THE OBSERVER: Economic Stimulus Package vs National Development Plan

SHARE   |   Monday, 26 October 2015   |   By Simon Gabathuse

Botswana has for years and years been running by the National Development Plan (NDP). This is set to be history as we enter a new era of Economic Stimulus Package (ESP). Our so dear National Development Plan will finally be shelved as it has not helped the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to retain the majority votes but has only managed to evaporate its goodwill. National Development Plan is neither a creation nor a product of politicians; it is a product of civil servants, most of them economists occupying offices at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. Economic Stimulus Package on the other hand is a creation of politicians. Or to be precise, those close to political power.


It is what those who affirm the position of hope will call ‘just what the Doctor ordered’ for the ailing BDP. Or “a game changer”, as the party secretary general prefers to call it. The mistake of civil servants occupying offices at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning is to assume that all the government wants is to develop the country. They forget that the ruling party wants to retain power through thick and thin, or as the cliché goes “at all costs”. In their creation of the National Development Plan they missed key scenarios of populism which are primary in retaining power. Economic Stimulus Package will address all those on top of the poverty eradication projects which are never budgeted for.

Never budgeted for is a polite way of saying creators of the National Development Plan do not see anything developmental about distribution of blankets, soup, jojo tanks, seedlings etc. they are missing the point. These are necessary tools of attaining power and whoever misses this crucial step of remembering the poorest of the poor in the voter structure will find it hard to have anyone on their side. In all countries, the poor retain governments. No matter how you want to look at it, my maid and my herd boy will give me the vote for to him and to her I am the master who deserves to rule and to be greater than the rest.
The view of pessimists is that the ruling party or the government as one might want to prefer to call it should not be tapping into foreign reserves as it is on its way out of power. These people forget that you are only out when you are no longer running the government. At the moment the ruling party which is the Botswana Democratic Party is running the government, and will surely do all it takes to retain power ahead of the 2019 polls. Even if it was the UDC in power, it was going to play all the cards to its favour for this purpose. Those who say they will not play cards in their favour to retain power can only lie to themselves. But the opposition should be careful to bark at what people might view as holy as ESP.
It is understood that this ESP animal will have to be passed by parliament, presumably in its next sitting. Whether the Minister of Finance and Development Mr. Kenneth Matambo understands this ESP animal or not he will have to defend it and allow both the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly to push for a vote. It is as simple as that, you are in the majority in parliament, you don’t need to debate much, you have the power, you make the decisions, you are the ruling party, and you decide what happens next.  Some call this arrogance, no, it is not arrogance.  It is utilizing the power given to you by the majority.


The majority has allowed the Botswana Democratic Party to rule and until the majority decides otherwise that shall remain the status quo. Shouting unnecessarily and crying of foul play simply presents the opposition as crybabies. In the interim convince people why you are better than shouting at those who have been given the mandate to run the country. Back to the animal called ESP; basically the ruling Botswana Democratic Party is going to out-number both the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change and the Botswana Congress Party combined when the matter is brought before parliament for both debate and vote.

That the Umbrella for Democratic Change Secretary General who is also the Kitchen Vice-President for Duma Boko who hopes to attain state power in 2019 has made an announcement that the UDC will only vote in favour of the Economic Stimulus Package if it involves transformation is not sufficient enough to block the ESP from passing in parliament. The matter is neither here nor there, it’s a matter of numbers, and the BDP has such.
The Economic Stimulus Package is the only thing that this country has that finally a Minister and or Member of Parliament who fails to perform can be told to get lost! In the street language they will say: get fotsek! Gagona madi has been the phrase used overtime by the incompetent lot to try and justify their failure to perform. It is this time that all Ministers, not only the already mentioned of health and education will be able to request a piece of the cake to improve their ministries. They will hence improve not only service provision and in the same light contributing to employment creation but will meaningfully leave a lasting legacy. We can only hope that even the rural dwellers will be able to glimpse the economic cake. For a change, we are not talking about poverty eradication!
Knowing how an economic gain when trickled down to the ordinary voter changes volatile landscapes, the Umbrella for Democratic Change is well within its shivering rights to panic. Employment being the key thing that either keeps a government in power or allows it to be overthrown will inevitably be created if this ESP animal goes through as intended and that poses a danger for the opposition. The economy will surely improve and the workers will get their dues. Complaints, not emotive statements are actually very limited in Botswana. People simply want wages to be improved, employment creation to be made a priority, a piece of the economic cake to trickle to middle class and the youth want to feel they are a part of this country and its economic might. This is not sensation but reality.
The sad reality for the opposition is that very few things have angered the voters. The voters are primarily the workers and the youth. The workers want more money and the government has not been able to increase wages and allowances for teachers, nurses, soldiers etc.  The young people want to invest in their future; they want jobs, money and entertainment. Light as we might want to take the issue of entertainment and liquor regulations, it has denied the BDP a huge part of the national vote. With enough money through employment and improved wages, the youth are likely to feel less the pinch and forget their woes. The rest of the ESP money will trickle down to the rural centres where rural folks have been complaining that their children, nephews and relatives are not getting jobs. You must understand that it is folks at the villages who don’t want to work. They are lazy, they only drink and complain. It is the urban dweller who struggles for a job for his upkeep and that of the rural dweller. In a situation where we did not have the rural dweller, the little we get could be enough to service ourselves and our urban concubines who simply want to have a good time.
The urban lad is the opinion leader back at his home village where he sits around the fire telling all sorts of half truths about city life and how big he is back in the city at Christmas time. He provides blankets, soup, alcohol, shelter and clothing to his immediate family members and relatives. When this particular urban dweller is happy at the government then such anger is naturally trickled down to the   rural folks. And hence the vote will swing to the one who is running the country at that point in time. This ESP animal whether real or perceived will surely shake the opposition efforts in the negative. We must also note that those who are complaining now are the very ones who have been complaining that foreign reserves are mounting yet life getting difficult in Botswana.


To be honest, this is an answer to the cries that have filled the economic space of Botswana that the foreign reserves should be used to stimulate the economy. Such is finally being dome and the same chaps have changed tone and jumped to the other side of the border to see every fault in what they have been seeing every right in. This is a part of the problem. The bigger problem being that this whole ESP animal is a huge threat to the gains of the UDC and a huge gain to the BDP. The issue of stimulating the economy is not a BDP original idea, it has been suggested as a reform by the opposition that the government must use the foreign reserves and the government is doing exactly that.  The only problem is that the ruling party is the BDP and it shall take all credit and credit comes with the national vote and the national vote comes with being in power. 
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