Monday, September 21, 2020

There is still no alternative to citizen economic empowerment

It is an incontestable fact that Botswana’s economy is, as of now, disproportionately dominated by the government, either directly or indirectly in many other incarnations, like the government’s influence, power and leverage in a number of the country’s biggest and most powerful private companies.
The underlying structure of Botswana is also such that government influence is also exacerbated by its hand in an array of regulatory frameworks.
Such far reaching direct and indirect control places additional responsibilities on the government to use its power to influence economic empowerment schemes.

The annual recurrent budget of procurement is the most potent toll the government can use to empower its citizens.

What is needed is political power on those occupying positions of influence to ensure that the government budget is used to accelerate citizen economic empowerment.

We note with reassurance that, over the years, the government has made attempts to economically empower citizens.

More specifically, we are of the opinion that the government’s decision to come up with CEDA was a good idea.

What is needed is to keep renewing and refreshing the scheme.

For example, it is an archaic idea that citizens can only be helped by up to P2 million.
Every business person would know that P2 million as an upper ceiling is just too low.

But still we think it is better than nothing.
What we find most appalling is a creeping attitude within some circles, which seem to have been gullibly swallowed by some influential people in government and some of its agencies that there is something inherently wrong with favouring citizens.

While many schemes have been abused by the citizens who were supposed to be beneficiaries, it is just as disturbing to note that the absence of an empowerment law has left the citizens and their companies at the mercy and whims of capricious and sometimes out right corrupt officials in government and government controlled companies.
We think it is now time the debate shifted towards more than just citizenship.

This is important given that political correctness will not take us anywhere, at least not on this very crucial aspect of Botswana’s developmental phase.
We think now is the time for positive discrimination.
Such discrimination is important in guaranteeing the future security of the country.

With so many citizens feeling helpless and deliberately sidelined, the security of the country can no longer be guaranteed.

More importantly, it is wrong and potentially dangerous to assume that citizens of Botswana are a homogenous establishment.

The fact of the matter is that there are many citizens who naturalized.

A great majority of those people brought in many skills, most ostensibly in business management.
They form a significant part – that of a small number of citizens that has accumulated most of the country’s wealth.

There is nothing wrong with that.

But our contention is that it would be foolhardy were these really wealthy citizens to be greedy and clamour for more assistance from the government when attempts are made to lift their wretched compatriots.

In short, we are saying the indigenous Batswana are the most disempowered.

They are the most disenfranchised.

It is the indigenous Batswana who should be attracting more government attention.

The debate on citizen economic empowerment and, by extension, the interventions that form the grand scheme to economically empower citizens should now shift from mere citizenship as in holding the National Identity card (Omang) to focusing on the most wretched of those citizens who are by far the indigenous Batswana.

This is not a philosophical debate of who is indigenous, for we know who is.

The ruling party has coined a little nice slogan “there is still no alternative,” referring to themselves as a party.

We say, too, that ‘there is still no alternative to citizen economic empowerment.’

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.