Sunday, June 16, 2024

The insanity of the ESP

That we are in a crisis as a nation is clear for all to see. The talk lately, anywhere you go, relates to the health of our economy. It is not only about the economy! Governance has taken a decidedly different turn. We are now in a mist of confusion in all facets of life in our country. I need to make it clear from the onset that this is a self-made crisis that has rendered the whole nation helpless. We are in a state of paralysis that could have been avoided. But, sadly, we have reached a point of no return. The hope for survival is slowly but surely disappearing. How sad for a country that only a decade or so ago was regarded as a model economy for others to emulate in the continent and beyond? Before I focus on the subject matter for today I though wise to reflect on the latest development or lack thereof in one of our parastatals.

The Air Botswana saga, for example, talks to the crisis we currently found ourselves in as a nation. The Minister responsible for the troubled national carrier is quoted in one of our weekly newspapers making a not so surprising announcement in relation to the Board of Directors, who were fired together with their Chief Executive Officer last week. Following the dismissal of the CEO and Board members the Minister was quick to indicate his readiness to fill the vacant positions, noting that he has people that he knew could do the job. In fact, he was in the process of appointing them! The Minister knows certain people and he was going to appoint them ÔÇô sounds like we are in another corrupt African country, isn’t it? If governance was still the guiding light in our country, the Minister would have known clearly that there were other institutions responsible for appointments to statutory bodies Boards, in this case, PEEPA. The process is also clearly stipulated in terms of how PEEPA appoint individuals to Boards. An advert is floated in newspapers and interested parties apply. The Minister will only get recommendation from PEEPA, although he makes the final appointments. But in this case, he comes across clueless, if I am allowed to use that word, with regard to established governance processes. If he has an idea of the established practices, then he does not give priority to such. This is the problem we currently face as a people: a nation that disregards established processes and procedures. Consequently, we have become a nation on an auto-pilot mode.

There is nothing wrong being on an auto-pilot mode. In fact, it provides various benefits, some which includes relieve for pilots on long-haul flights. But pilots only switch to auto-pilot when the timing and circumstances are appropriate. It doesn’t just happen! What we are witnessing in our country, in terms of how the country is managed, comes close to knee-jack reaction. Obviously, there is little indication of considerate and appropriate action coming from those in charge of our affairs to steer our ailing ship to safety. In the face of uncertainty that has come to define lived experience of many of our people, the leadership of this nation appears to be adopting a business as usual attitude in addressing pressing concerns of our people. This brings me to the subject matter for today: The Economic Stimulus Package (herein referred to as ESP): A clear example of haste and thoughtlessness that is currently presented by the powers that be as a solution to many of our challenges as a nation.

I need to make a disclaimer from the onset. I am not an economist. Neither am I an expert on public finances. This, however, should not restrict me from making my own 5 thebe observations on the proposed scheme. Yes, it is bound to affect my way of life, one way or another, if the words of BDP Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane, are anything to go by. After the scheme was announced by President Khama at a BDP function, he famously proclaimed in reference to the ESP “the good times are back.” My expectations, obviously, were raised like any other Motswana with the hope that in due course we will get full details of what the package entailed. It was just a matter of time before it became clear this was a hoax. During the SONA address, President Khama, made it clear that details of the scheme would follow soon, and He also asked Batswana to start registering companies in readiness for the package. Then, as expected, nothing concrete materialised. A booklet was to resolve the confusion. But, it also proved a joke. 

On a serious note though, we should get worried as Batswana with the way things are going in our country these days. There is, for example, disregard for established processes and procedures in the way we manage our public affairs. This clearly departs from the way we used to do things. The ESP, from conception to where we are at the moment, best characterise what has gone wrong with our polity. One, for example, would want to know why it was proposed? What does it really want to address? Is the ESP the best possible scheme to deliver on such objective? Where are the targets? Was money the problem in our economy, or is it poor implementation capacity? There are, obviously, many other questions that need to be asked. For instance, why would it not follow established processes when proposed and introduced? Put differently, why is it planned to run from the office of the president (OP) instead of Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP)? How different is it from supplementary funding that parliament often approves? And how much is to be used? Undoubtedly, there is a rise of a new form of governing in our polity where lack of accountability and responsibility is the order of the day. And where accountability is compromised, we should know well, corruption and mismanagement tends to flourish.

I am tempted to agree with the Leader of Opposition, Duma Boko, that the ESP is at best a grand looting scheme. The current leadership of this country have resolved that they will get their share ÔÇô in this case not a fair share ÔÇô before they leave office in the near future. In the meantime some Batswana, especially youth, will find something to salvage from the scheme with government, for example, paying for driving lessons so that they get driver’s licences! Armed with licences our economy will be stimulated, so goes the thinking from our principals! ESP, to me, appears more and like an exit package than a stimulus one.


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