As the nation and the African continent remember our former President, Sir Ketumile Masire (May His Soul Rest In Peace), it is only befitting that we revisit some of his contribution on nation building. In his book, “Very Brave or Very Foolish?”Sir Ketumile shares extensively on setting national priorities in relation to allocation of budget and by extension developmental planning.
At the time of early days of Botswana, Masire says although individual ministries were the ones who needed to propose the projects, he told the ministers that if they wanted their projects to be included, they would have to come with convincing case. It was not a question of allocating equal funds to ministries, but rather the then government had to follow national established priorities.
Fast forward to 2017, we are faced with almost similar problems as then. As Sir Ketumile records in his book, “there were very few employment opportunities in Botswana outside agriculture. We knew that without water supplies, education, roads or communication, we could not establish enterprises that would employ people productively”.
To date there are even slimmer chances of employment in the same Botswana. Opportunities of starting own business due to lack of primary factors of production such as land and funding is part of the modern day Botswana. As years passes by, the domestic economy’s uncertainty continue to reach into thousands of homes and affects thousands of lives, especially of young people.
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, the resurfacing of the issue relating to military hardware expenditure, precisely of fight jets is a good study case of how a government sometimes gets its priorities wrong. It was wrong to pass the huge military budget by the parliament and it wrong now to watch and say nothing when the government signs deal with the Swedish on fighter jets and it will be wrong in the future to repeat the same as long as our economy is on its deathbed. There could only be one reason why we believe this wrong. We have other pressing matters that we need to attend to as a nation. Even the 2014 political campaigns never mentioned fighter jets or Electronic voting machines and there is a reason for that. We knew and we still know what people desperately need bye we seem to ignore such.
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. Our Botswana now is that characterised of jobs freeze, zero growth in wages and salaries, acts of anarchy, frequent redeployments of civil servants, favouritism, nepotism, procurement procedure flaws, and mockery of citizen empowerment policies that by now could have been made laws.
The #Bottomline is that our national budget, which unfortunately is controlled by executive and NOT Parliament as it should be. As a result it results in nothing more than broken promises and misplaced priorities. These 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. This is all wrong. It was wrong when it started, it wrong now and it not right to continue with it into the future.