- Gaolathe steers clear of mentioning Khama and Masisi
- “Parliament is disempowered and is no more than a department within OP”
- “Parliament has no capacity or capability to carry out independent analysis on the economy”
- AP to focus on sectors where Botswana can build global competitiveness
Leader of Alliance for Progressives (AP) Ndaba Gaolathe says even though the annual budget presentation by the Finance Minister Kenneth Matambo is not and cannot be the sole instrument by which to resolve national challenges and pursue collective vision, it nonetheless offers the opportunity to shed insights about what Botswana can and should achieve.
Responding to the budget speech on Monday afternoon in parliament under the theme “The Opportunity Is Before Us”, Gaolathe said even though not everyone may acknowledge it, both the pre-independence and post-independence period carry national experiences for which the country’s forefathers enjoyed acclaim as a unique socio-economic story. ‘‘First, they established an enduring culture of the consultative kgotla system and then inspired substantial and sustained economic (GDP) growth – Our economy leaped by an average of 9% during the 1975 to 2008 period, life expectancy rose from 56 years in 1972 to 65 years in 1991 and infant mortality halved over this same period (97 per 1000 to 48 per 1000)’’, the AP leader said further emphasising that the forefathers laid the foundation for a democratic system of governance and planted the belief that we have it in us to achieve prosperity.
Punching the numbers, Gaolathe said the country is experiencing a worrisome trend of jobless growth, testified by formal sector employment growth of 1.5% per annum from 2009 to 2015, against a population natural rate of 1.9% per annum. ‘‘Most of the growth is directly inspired by government, with parastatals growing 4,6% and Ipelegeng labour rising at 3,4% per annum. The closure of several mines and related industries last year added thousands more workers to the unemployed. Growth as a whole declined to 3.3 % and 3.9% during the NDP9 and NDP10 periods, primarily dragged by a slumping mining sector,’’ he said.
A graduate of George Washington University where he obtained two Bachelor’s degrees, one in mathematics and the other in economics, Gaolathe told parliament that Botswana’s economy continues to be undiversified despite a raft of initiatives over the years starting in the 1970s (the Industrial Development Policy (IDP), Financial Assistance Policy (FAP), Citizen Entrepreneurial Agency (CEDA), and the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP).
‘‘Income and wealth inequalities persist, although our Gini coefficient is improving, moderately as it did by declining from 64.7% in 2003 to 60.5% in recent times, ranking among the worst in the world behind even South Africa and Namibia. Although formalistic measures of people living above the poverty datum line are improving (now 17%), the majority of our people continue to wallow in hardship especially in the forgotten rural areas and the ghettos of Manaka, Kgaphamadi, Morula, Zola, Bophirima, and Peleng. And although life expectancy had risen to 65 years in 1991, it declined to 56 years in 2001 and has since bounced back to about 68 years,’’said the soft-spoken legislator.
Gaolathe decried what he called the free fall of governance system in Botswana. ‘‘The Executive Branch of government is over-bearing, and through its high centralisation and dependence on the rogue DIS, hundreds of millions if not billions of Pulas are leaking from the system without much accounting as is the case at the National Petroleum Fund, mega-tenders are awarded and appointments are made without merit, further turning our country away from a meritocracy,’’ the AP leader said. Gaolathe further observed that through a false sense of ‘the majority rules’ idea, the majority in parliament ‘‘continue to allow the circumstances of a parliament that is disempowered, a parliament that is no more than a department within the Office of the President, a parliament that neither has the capacity nor capability to carry out its own independent analysis on the economy or craft laws outside the intervention of the executive. Local councils neither have the budget nor the manpower to bring international standard services to the people.’’
Gaolathe said his party’s view of investment is more than just one focused on monetary investment. ‘‘We the Progressives wish to inspire all of us to invest not just monetary resources, but time and effort towards reaching out to those opportunities that are for our taking as a nation,’’he said.
On how the AP will transform Botswana into an African paragon of economic flourish, Gaolathe said his party will focus on sectors where Botswana can build global competitiveness at scale to stand out from other countries, both on the continent and beyond.