Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The “dirty money” tag undermines efforts to attract investors

Regardless of what we might think as a people and a country, the world seems to have reached a near consensus that we are the home of money laundering ÔÇô a world launderette of dirty money.

This is a very serious tag.

It goes against all that we stand for as a people.

The tragedy about it is that not is there an element of truth to it, but also it only a few who are engaged in this practice.

And a majority of that few are not even citizens of this country but footloose capitalists who descended here not to do business but merely to take advantage of our laxity when it comes to such matters as repatriating money.

There is a very heavy price to pay for being viewed as haven of money laundering.

This affects ordinary people trying to carry out transactions from here.

They are subjected to excessive scrutiny, thereby delaying their transactions including rejecting them for reasons that otherwise would not attract such heavy penalties.

We need to get our house in order.

We acknowledge efforts by Government and indeed by the banking sector and the non banking financial sector.

But we should do more.

Red flags were always there but we ignored them.

There were numerous advisory reports and warnings especially by the State Department in the United States.

We ignored such advice, pretty much.

We took far too long to act until we were literally given deadlines and ultimatums to act.

Now we are acting, but the consequences and ramifications will be with us for a long time to come.

The same also applies to the tax haven label.

Staying aloof and not engaging with global powers players like the European Union Commission and also the State Department and its sister agencies that are responsible for enforcing the trade rules as well as trade sanctions by the United States is suicidal for Botswana.

For far too long Botswana was labeled as a tax haven.

The issue is not whether the label was right or wrong, much less fair or unfair.

Rather it is what our authorities here did to engage the world on the matter to share their side and ultimately seek to learn what were the parameters and basis for such a label.

Admittedly, there has been such responses on the matter from our government.

But such responses were not diplomatic.

They were a shouting match.

Our response was typical of a country not used to outside criticism.

And in the end it was counterproductive.

Botswana is a very small economy, and the rest of the world can very easily live and move bon swiftly without us.

As Batswana we must accept that we need the world more than the world needs us.

And pride in global systems has to be always accompanied by economic might, which we lack.

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.