Calls on Gov’t to instead open the economy
Business Botswana has described extension of the State of Emergency (SoE) as a means to further damage the economy that is already on its knees. Parliament last week endorsed extension of the state of emergency by a further six months, citing containment of the Coronavirus as reason.
The development provoked widespread criticism from across the country and economic sectors. The president of Business Botswana, Gobusamang Keebine, has joined the growing opposition, saying there are other tools that can be used to manage the COVID 19 pandemic.
“The Public Health Emergency (PHE) Act is such a tool which can achieve the same objective as the SOE but without exposing the economy to very stringent restrictions as it is the case now,” Keebine said in a statement.
Business Botswana, which brings the country’s private sector together, said use of this law tool could obviate the need for government funds to mitigate losses arising from businesses having to close temporarily due to lockdowns.
This is “money that the economy and government does not have”, Keebine added.
“Several instruments were put in place to support business but a number of these are not in place,” the statement said. “For those that are, it is impossible to access them. The question therefore is, what is government going to do in the next six months (that) different from the previous six months?”
The powerful sector lobby is concerned that “businesses are currently operating at a bare minimum, most have folded while others are continuing to by way of liquidations to avoid the extended debt the SOE places on these companies”.
Nevertheless, the COVID-19 Task Force has maintained that lockdowns are always an option under the SOE. Yet Business Botswana recently noted that the alcohol industry had lost an estimated P40 million in expired products that had to be destroyed as a result of the nationwide lockdown that lasted a month from 2 April.
“Most employees, though not retrenched as it would be contrary to the SOE, are home without pay,” said Keebine. “Any further disturbance to the business environment will kill enterprises and they are certainly going to find it difficult to start all over again.”
Business Botswana has therefore called on the government to open the economy and rescue what remains of it rather than extend the state of emergency.