BY VICTOR BAATWENG
An Open letter to the President in-waiting…
Dear Mr President-in-waiting ÔÇô We hope this letter finds you in good health and spirit. As the nation pause and observe the annual President day holidays, we thought we use this opportunity to reach out to you about the usual troubles facing Botswana/Batswana.
As you may be aware, one of the greatest challenges facing modern day Botswana is building a thriving and inclusive economy. We are where we are as nation largely because of the failure by those who have been in power to make use of the opportunities that came our way. We have in the past had many opportunities to support small businesses, develop indigenous enterprise, embark on financial education, improve access to capital, and make laws (not policies) that help create wealth for the natives. We have failed to make use of such opportunities. The number of graduates roaming the streets tells the story of JOBLESSNESS. The number of entrepreneurs and businesses lacking funds to kick start their projects tell the story of MONEYLESSNESS. The thousand names that are on the waiting list of various land board and authorities across the country also do tell the story of LANDLESSNESS (and lack of affordable housing).
The consequences of our failure or their failure to take up the opportunities as indicated above is the triple headache we have – Landlessness, Moneylessness and Joblessness. In other words, as we threw away the opportunities, we gave room to growth in the gap between the Haves and Have-not. Our level of inequality continues to grow each passing day. We are a true definition of rich state-poor people set-up.
Dear Mr President-in-waiting, if you look carefully at these three monsters – Landlessness, Moneylessness and Joblessness, they all speak directly to the economic wellbeing of Botswana natives.
To wrestle and win against these three, in our view will take more than just talk and promises. It will need deliberate efforts to build assets and wealth for the people of this country. We are at a point where we must employ multiple approaches to the issue of wealth creation for the indigenous people, more especially the poor. This includes using the executive powers vested in office of the President and cabinet. Take a Presidential directive relating to housing (land) as an example. The potential that lies within that area alone leaves one salivating. If by any chance you were to make such a directive with support of a good budget opportunities would once again start to bubble up. For instance, one deliberate decision you can take immediately after taking oath is to issue a directive that will see construction of thousands of housing units in urban and peri-urban areas through the state-owned developer ÔÇô BHC. This would help cut costs for most middle-income workers who cannot save a Thebe thanks largely to foreign owned land developers who have pegged housing rentals beyond reach for the workers in Gaborone and other key economic centres around the country.
Dear Mr President-in-waiting, it is given, construction of any sizeable number of housing units for a given period would translates into electrical fittings and fixtures, plumbing and all other sub-contract jobs that come with it. These are the jobs for both local companies and individuals. In short, housing and real estate provide many jobs for various strata of construction personnel. From planners, architects, engineers, quantity surveyors, brick layers etc.
Given the nature of construction jobs, we cannot of course single out jobs as the only positive thing that could come out of building new housing units. Beyond construction jobs, good housing cultivates good citizenship. It ensures that citizens sleep well, think better and innovate for themselves and the nation at large. At least that has been the experience by developed countries. Developed countries, and even some developing countries appreciate that good housing delivers several advantages to the economy and that is why countries such as Botswana must take maximum interest in its delivery. Good housing is not only a status symbol, but also a symbol of security and inheritance. There is a strong link between housing and poverty. Our lack of interest in pushing for the provision of affordable housing is partially to blame for our listing in the top three of the world’s unequal societies.
Dear Mr President-in-waiting we can spend the whole Presidential holidays speaking about the housing benefits or the three headaches the nation is facing. But you, and only you Mr President-in-waiting has the powers to change all that come October 2019. It starts of course with the electorates putting you in office. We hope when the day finally come, the electorates will send a message about the changes they need in their economic conditions. We remain hopeful that the people of this country when the poll day come, they will hire a Chief Executive who recognises the importance of citizen wealth creation. The kind that does not need a reminder that native economiesÔÇöare mutually reinforcing and can build greater economic security while at the same time reducing the economic disparities in a society such as ours.
We hope the 2019 electorates will hire a Chief Executive who values gender partnerships. From where we stand it is only when Batswana women and men, working together in harmony and equity, can build stronger, more creative society that we aspire to be by the year 2036. Patriarchy will not take us anywhere. It can only result in the bitter yield that we are now harvesting. While we wait to see what’s in store for Botswana/Batswana post October 2019, the #Bottomline is that the wealth that we have accumulated as a nation and generation must be measured in our ability to care for our people and to provide a strong foundation for the future generations.