The festive season is here with us. It means many things to different people. To some it is a moment to lose their minds; to engage in unbridled pleasure irrespective of the costs and the associated dangers thereof. Others are too subdued, as they count losses from one of the most difficult years in recent memory. The current drought and its associated water and power crisis has ruined most economic lives and forced down a change of priorities and beliefs. As we cross into the New Year, the usual summer rains have not fallen. Gaborone Dam has been dry for months and there is no indication that it will be full anytime soon. People have been forced to adjust their bathing habits – from a bath full of water to using drops to barely brash off the face. Some have given up as even bathing becomes a luxury when there is no water to drink. From grappling with water crisis, individuals have had to adapt to constant power outages.
For the first time in years, a march was organised against debilitating water and power shortages and the issue entered Parliament. One MP had to be lifted out of Parliament and thrown outside and another even broke down in tears, all as they tried to raise alarm about the effects of water shortage particularly in the Greater Gaborone and Southern Botswana areas. As if water and power outages were not hurtful enough, the economy has reeled from its worst performance as commodity demands fell down, leading to a drastic fall in earnings from minerals. The effects of an undiversified economy that singularly relies on diamond sales have never been this serious. As the year closes, others of our people are facing a bleak future as mines which have been a source of their employment close.
First it was Discovery Metal in Maun, then Mowana Mine in Dukwi and now Damtshaa mine is closing. Debswana, Botswana’s diamond producer is cutting down on production in existing mines, all due to the decline in demand for diamonds. The world’s leading consumer of commodities China is facing a major slowdown and the effects have filtered down to major producers as Botswana. And what was an ambitious downstream project of beneficiation has faced its first most serious test as sightholders were forced to retrench employees since demand for jewellery has diminished. Add water and power crisis to severe drought and the decline in sale of commodities then you get 2015 as a year not to remember economic wise. It has been painful. And the outlook is not necessarily appealing either. The financial sector has not had it easy as well; with liquidity challenges meaning that their profitability was harmed and consumers faced even more difficulty in accessing credit. There have been more repossessions of properties as individuals defaulted in their obligations in great numbers.
It is without doubt everyone’s wish that 2016 – a year in which the country will be celebrating 50 years of independence –becomes a better year than the previous. We hope the rains will come; that the demand for minerals commodities will grow and that the planned Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) will help create jobs and resuscitate the economy. Anything on the contrary will spell doom for this country. We wish our readers a Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year. We hope everyone will rejoice responsibly and ensure that lives are safeguarded at all times!