As a democratic Government we respect opinions and welcome criticism from all quarters. This is as true for retired political leaders as it is of any other Motswana. It is thus with the utmost respect that we find it necessary to respond to a few points that were raised by the former President Festus Mogae at an African Leadership Forum held last month in Tanzania. We do so in recognition that there is public interest in the points that were raised.
When responding to specific questions that were put before him during a panel discussion, the former President had expressed his view that our country was regressing from its longstanding commitment to an economy that was open to foreign participation in the context of the number of foreign nationals who have for various reasons left our country.
While the former President is entitled to his opinion, it is important for the Government of the day to make its own position known. In this respect we can reassure both domestic and international observers that Botswana remains firmly committed to building an open society that welcomes the participation of foreign nationals and investment. In pursuit of this objective, Government has adopted a “Botswana Excellence Strategy” that specifically promotes an enabling environment for doing business in Botswana. This commitment is reflected in the importance Government attaches to not only maintaining, but further fine tuning, its administrative institutions and legislative framework for external skills transfer and investment.
Botswana’s overall attractiveness as a location for investment is attested to by the 2014 Baseline Profitability Index, in which our country was ranked first among 112 countries, having overtaken Hong Kong.
While opening its doors to outside participation in the economy, this Government likewise also remains committed to promoting citizen participation in the economy through proactive citizen empowerment initiatives as well as the upholding longstanding labour laws with regard to the enforcement of legitimate expectations of localisation.
Balancing the recognised need for foreign participation and citizen empowerment in our economy has been and will remain a challenge for this Government, as indeed it was for previous administrations. To this end requirements for residence and business permits are constantly reviewed to simplify and in some cases eliminate unnecessary processes.
It may be further noted that we also live in times where Governments around the world have had to be increasingly mindful of domestic and global security concerns when making decisions about the presence of foreign nationals in their jurisdictions. In addressing such concerns the current administration, to a greater extent than those before it, has had to deal with the threat of global terrorism along with increasingly complex and organised transnational criminal activity, such as the illegal trafficking drugs, humans and arms as well as game products associated with poaching.
It has been through the collaborative effort of our law enforcement agencies and the judiciary that Botswana has maintained its status as one of the world’s most peaceful societies. In the process is unavoidable that foreign nationals involved in illegal activities have been sent back to their countries of origin.
Numerous independent international ratings provide what is arguably the best testament to Botswana continued status as an open society with an open economy grounded in democratic good governance based on transparency and the rule of law.
With regard to the rule of law, in the 2014 World Justice Project Rule of Law Index Botswana is once more ranked first in Africa and 25th in the world. The same report notes that: “the country continues to enjoy effective systems of checks and balances, including a fairly independent judiciary and a free press. Corruption remains minimal and all branches of government operate effectively.”
The robust quality of our democratic institutions was further confirmed by the latest, 2013, Global Democracy Index in which Botswana is ranked 30th in the world, up five places from the previous survey.
In terms of domestic perceptions, we note that Botswana is ranked number one in Africa according to Afrobarometer’s 2014 Transparent and Accountable Governance Index (TAGI), based on scientific internal polling at national level. In other words data on Botswana was in this instance collected exclusively in Botswana by questioning a nationally representative sample of Batswana, with an expected margin of error of less than 3%.
Included in the TAGI data were public perceptions findings as to whether heads of state and public officials in each country were operating within the law. In this respect, 75% of respondents agreed that President Khama never or rarely ignored courts of law in the country, while only 8% were of the view that he often or always ignored the courts. With respect to public officials Botswana civil servants were considered to be the most disciplined on the continent with nearly two thirds of Batswana agreeing that they never or rarely went unpunished for abuses.