Thursday, October 1, 2020

Will Masisi hit the “right” notes in his maiden SONA?

BY PORTI NKANI 

Masisi will have to play the spin doctor to tell Batswana how he is going to transform the country’s economy all ranging from the high unemployment rate amongst the youth, land allocation, localization of tourism ownership, infrastructure development, citizen and economic empowerment, agriculture, the decline in education amongst the many other burning issues at present.

The Khama administration introduced short term job creation such as Ipelegeng, Tirelo Sechaba, graduate volunteer scheme (GVS) which were deemed not to be meaningful for Batswana. He also came up with Economic Stimulus Package for the inclusion of young and start up contractors to benefit. Also the ISPAAD which was meant to boost agriculture, even though it was intended for good purpose, it still consumed more budget from the government coffers at the same time not producing enough output as would have been expected. Many pundits felt as it did not produce the results it should be discontinued, but it still continued nonetheless. The nation is eager to hear next Monday if Masisi will discard some of Khama’s pet projects.

The equitable and efficient distribution of land remains an area of both great opportunity and challenge even to date. The youth struggle to be allocated land.  To address the shortage of serviced land, the Khama led government had previously promised as part of the  ESP he promised to fast track the servicing of 37,000 commercial, industrial, residential and other plots.

He did acknowledge that unfortunately, the shortage of serviced land has in recent years all too often proved to be a bottle neck rather than an enabler of development. Batswana are yet to see this promise being fulfilled even under the new administration of Masisi.

Since he took over, Masisi has been making a lot of international travels mending the foreign relations which had since gone on the sick bed during the Khama regime. Although some feel he is overdoing it and should be facing up with national issues here at home, to some his relationship building are putting Botswana back on the chats again, and kind of paving way for foreign direct investment.

From the voice of the business community, President of Business Botswana, Gobuamang Keebine expressed to Sunday Standard that the most obvious is that Masisi has been travelling presumably to forge links that were left to die by the former. “Open up for business Botswana is all he will say, internally little or nothing has happened yet. The business community would like to see the National Petroleum Fund, the pension funds scandals closed and action taken on the culprits to start believing that the new administration is serious,” said Keebine as per their expectation.

Barclays Botswana Economist, Naledi Madala, shared that from the SONA, the expectation is to get an update on how government will improve implementation capacity is key as this has been holding the country back for many years. She adds, The capacity of government to design and deliver policy matters a great deal to the success of a policy. However, she indicated that policymakers do not always emphasize the capacity of public administration to deliver the policies that are introduced.

“We are seeing investments in mining projects, for example, Khoemacau copper project and Metal Tiger copper miner. Production from these mines will eventually boost economic diversification into different metal products and increase employment opportunities for Batswana. However, it is important to monitor and ensure that desired benefits from investment are realized for example sustainable jobs, technology transfer and skills, which are key for sustainable development,” she added.

 

Since 2014, the government’s aspirations were centered around; Job creation for sustainable livelihoods and income generation; Food security through continued agricultural renewal; Expanded access to land and housing ownership; Access to world-class quality education that caters to current and future needs; Citizen, including youth, economic empowerment; Dignity for all through the eradication of poverty; Zero tolerance for corruption in all of its manifestations; Elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV; and Government reform that leverages on the application of new technologies. 

Each of these commitments are based on realistic analysis of where the country is and needs to go in order to meet the reasonable expectations of its people, while improving its global standing in an ever more competitive world. Even though there are some positives, more still needs to be done for the results to be realized.

In terms of further mineral beneficiation the BCL through its Polaris II programme was to establish Selebi-Phikwe as a regional metallurgical hub for the refinement of base metal concentrates. The initiative further provided for additional investments in downstream activities as was reflected in the Pula Steel plant. This did not see the light of the day, as the BCL mine later in 2016 closed down and put on provisional liquidation. To date the mine is struggling to attract new investors. Batswana are waiting to hear from Masisi if he will announce the re-opening the BCL mine to bring back the massive job losses as per the allegations that widely spread some months ago.

 

There are projects that have long been promised under the Khama administration, which bilateral agreements have also been signed with the neighbouring countries. These projects such as the Trans-Kalahari and Ponto Techobanine railway, Mosetse-Kazungula bridge, Mmamabula-Lephalale railway line. These railway projects are yet to take course funds permitting, since 2014.   

Since its inception in 2012 the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) has attracted a total of P10 billion worth of foreign and domestic capital investment, resulting in the creation of 8,831 additional jobs.

In April 2015 Doing Business Reforms Roadmap and Action Plan was approved, as a way to further enhance the country’s business environment for local and foreign investors.

Despite these reforms under Khama administration, FDI further deteriorated and more investors were frustrated and closed shop as their permits were not renewed citing security threats; even those willing to invest in Botswana had their visa applications not being approved citing the latter. This happened at the hands of the DISS which was formed under Khama’s leadership and overtook the processing of Visa approvals from the relevant Ministry.

Botswana continues to have decorated as one of the best countries to look to for investment, but the ease of doing business rankings at the World Bank are telling the opposite.

The value of such accolades will be undermined if the country fails to improve its associated Ease of Doing Business Rankings.

Botswana yet again this week dropped the ball as its ease of doing business latest report by the World Bank 2018 revealed that the ranking has deteriorated further to 86 from 81 in 2017 out of 190 countries.

Efforts are thus underway towards further enhancing the business environment through the implementation of a doing business reforms road map, with an accompanying Regulatory Impact Assessment Strategy. The Companies Act and the Registration of Business Names Act have been reviewed to enable online registration.  

In an attempt to increase citizen participation in tourism which is also a burning issue, government is reviewing the Tourism Act of 1992 and the Tourism Regulations of 1996 to accommodate the reservation of some license categories for citizens. However, the citizen participation in this sector is still unsatisfactory.

In 2007 number of citizen participants stood at 290 and grew to 1015 in 2017.

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