For a country like ours, pushed to the verge of civil unrest and economic upheaval by escalating unemployment, and facing an urgent need to reduce the high rate of unemployment rate, any effort geared towards generating dialogue on the issue is highly appreciated. It is for this reason that at Sunday Standard wishes to send advance acknowledgement and appreciation to the men and women of this country who have agreed to participate in this noble project.
These are able and informed characters, industry captains and business leaders in their various fields, and there is no doubt that their leadership and contributions will provide much needed guidance and insight as we, Batswana, dialogue and seek solutions to this pressing matter of unemployment.
Unofficial data does show that unemployment in Botswana hovers around 20 percent, which is roughly double the unemployment rate in countries with income levels similar to that of our beloved country. The need to fast track job creation was voluminously reiterated in the past four national budget speeches, and the mammoth task has since been heaped on the private sector with the expectation by government that it will tackle the challenge with vigor. As it is, government is trying to diversify the economy in a bit to create employment opportunities and reduce the escalating unemployment figures.
It is unclear whether recent efforts will yield results fast enough to offset the impact of reduced diamond revenues, projected to fall off starting 2017. Government documentation however shows that thus far diversification has focused on export-oriented manufacture of textiles, leather, glass, and jewellery. Some of the projects such as the Palapye glass project have collapsed while the much anticipated Leather Park in Lobatse is yet to come to fruition. The projects were expected to create massive job opportunities for thousands of youth who are currently roaming the streets. In addition, we need to applaud the government for its deliberate decision to consider revising complementary labour laws such as the Employment Act, Trade Disputes Act, Workers’ Compensation Act and Trade Unions and Employers’ Organisations Act.
The move will certainly ensure and facilitate harmonious industrial relations and also make the labor relations environment conducive for investment and by extension job creation. Last but not least our ‘job creation specialists’ will amongst other things address issues concerning the plight of rural dwellers, with the expectation that the government in partnership with the private sector will at some point reserve a larger share of their budgets for rural development and agriculture, which form the backbone source of income for the majority of our people.
Victor Baatweng is Business Editor for Sunday Standard and The Telegraph newspapers.