Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) president Masego Mogwera says preposition by government that its principal role is not to create jobs is simply relinquishment of state responsibility. She was reacting to the Budget Speech on Wednesday which Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Kenneth Matambo, had delivered two days earlier. In the speech, Matambo had clarified that the principal role of government is not to create jobs directly, but to provide a conducive macroeconomic environment to facilitate the development of the private sector. Ironically, a year before Matambo had stood before Parliament and said efforts will be made to ensure that government expenditure, whether under recurrent or development budget, contributes to job creation in the country. He had noted that some of the economic activities with potential for creating employment opportunities included infrastructure backlog eradication, road networks and maintenance, wildlife and tourism initiatives and creation of Special Economic Zones, among others.
It is for this reason that the labour union believes the 2017/18 budget speech statement on the role of government in job creation and the 2016/17 budget speech employment creation strategies are a big contradiction. Mogwera said the latest stance by government on job creation further violates the spirit of Decent Work which pursues employment creation as one of its priorities. “Government’s effort to provide a conducive environment to facilitate development of the private sector is not a new phenomenon and has never seen the light of the day,” said Mogwera, outlining that the promised improvements in ICT, electricity and water supply among other things as efforts to create conducive business environment are not justifiable elements of a job creation initiative. Though Mogwera agrees that government should create a conducive environment, she said, equally the government has a role to create direct jobs without ballooning the wage bill by identifying strategic sectors such as tourism and mining with a potential for employment creation.
The labour union has proposed that the government should assume a leading as opposed to a back-bench role with job creation. Mogwera said government should lead the job creation crusade by identifying appropriate and strategic industries to leverage on and inject capital for job creation initiatives. Another proposal from BOPEU is the tax incentives which Mogwera said could be done through setting of a specific employees number at which an employer would be entitled to tax exemption. “In essence, the more graduates a company employs, the more tax exemption it enjoys,” she said. In doing so, Mogwera said government should ensure that it takes all necessary measures to ensure that jobs created are decent.