Saturday, October 16, 2021

Want to know how misplaced our priorities are….? Visit Parliament

The ongoing session of Parliament has over time proven to be one of the busiest. Ministers on one end are making budget proposals for their respective ministries while back benchers and Opposition legislatures on the other end seek to hold the executive accountable for their proposed spending. On theory this is all admirable. From distance it sounds like this is the most productive period at our national assembly. Yet in reality it is not. From failure to form a quorum almost every day, to failure to pitch up when required by most ministers, the level of seriousness by most Members of our Parliament, both executive, back bench and opposition side leaves a lot to be desired. On what they perceive as a normal day, one could be forgiven for mistaking the “national assembly” for a pre-school or kids’ play ground. Cabinet ministers, both junior and seniors attend Parliament only if they so wishes. It doesn’t matter whether they have questions to respond to or not. On the other hand, ordinary MPs regularly collapse quorum as long as they wish like. That is just our Parliament of today – a toothless, useless and place of jokes. Boring jokes if one is to add. In short, there is just too much arrogance from the side of the ruling party, more especially by the executive. They seem to care less about the people who gave them powers to take decisions on their behalf. This could be decision on governance or relating to how the national cake should be divided. This could be about decision that relates to make priorities on our spending as nation or rather budget allocation. Even most of the committees, like Ndaba Gaolatlhe rightfully said on Friday, just exist to rubber stamp. They do not exist to create a robust system through which public funds can be well managed. 

One ought to mention that, when it comes to budget allocation that could directly benefit ordinary Batswana, our executive tend to fully show their stinginess. 

This past week, on Friday to be precise, most members of Parliament, notably those of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) lead by the executive, without shame, chose “computers” over “people”. 

The question, if we may put it that way, that was put before them was to decide on whether Finance Ministry should pay the sum of P15.5 million to the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS) for it to settle outstanding bills or have the same amount of money paid as part of compensation for individuals whose property has been destroyed by wild animals thus disrupting their possible source of income.  The other possible option, as suggested by the Leader of Opposition in Parliament Duma Boko, was to divert the money towards the Botswana Police to help them speed up their services of crime detection and prevention. The suggestion on compensation payment was made by the minister responsible for Wildlife Tshekedi Khama. Both suggestions were rejected. In Tshekedi’s words, the gesture shows our misplaced priorities. The outcry is not only centred around failure to compensate the poor citizens of this country (which partly happens to Tshekedi’s misplaced priorities as well; He tend to chose anti-poaching over paying out grieved Batswana who are terrorised by wild animals day and night). 

Like we said, the outcry of Batswana is not just around human-wildlife conflict. It was not so long ago when Minister responsible for land, Prince Maele “cried” for lack of adequate budget to service and allocate land to Batswana. A lot of Batswana are without land ÔÇô such a valuable commodity that could be used to economically empower our people. The core Welfare Index Survey published by Statistics Botswana in 2015 paints a rather disturbing picture when it comes to house ownership amongst our people. The data contained in this survey shows that only 3.3 percent of the working population of Botswana lives (or lived) in purchased housing units by 2010. This is a marginal increase from 1.3 percent recorded in 2002. 

From this data one can clearly tell that for our 50 or 51 years of independence we cannot celebrate as much when it comes to home ownership, atleast in urban areas. It seems, even after 50 years of independence property ownership remain restricted only to a small “rich” portion population while the “poor” will likely pay rent to their graves. 

Like we said, the outcry is not just on landlessness. Most of our people, who are employable, remain unemployed. This song we have sung so many times. But with our misplaced priorities, it seems it shall remain on repeat. 

The #Bottomline is that our national budget, which unfortunately is controlled by Parliament is nothing more than broken promises and misplaced priorities. This is the same budget that is failing to fix our roads following recent rains that destroyed them. As it stands, it will take several months before the damaged roads and other infrastructure are repaired. Our misplaced priorities have given room to the purchase of expensive fighter jets, anti poaching air craft, Electronic Machines, co-host expensive trade shows etc. All these expenditure will “misplace” us from middle income to one of the poorest countries in the world if we are not careful. 

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