Through this article the Real Alternative Party seeks to not only critique the state of nation address by President Mokgweetsi Masisi, but to as well offer a plethora of practical suggestions for dealing with the growing poverty and unemployment in Botswana. The state of the nation address is gorged with reviews of programmes, strategy initiatives, project policies, as well as the development of roadmaps and frameworks. The President promises an ambitious journey of transforming the procedures, plans and practices of government.
On the overall the speech is empty with respect to concrete packages required instantly to address the problems of unemployment and poverty. In specific analysis of the speech, Real Alternative Party seeks to address the following:
Despite alluding to the fact that poverty and unemployment needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency, the speech offers no short-term solutions to the problem. Rather, it seems Masisi`s regime finds the luxury to develop the national employment policy, the draft of which is expected to be delivered by March 2019. Yet history and experience In relation to the BDP government policy development procedure, shows that the whole process of developing a policy and having it approved by cabinet usually would take a timeframe of five years. The policy would also demand that an action plan be as well developed for the policy implementation so that the whole process can take a total of ten years. This therefore means the unemployed, including youth should not expect job opportunities in so promised by Masisi.
2) Financial Inclusion: Strategy:
The Real Alternative Party is in dismissal of the decision to enact the collateral registry as espoused in the speech by Masisi and his regime. In order to improve the financial sector regarding the needs of the society and to provide better services and financial products that promote financial inclusion, there is need by parliament to establish the national credit act which shall cater for establishment of a credit ombudsman and the credit amnesty bureau. The credit ombudsman will serve the purpose of easy reference and registering of complaints by consumers on matters relating to a credit agreement, a serious legal problem regarding old debt or when asset was sold on auction. The credit ombudsman should have the power to deal with poor public service as it affects suppliers to various government ministries in terms of failure to pay suppliers in time and as a result suppliers end up being wrongly blacklisted and their credit ratings affected.
The purpose of the credit information amnesty is to increase access to credit and to help consumers to pay less for their credit. Credit information amnesty would solve the problem of the current credit bureau system where it rewards those who have finances or could offer surety, and penalize those who do not, thus widening the gap between the rich and poor. In the current setting lower income earners are not considered prospective clients to obtain credit.
The existence of the national credit act will help consumers to be able to retain both immovable and movable property whilst servicing their credit agreements in a responsible manner. The aim also is to reduce the cost of credit repair as it is quite expensive in the current setting for consumers to sort out their credit records. The national credit act should also protect consumers from falling into hands of loan sharks.
3) Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Development:
It is important to understand that entrepreneurship is dependent on access and participation. Economic growth suffers when entrepreneurial activity is unevenly spread socio-economically, demographically, and geographically. For entrepreneurs to bring new ideas to life, they need access to education and a level-playing field on which to compete. Under the right conditions Botswana entrepreneurs have an incredible opportunity to enable access to goods and services that populations require. Botswana entrepreneurs have demonstrated that they can create new businesses in response to unmet needs and demands in the market, despite the uncaring and lax attitude of the BDP State. The Botswana entrepreneurs continue to respond to market needs and opportunity to provide a product or service that is not currently in existence, or otherwise available. They immensely do contribute to economic growth and employment creation.
However, due to the BDP dead-end model of standard economics Botswana entrepreneurs cannot be recognized as key players when it comes to fostering economic growth in Botswana and SADC. The problem with economic empowerment programs such as the youth development fund and women`s economic empowerment is that they were launched because Domkrag has failed to provide better work opportunities and as a result the recipients of such programs make use of them for survival mode and because they have no other options. The so called empowerment programs were not necessarily created as a substitute for better work opportunities and diversification of the economy, hence the more excuse minimum funding support towards such programs. This is a deliberate intention by BDP to make sure that the projects funded target at sectors in little productivity increase and therefore making it hard for youth and women businesses to become competitive.
4) Investment Promo0tion:
The state of primary development in Botswana leaves much to be desired for it to be a destiny for investment. Infrastructure sector is a key driver for investment and economic growth as it is highly responsible for propelling overall development and therefore deserves to enjoy intense focus from Government for initiating policies that would ensure time-bound creation of world class infrastructure in the country. This includes power, bridges, dams, roads, urban infrastructure, and renewable energy. For Masisi to witness significant interest from international investors, which he is too passionate about, his Government must invest highly in the infrastructure sector, mainly highways, renewable energy and quality water services. No reputable investors would come to do business in a country which fails to prevent water – borne diseases like diaorhea.
Moreover, the BDP State needs to educate itself proper on the distinction between Investment and trade. Most of the foreign business speculators lured into Botswana as investors by the BDP state are traders than investors. They do not have assets as they rent business spaces and fleet of trucks to run their businesses from local entrepreneurs, thus not befitting to be termed as investors. It comes as a shock that such business speculators have been able to be listed in the Botswana Stock Exchange Market.
We even witness incidents of expired products being sold to the public at the retail chain stores run by the foreign traders. This exposes the competency of customs and excise and Botswana Bureau of Standards and raises issues of corruption and bribery which have increasingly become a trend in the public service. It is against this backdrop that the Real Alternative Party is very skeptical at the introduction of the new customs management system where businesses can pre – declare their goods and make payments online. A serious investment cleaning process is therefore required to be commissioned by Masisi`s regime if proper and fairer investment drive is to be realized.
The Foreign Direct Investment which Masisi`s regime is so passionate about has been shown through history and analysis to be synonymous with poor wages and under-consumption. It is for a fact that BDP uses minimum wage to attract foreign investors and also uses tax – cuts to attract investors. FDI is a process that leads to unstable GDP as it thrives on monopoly, de-industrialization and de-agriculturization. The fundamental essence of FDI is to change the patterns of consumption, and not to improve the welfare of local citizens.
5) Housing delivery:
Homeownership is the primary way that families can build wealth – but for decades, misguided and discriminatory BDP policy has excluded hundreds of thousands of families from the dream of homeownership. Government-backed housing schemes are not helping to address the shortage of affordable homes nationwide. Housing is the largest expense for most working class families, and under the BDP open market system costs are rising every day. In almost every community in Botswana – rural, suburban, urban – it’s getting harder for the working class to rent a home or put together a down payment. That is because the BDP government housing policy has failed working families. Instead of supporting home ownership, the Domkrag state through BHC has imposed needless rules that substantially raise the cost of buying or renting a home. To increase investments in producing decent housing for lower-income and middle-class families, Real Alternative Party advocates for the Housing and Economic Mobility Act which will help bring down costs for renters and buyers and level the playing field so working families everywhere can find a decent place to live at a decent price.
The education system offered by the BDP State has failed to empower Motswana in acquiring a better of his/ her environment and the capability to have absolute control over that environment. The BDP education system has even failed to make a breakthrough in technology and thereby impacting on lack of knowledge in identifying new potential product features that could increase economic growth. The RAP stance is that education has to be instrumental in pursuing what is worth knowing. For it to be relevant, education has to make connection between geographical discoveries and scientific innovations, between development of theory and development of practice. The development must include; discoveries in geophysics, various fields of medicine, improvement of agriculture and exploration of space and the tapping of solar energy.
Furthermore, the scope of education should not strictly push academic intellectualism, but has to adapt to the dualistic thought pattern of education to consider the vast knowledge of traditional culture and indigenous ideas of proper and good life. The mainstreaming of indigenous knowledge into the education system is necessary as itch can help to revalorize the essential preservation and continuation of traditional culture with respect to the expansion of indigenous species of trees and plants used as medicinal remedies for sickness, fevers, cuts and snake bites.
7) Arts and Culture:
Recognizing that cultural heritage in its many manifestations, is important as a source of valuable scientific and historical information, as an economic and social asset for development, as an integral part of people`s cultural identity and practice, there is a dire need to set out measures to protect cultural heritage of Botswana. Putting arts education and cultural heritage at the center stage of economy requires increasing attention to more important spheres of personal freedom, happiness, and cultural endeavor such as the cultivation of leisure, beauty, grace, gaiety, excitement. These would include more open air cafes, brighter and gayer streets at night, later closing hours for public entertainment, more repertory theatres, museums on pre – colonial, colonial, post - colonial history of Botswana to inform the citizens, especially children and youth on the dilemma of colonial contradictions, better and more hospitable hoteliers and restauratuers, more murals and pictures in public places, local designs for furniture and pottery and women`s clothes, statues in the centre of new housing estates, and better designed street lamps. These developments are essential for social connections and intellectual freedom.
8) Biodiversity and ecosystem conservation:
Protecting and conserving biodiversity and sustainably managing living natural resources, requires that the development process foster full respect for the human rights, dignity, aspirations, identity, culture and natural resource – based livelihoods of communities. This has to be done in a manner that is accessible, culturally appropriate and inclusive. Biodiversity projects can improve lives of local communities and also help them to fulfill an aspiration to play an active and meaningful role as partners in development.
Yet the BDP has failed to recognize that local communities have their own understanding and vision of their well-being and that this is a holistic concept that relates to their intrinsic relationship to lands and traditional practices. Indigenous people, particularly Basarwa continue to be vulnerable as their land and resources are encroached upon, transformed and degraded at the interest of safari tourism, personal aggrandizement and instant self-enrichment.
9) Gender Violence:
It is worthwhile to point toward the challenges we face as we try to revivify new ways to address gender violence. Unless we understand the relationship between gender and the political economy, attempts to end gender violence will remain piecemeal and incomplete. The consequence of increasing gender violence in Botswana is as a result of social inequality and a virtual breakdown of cohesive social relations, A marked escalation in gender crimes can be described in the actual existing divisions of class and exploitation that exists under the BDP rule. There is a correlation between gendered violence and poverty which is undeniably the expression of BDP political effect. The financial stress associated with mortgage arrears, predatory loans and job losses is also connected to the rise in partner - intimate violence.
The picture of escalated violence in Botswana conclusively fit the social provisioning framework of BDP palliative economics. Conventional gender performance where much of men’s identity and sense of purpose is tied up with having a job, bringing income, status, and importance within the home has resulted in a rise in male depression because of unemployment. The fight to end gender violence thus, cannot be separated from our demand for full employment, the defense of public services to facilitate social provisioning or our battle for better wages and reproductive justice. It makes no sense at all to address current intensifying gender violence through public name – shaming. Employment act must be reviewed to address labor conditions of low wage earners, night-time walks to and from work because of evening work-shifts as well as the widespread sexual harassment and forced sex of women by men holding positions of power in the workplace.
RAP calls for immediate employment creation:
The greatest challenge of Masisi`s regime is strong investment on the wider economy and the ability to navigate future challenges. In order to cure the problems of poverty and unemployment, one solution is the introduction of manufacturing sector which could create much needed employment, higher wages, profits, a larger tax base and better circulation of the currency. As Ferdinando Galiani, Italian economist pronounced – “From manufacturing you may expect the two greatest ills of humanity; superstition and poverty to be healed”.
If Masisi was really serious about addressing unemployment, he would for instance be able to see job opportunities in renewable, durable and recyclable material to replace plastic shopping bags. Since the BDP State has of recent announced its intention to combat the global problem of plastic waste and microplastics as a way of showing government commitment in reducing carbon footprints, it takes common sense that a fund is needed immediately to start local companies that manufacture new packaging bags made from recyclable and biodegradable material such as cardboard waste. The environmentally sustainable shopping bags offers enormous guaranteed customer base which include major retail chains and specialist stores.
Other economic projects which are very easy to carry – out and have great potential in reducing employment are restaurants of urban – model standards specializing in selling fish from Ngami and Botswana traditional dishes. If granted sound financing and fair access to uptown prime – markets within the country as well as regionally, such enterprises can compete with international shops at the same quality of service and standard. The unemployed youth could benefit on such initiatives, the problem is instead of having to invest in real, tangible economic projects which have enormous advantages and a reputation for improvement of lives locally, Masisi`s interest is in protecting foreign market power and its incentives.
In summation, the truth is BDP is a party founded on a conflicted political system; ultra - liberal democracy - a system which believes that self – regulated markets and free ownership of the means of production guarantee the freedom of its citizens. Yet the hazardous shortcomings of ultra – liberal democracy are evident everywhere – from open market to economic recession, from corruption, monopoly, nepotism to inequitable distribution of wealth. Money disappears without much seeming to happen under BDP rule - the national petroleum fund, the swindling of public pensioners fund and the absence of financial accountability by the spy – agency - the directorate of intelligence service are but a few examples of BDP transgressions. Such is BDP politics, putting greed before people`s needs!
For Real Alternative Party