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Saleshando Blasts Gov’t Over Wage Subsidy

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  • Says the subsidy was not enough for companies in the tourism sector

TLOTLO KEBINAKGABO

The three-month wage subsidy introduced by the government earlier this year to relieve businesses from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic was not enough, particularly  for companies in the tourism sector, the Leader of Opposition (LOO) in Parliament Dumelang Saleshando said in an interview this week.

Saleshando asked the Minister of Finance, Thapelo Matsheka in parliament this week to state the measures in place to mitigate the risks facing businesses on account of COVID-19. He particularly asked the Minister to address businesses in the tourism sector as they are some of the hardest hit.

A socio impact analysis of COVID-19 in Botswana by United Nations Botswana released in May stated that as of 6 April 2020, 96 percent of all world destinations had restricted travel something which significantly affected the tourism sector in Botswana and across the world.

“This resulted in 209 destinations worldwide having adopted COVID-19 travel restrictions, including Botswana,” the analysis showed. “The latest research from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) estimates that up to 75 million jobs are at immediate risk. The research reveals a potential Travel & Tourism GDP loss of up to $2.1 trillion in 2020. For Botswana, tourism and hospitality is the third largest contributor to the national economy, accounting for almost 12 percent of GDP. The sector is a key contributor to job creation, skills transfer and the development of new competencies.”

In response to Saleshando, Matsheka said that the government has the Economic Response Plan whose components included assistance to businesses, workers and the households.

“Some of the interventions measures that were implemented to stabilize businesses include loan guarantees, reduction of the bank rate, restructuring of existing loans and BURS allowing deferral of 75 percent of any quarterly payments between March and September 2020,” Matsheka told Parliament on Monday.

“Government through the Economic Response Plan assisted around 200 000 employees from approximately 16 000 companies at an estimated cost of P807 million.”

However, Saleshando who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Maun West was not happy with Minister Matsheka’s responses. “Tourism is one of the sectors that have been massively affected so you cannot adopt the ‘one size fits all’ in assisting companies in that particular sector,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the Monday Parliamentary session. “The three months wage subsidy was not enough for companies in that sector. It is going to be difficult for employers in that sector to pay employees.”

Saleshando cautioned that the tourism sector has to be treated with care, “Close to 90 percent of businesses in my constituency are related to tourism. The economy of our region has collapsed, so urgent assistance is of the essence,” he said.

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