Tuesday, October 27, 2020

We can reverse the regression…..

Botswana is slowly bouncing back after a lost “decade”. Business and citizen optimism is slowly but surely returning thanks largely to the decision that were taken at the government enclave this past week.

The recent departure of the former Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) Director General Isaac Kgosi has left some of our people with hope that, maybe, and just maybe, life will get better.

The appointment of new key people, including the new chief spy, Brigadier Peter Magosi gives us an opportunity to ensure that growth and well-being of the people of this country continue in both the short and long term. There is need to continually strengthen trust in our key institutions such as the DISS, PPADB and the anti corruption agency ÔÇô DCEC.

The truth of the matter is that persistent economic inequality and a geographically uneven recovery have left many Batswana deeply frustrated.

Regrettably, the economic inequality we find ourselves in was partially sponsored by looting of public coffers.  It is a fact that in our country the benefits derived from economic resources have not been distributed equitably to all members of the society. We still have one-fifth of the population living below the poverty datum line. The gap between the rich and the poor is huge.

Granted, government must be credited for its prudent management of mining revenues, stable democracy and good governance record during the Masire-Mogae years. But the same government dismally failed to equitably share wealth from diamond mining among its citizens. Worst still, in the past decade the past administration without shame allowed the looting of public coffers leaving both the government and the people broke. We did not only lose money but also lost key values such as ethical leadership and siding with justice.

In the past decade or so we have witnessed an unfortunate development where membership of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), rather than expertise has over the years been used to be a defining pre-requisite for appointment to key positions at the government enclave.

We therefore need to revert to a situation where suitably qualified Batswana apply for jobs, like everyone else and are selected based on their skills.

The reaction of Batswana, atleast on social media such Facebook and Twitter surely reflected a shift in mood. This changing mood creates an opportunity for Botswana’s political and business leaders to take the action needed to ensure that growth and well-being are sustained in the long term, and that trust in our country’s institutions is strengthened.

Rebuilding trust and social contract is critical more especially during times like these of economic recovery. Batswana have been very vocal, (well lowly so, thanks largely to their fear of the DISS), on issues related to their wealth creation. They are at a point where they are actually aware that they continue to be fed crumbles of their country’s economic pie. They are also at a point where they know what they deserve and failure to deliver what is due to them can only bring trouble to all of us including those in power and the rich foreigners. No one benefit from unrest.

As stated before in this space, to avoid this unrest we need economic reforms. To reform is to turn the inevitability of change in the direction of progress. To reform is to improve the life of every citizen of this country, more especially indigenous Batswana. 

As we slowly gears towards where we want to be as a nation, our leaders should bear in mind that they can harness the energy of the people of this country either towards constructive work to generate optimism and hope by proving basic services efficiently or towards tensions and unrest by failing to provide the basics such as land, jobs and business opportunities.

The recent changes in key senior government officials should therefore leave us hopeful that things will change for the better. Fresh thinking is certainly required from government policymakers precisely those at the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry. This is one ministry that houses key institutions such as CEDA, BITC and BDC that can help create wealth for our people.

Surely in the short term a lot will remain unchanged following the recent transition. But significantly, for the first time in decade, there is a real opportunity to effect positive mood change and improve the livelihoods of Batswana. The #Bottomline is that if we play our cards right, we can once again show the world that there are benefits to success and adversity, to boom and bust alike. Most importantly, our country will forever be prepared for the inevitable storm and the interesting opportunities that spill from the highs and lows of the economic swells and to benefit from their diverse treasures.

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Read this week's paper

The Telegraph October 28

Digital edition of The Telegraph, October 28, 2020.