I would like to start off by congratulating Honourable Minister Dow for leading her Ministry to do a sterling job of enabling and ensuring cordial international relations for Botswana. Over the course of decades, her Ministry has done an exceptional job in our political and diplomatic relations.
Mr. Chairman, in the current environment devoid of significant international conflict, the main objective of our political relations agenda is to keep the connections and relations warm. This accords us the opportunity to focus on economic relations so that the Ministry can contribute more to the overall national agenda of enabling business and creating much-needed jobs.
I would like to applaud Honourable Minister Dow and her team on moving the narrative, from a diplomatic service perceived to only deal with students and people on transit, to one of strong political and economic relations.
The Minister deserves to be congratulated for establishing valuable relations with various nations, and Qatar in particular. The arrival of Qatar Airways in Botswana is testament that our relations have yielded tangible results. That’s the focus we need to support Botswana’s strategic sectors.
Building up on the arrival of Qatar Airways, and possibly more international airlines, I would like to urge Honourable Dow to please collaborate with the Ministry of Transport and Communications to lead, and contribute to, the development of a business model to progress Sir Seretse Khama International Airport into an affordable “parking lot” for big international airlines, offering a more affordable option to OR Tambo International Airport. This will comprise the preparation and supply of meals for these airlines as well as possible technical services in Botswana, amongst others. This will create much-needed jobs for Batswana and enhance the professional status of our service providers.
To achieve this we must create the best and conducive environment for various aviation service providers. This includes, but is not limited to the reduction of aircraft parking fees in order to compete with our neighbors for international airlines. We must also strive to level the playing field in the supply of aviation fuel so as to encourage more players and instill competition.
This direction is pointing us to a very important and progressive role for the Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation, with a strong focus on economic relations. It is a role that requires the Ministry to occasionally act in a business like manner. I appreciate that this may require different skills sets for the employees and the necessary support should be provided.
In the context of this business-like way of working, I request Honourable Dow to take us into her confidence and share some of the top of mind goals that each mission has been given to deliver on, so that we can appreciate the different allocations of resources for each mission. It would also be great to appreciate how these align with Botswana’s overall strategy.
As an example, what is our focus on Asia? At least we know that the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) provides finance to Botswana for large infrastructure projects. What about other countries, what additional value do we intend to extract from them?
Over many years, Botswana has sent students to study in numerous countries that we have diplomatic relations with, such as Australia. A significant number of these sponsored students are now permanent residents of that country, and provide much needed professional services to the people of Australia. In the spirit of mutual reciprocity, we ought to be persuading countries like Australia to be give Batswana scholarships and support our farming efforts more visibly, because our terrains are similar.
In conclusion Mr. Chairman, the Honorable Minister has demonstrated that Botswana has the ability to extract additional value from the countries that we have established diplomatic relations with. This has set a new narrative for the Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation. It is in this spirit that I support the Honourable Minister’s budget and urge her to accelerate her efforts, all in the interest of Botswana’s economic development.
I thank you.
*RESPONSE TO THE MINISTRY OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS AND COOPERATION SPEECH TO THE COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY BY HON. THAPELO LETSHOLO - MP FOR KANYE NORTH.