But then the economists’ collective folly is now water under the bridge.
We have to contend with the ground truths as they unfold.

Forget about the erosion of freedoms, the reason why Batswana seem to be on such a pensive and cranky mood is that the economic situation is beginning to bite.

No matter how hard we try to underplay it, many of our people have lost jobs.
They try to look far into the horizon, and they see no solace from there around.

It is a depressing sight.
This government has done a tremendous job to train its people. But then the truth is that the kind of education we spent money on is not the kind of education that equipped us to employ ourselves.

Instead, we were trained to look up to government to provide us with employment

However one looks at it ÔÇô be it diamonds or education, the chickens are coming home to roost.

Reality has caught up with us.
It’s time we went back to the drawing board ÔÇô on the economy and, of course, on our education system.


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