CORONA VIRUS; A WAKE UP CALL TO BDP MACROECONOMICS!

SHARE   |   Tuesday, 31 March 2020   |   By Gaontebale Mokgosi -rap
Gaontebale Mokgosi -RAP Gaontebale Mokgosi -RAP

Due to the outbreak of the deadly disease, corona – virus which is wreaking havoc on global scale; causing mass deaths and affecting economies in an enormously depressing and significant way, Real Alternative Party is impelled to issue a public statement. We hasten to state that the views expressed in this content should neither be viewed as intent to trivialize or demean the exerted efforts by BDP government in the fight to contain the corona pathogen nor be seen as a declaration of gratitude of the BDP rule. On the contrary, we are guided by the moral basis of a social wide responsibility.

The truth is there is just no easy answer to this pandemic wave. We are facing a pandemic that could produce one of the worst mass deaths in human history. The attempt to block the rampant escalation of the pandemic therefore has to be seen as a collective shared necessity, not an individual choice of over the counter product. It is a matter of focusing on solutions, making the spending and investments directed toward the public health measures. It is a matter of saving lives.

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RAP applauds the BDP government for its decisive leadership in conveying the urgency of this problem by recommending minor precautions including; regular thorough cleaning of hands, keeping hands away from face, social distancing and self - isolation, closing down schools, and liquor businesses, avoiding large crowds and the shake of hands, mandatory quarantine of those showing indications of the virus symptoms and imposing draconian shut-down conditions on the population so as to prevent the pathogen from spreading.

Even if expert opinion is divided on the efficacy of these interventions, it is only clever to follow advice given by national and local public health authority to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19. There is real need to contain the virus until medical scientific research makes the scientific - path breaking to produce the corona virus vaccine. RAP further appreciates the sort of encouraging and determined energy displayed by the men and women (health officers, customs officers, police, military force, retailer workers and volunteers) who work every day focusing on keeping Botswana safe from the corona pathogen albeit with very limited equipment and protective clothing.

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Whilst we are fully cognizant of the fact that this is not just a matter of government but rather of the whole community to respond, we feel prompted to advance issues about Botswana`s health care system’s capacity to respond effectively to the coronavirus crisis on a satisfactory scale. Failure to address real problems within the Botswana health - care system will be pushing the system into further disrepair and inflicting a wound on ourselves from which we may never recover.

Preparation is one of the best ways to mitigate future shocks to healthcare or economic systems. But truth be told, the BDP State has under-invested in public health for quality care. The underlying reasons for deterioration of health service is lack of proper funding and staffing levels. There is not enough internal capacity in terms of; equipment, medication supply, staff levels, ambulances, beds, public health labs, research and scientific discovery. Our hospital beds are almost occupied to full capacity at any given time. The health - staff do not feel valued and respected by the BDP government because efforts so far have been woefully insufficient. As it is now, health care workers across the country are in dire need of medical supplies and protective equipment—specifically single-use masks and ventilators, thus needlessly subjecting workers and the public to infection.

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Bottom - line is Botswana is way behind in terms of the range of health services and treatment. Feedback on the ground is we cannot test in sufficient numbers due to being short of testing kits. Failure to test in sufficient numbers when we are confronted with a pandemic like the coronavirus which requires people to be able to get tested quickly, is putting all of us at risk. The biggest issue is that when the health service fails in care, it leads to misery, permanent problems, and avoidable early deaths. The current situation clearly shows that our health care system will be definitely overwhelmed if government does not immediately intervene.

Conversely, the coronavirus has highlighted the deficiencies in capitalism. Capitalism is built on people’s work; it compels us to get out of bed, cram ourselves into public transport, obey the instructions of managers and the discipline of the clock. Suddenly, the entire mechanism of capitalism of employment, reward and exploitation has been disrupted by an epidemiological truth: to stop the pathogen from spreading and avoid mass death, we must not go to work, or use public transport, or go to pubs, gyms, or restaurants. And staying home requires social support systems including; access to medicines, and food deliveries. The entire financial system has come under strain.

This is a moment for the BDP State to rethink its macroeconomic function because its neoliberal model makes this country and this economy, particularly ill-suited, and ill-equipped to deal with a health crisis like this. What is needed is a knock-down, drag-out party-line brawl able to find advantage in adversity for society - a social order that places the needs of people over profit. In response to this crisis the BDP government has to do nothing less than to plan for the best and prepare for the worst trajectories. This challenge is going to take the best we`ve got – the best minds, the hardest work, and the most determination. This is more than just a question of experience in crisis management; it’s a question of ideology. Like it or not, we are going to end up with a heavily state-backed economy, with the government directing the private sector and ensuring everyone has enough to live on: the sooner BDP accepts that, and learns how to perform this role, the better.

The social price for what we will have to endure must be two - fold: the actions to be taken have to be universal and they have to redistribute wealth and power downwards, not upwards.; paid sick - leave for all workers, so that no one is forced to come to work sick; risk allowances for health staff, all businesses to pay all workers enough to live during their time off; a freeze on rents and mortgage payments, and a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, so that no one has to worry about going homeless; universal basic income for the unemployed, old age, children and disabled.

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The BDP state must use all resources at its disposal to rapidly expand our health system’s capacity such as building field hospitals, crisis centers and quarantine facilities to diagnose and treat patients. The increase of ambulances to improve the emergency services, are also of urgent acquisition. We need to pursue an aggressive industrial policy to make medical and protective equipment (respirators, masks) and medical labs for research and science discoveries. As a matter of urgency, there is need to establish light manufacturing industries in; pharmacology to lead the way in making of antibiotics, and vaccines through indigenous plants like mowana (baobab) bark; primary inputs foodstuffs, textiles, industrial oxygen, life support respirators, safety and protective utensils, sanitary and deodorant products.

This approach will subsist as a remedy not only to; coronavirus scourge and mass poverty but will also reduce import dependency and develop self-sufficiency through the creation of an internal market and the beneficial impact upon the society and the economy as a whole can be sustainably enhanced. Our political standpoint is that the socio-economic strategies in addressing corona virus require bold and innovative approaches, not haphazard, desperate efforts ( e.g.relief fund) that will perpetuate the status quo.

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Gaontebale Mokgosi

Brother Chairman

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Real Alternative Party



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