The Leader of Opposition Duma Boko has dismissed the Stimulus Economic Programme (ESP) as just another ill-conceived and ill-timed offering by the ruling party geared at diverting attention from the people’s real problems. Responding to the State of Nation Address, Boko just like President Ian Khama dedicated a chunk of his address to talking about the ESP, only he was unlike Khama, pouring cold water on it.
According to Boko the ESP was vaguely offered by government and the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) do not approve of it. “We at the UDC, on behalf of the people of Botswana, choose transformation. We choose the Economic and Institutional Transformation Plan (EITP). It is our faith that this is what we need to create sustainable jobs (given the high unemployment rate of more than 20% under the narrow definition and more than 33% under the expanded definition), create wealth, spread opportunities among the majority of our people, and provide adequate water and power in a sustainable way," said Boko.
He condemned government for ignoring the plight of the people and failing to address issues in the most efficient ways , rather choosing to do what would in the long run benefit the elite few. According to Boko the people do not trust the government anymore, because they see the increasingly apparent and disconcerting reality that their government and its institutions are extractive by nature and they recognise that the state is captive to the narrow interests of a greedy political and business elite.
“And how does our government respond? First with a yet to be detailed Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) that we know is based on a misdiagnosis of the economy’s problems, has flawed conceptual and contextual moorings, and is for the most part, self-seeking,” Boko said. Boko said that the ESP in its very nature is wrapped, with tone deaf defiance and lawlessness. And its introduction was forced in at the expense of projects that had long been in the pipeline. He warned that due to these irregularities surrounding it, The ESP was likely to benefit a few. “Instead, they will suspend established procurement procedures, ostensibly to accelerate delivery, but in reality, to direct ESP resources to their cronies,” said Boko.
He therefore pleaded with other members not to let the ESP pass when and if it is brought before it, saying as legislators they should insist that these resources be disbursed through established procurement systems, through the PPADB. He further accused Khama of having no rationale in his presentation of the ESP, saying it rather looks like a grand design for looting. “To be sure, I have no problem with building classrooms that are overdue, constructing necessary roads, and maintaining existing infrastructure. My problem is the basis for the stimulus and the context in which it is introduced,” he said, adding that the President does not seem to understand what an economic stimulus does.
He said by nature, economic stimulus programmes are short term measures intended to moderate slumps in the economy and minimise pain such as loss of jobs a contradiction of what is being offered by the BDP led government which he says is sold, even before its details are known. “This is lazy and irresponsible. If the President wants economic transformation, he should invest time, effort and resources in developing a transformation programme based on solid evidence and analysis, and in the context of the overdue National Plan 11,” he said.
The UDC leader was also of the view that, the ESP is premised on the patently false diagnosis that the economy’s most urgent need is an injection of money, while in actual fact feedback from local business, the World Bank (Doing Business Report) and the World Economic Forum (Global Competitiveness Report), suggests that the real priority should be creating a good entrepreneurship ecosystem, beginning with efficient and high quality regulation. “In the period 2008-2014,Dr Ian Khama’s Government spent over P340 billion in Government expenditure.
In that time, it consistently failed to fully spend its development budget and unemployment remained above 17% increasing to 20%, or 33% if we include the discouraged job seekers. How then can we say that the economy’s problem is money? Face up to it Dr President, the biggest problem for the economy today is our government, its inefficiency and mismanagement,” he said.
According to Boko the context in which the ESP is introduced is not favourable saying with evidence that the government is presently unable to deliver its development budget and that it lacks project management capacity, it is therefore reckless to pour billions of Pula into a delivery system that is unable to spend the resource and in a context that suggests project management and fiduciary failures will be extensive.
“The ESP was announced before its details could be worked out, which essentially means that the executive arrived at a decision to draw down on our reserves and expand our debt burden without adequate prior analysis and advice by competent institutions,” he said. Throwing billions of Pula into the ESP will according to Boko will only encourage corruption and wastage on a grand scale. "We should therefore not be surprised when Botswana emerges from the ESP more dysfunctional than it is at present,” said the UDC leader.