It is a common saying that government is not a creator of jobs but a creator of a conducive environment for job creation. This saying, and somehow to others, absolves government from the responsibility of creating jobs for its citizen particularly when such jobs are difficult to create for one reason or the other. When such jobs are abundantly in large supply, the same government is the first one to claim the accolades. Job creation on its own is a wide subject with so many issues.
“The right to work is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognised in International Human Rights Law through its inclusion in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights”. Article 23 (1) of the declaration adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution 217A (111) of 10 December 1948 reads that: “Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment”. On the basis of this Article therefore, it goes without saying that government, as a custodian of resources which create employment, has the obligation to create jobs for her citizens. Others describe the right to work as “not an unconditional right to a job, but an obligation on states to take measures designed to eliminate unemployment”. Anything to the contrary is a side show and downright abdication of duty”.
Government creates jobs directly by coming up with policies and projects and indirectly through creating a conducive environment that will attract and enable foreign investors to set up, create and expand their investments to create even more jobs. In his opinion article Job creation: A duty of Government, Mohabir Anil Nandlall said that “in recent times, no other head of state has spoken more comprehensively about a government’s duty to create jobs for its people than President Barack Obama…indeed President Obama often cites the millions of jobs created during his two terms after the great economic decline of 2008, as one of his most signal achievements. To kick-start job creation in the US, President Obama presented to Congress, the American Jobs Act”. That said, this article is prompted by the upcoming 2nd Annual Botswana Job Summit whose theme is Maximising Job Creation through Effective Policy and Strategy Implementation. The first was held last year though it is not clear what it has achieved so far. The Patriot on Sunday (September 18, 2016) ran a story titled “Job Summit: big opportunity or just talk shop” in which one of the conveners, Dr Mpho Pheko was interviewed. She is reported to have said that “…before the Job Summit there was no single forum in Botswana that brought together stakeholders to facilitate discussions and specific strategies that can create jobs”.
Without faulting the conveners, and if Dr Pheko’s statement is correct, it is frightening and unbelievable to imagine how job creation was tackled previously considering that the issue is as old as Botswana. Further and looking at the upcoming summit’s objectives, it is as good as saying job creation is a new phenomenon which has just dropped from the sky. While the private sector is a critical partner in job creation, will job summits deliver? The answer is no and this is why. For meaningful job creation to take place, the starting point is whether there is honest political will; legislation and institutions which are stronger than individuals; good corporate governance and accountability. These requirements are seriously lacking given how job creation initiatives have been thwarted. It is one thing having legislation and good job creation policies and the other for these instruments to be implemented. Put differently, job summits can play their roles up to a certain point but cannot play government’s role of ensuring that legislation and policies are strictly complied with to facilitate job creation. Once legislation and institutions are remotely controlled, institutionalised corruption takes the centre stage resulting in job creation unachievable. The Palapye glass factory is the case in point where permanent and sustainable jobs could have been created had every requirement in the book been followed.
Over P500m is said to have been “invested” into this project which could have generated direct jobs and what we get from that investment in return is a mere P10m. Nobody to this day, is responsible for this failure and no authority can muster the courage to find out what happened. All we hear are endless and incoherent excuses for this project and others where billions of Pula have gone down the drain. My point is that while job summits are necessary, they become an exercise in futility because there is no political will and accountability to ensure that such initiatives bear fruit. In any event, I want to believe that other job creation initiatives have been undertaken before but being poor at implementation that we are, we are as good as starting from the beginning. Further to this, job summits are not bringing anything new that the public service cannot. Effective policy and strategy implementation is the old song at almost all government-sponsored workshops and seminars yet no tangible results in the form of job creation have been achieved and it doesn’t look like it will be the case anytime soon. This, I will argue, has been confirmed at Public Accounts Committee and the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Public Enterprises sessions where parastatals are on one hand run without boards while on the other such boards are ignored for mysterious reasons. If government commits to good governance and accountability, job summits will be relevant. Anything to the contrary will be as elusive as state power is to opposition parties. Judge for yourself!