The newly formed Alliance for Progressives unveiled its first ever Policy Statement in Gaborone on Thursday. Below is part of the party leader, Ndaba Gaolathe’s address.
We live at a momentous time in the history of our nation, when the stakes for so many are so high. We are excited by the prospects of a new Government in 2019, but shudder at the possibility that it may slip from our grip. We are potentially on the verge of something so beautiful, and yet things could turn ugly. We are on the shores of a sea to prosperity, and yet the tides could force us on a path to starvation. Those who have waited for a system that treats them fairly, so they don’t have to know someone in the Government in-order to succeed, in business and their life endeavours, are hoping that hour is in 2019. Those living with disabilities, keen to enjoy and cherish the same opportunities and rights, no matter how small, accorded to the mainstream of our population, are anxious if the year 2019 brings with it a fully-fledged scholarship system, or access to mainstream facilities, for them. Our young, both men and women, cosmopolitan or rural, once exuberant and looking forward to a good life, but now discouraged, despondent and cynical at such youthful age are anxious and itching to wake up in 2019 to a new nation that offers them opportunity – opportunity to employ and be employed, opportunity to play out their talents and find fulfillment in it, opportunity to grow and cultivate the growth of others. We pray that this spice (young people) of every nation does not allow itself to wallow in cynicism, skepticism and self-defeatism that takes away their very essence, that they are the spice that every nation needs to cultivate hope and better tomorrow. Some are in denial, others believe it to be false, but many say our people live in fear of their own Government. Even those who are in denial are afraid to speak freely on their phones and will refuse to be drawn into conversations that involve the Government, because they feel that this may be used against them somehow. The Intelligence Services is more powerful than the rest of the Government decision making machinery. It is them that decide who gets awarded the multi-million Government procurement assignments, it is them that decide whose expatriate VISA gets approved, it is them that decide who should be appointed to some of the key roles in Government and the private sector; It is them that re-allocate willy-nilly Government reserves as we they did with the National Petrol Fund. They are above the law, and no one is able to find a way for them to face the wrath of the law. The current Government has neither the capacity nor the appetite to bring the DIS before the law. Our Government system is centralised, and Parliament lacks the institutional capacity to fulfill its constitutional mandate, consequently our system is not one of checks-and-balances; it is a legitimised authoritarian rule. Our Government is configured in a way that not only legitimizes authoritarianism by the central Government or Presidency in particular, it promotes it. We cannot, with our system, expect to successfully combat corruption when we know the system is configured in a way that inherently feeds corruption, not combat it.
We the Progressives feel privileged to live at such a time in our nation’s history. It’s a moment of great promise for our people, if we marshalled our collective talents, efforts, resources and character to turn the tide. We have it in us with our force of hope, to blow away in 2019 a Government of fear and favour, a Government of excess and opaqueness, a Government of bloat and sluggishness, and displace it with a Government of fairness and decency, A Government of swiftness and effectiveness, a Government of modesty and foresight. We are about transformative reform, and we believe this will not be possible without a displacement of the current rule. It’s a moment for transformation. The belly of our soils is wealthy, possessing minerals for both farming and mining; its covered with savanna and fauna that feeds one of the world’s most beautiful and diverse animal life and is inhabited by such communities and citizens as talented and determined as you will find anywhere in the world. The waters that run from the Angolan highlands flow and splash into the Okavango plains, creating a vast family of islands sorrounded by crystal clear water channels that reflect the images of herons and egrets that are scattered in the skies of the Okavango. This should not and cannot be the same country whose people are largely jobless. This should be a nation of opportunity, an Eden of the African continent. This is how we the Progressives see our moment, and our country. We believe in opportunity. We believe opportunity trumps entitlement. The best path to economic and social upward mobility, away from joblessness and underemployment, away from poverty, away from income and wealth disparities, away from gender disparities and away from other forms of disenfranchisement is the path of opportunity. Our focus is on making opportunity available for each citizens, facilitating opportunity, creating opportunity, protecting opportunity, inspiring opportunity for our people to reach out for it and run with it. Every family should have a place they call home. We the Progressives will cultivate an ecosystem to ensure to the opportunity for families to build or buy a decent home. We will build a services delivery capacity and capability never seen in the health services, utilities (water, energy and social services), transport and security. We will invest in a sustainable environment, pleasurable to live in, and cultivate seeds for each citizen to live as part of a supportive and united community.
ROLE OF GOVERNMENT (IN ECONOMY)
Our view of Government’s role in the social and economic transformation of a nation differs with that of the current Government. The current Government describes itself as one that simply facilities development while the private sector takes center stage in building the economic locomotive. The Botswana Government prides itself as a free market economy with minimal Government intervention. This could not have been further from the truth. The current Government is a welfare state that practices socialism for the wealthy and capitalism for the poor. It is easy to demonstrate this: the largest company, Debswana, the diamond giant is owned 50% by the Government of Botswana and 50% by Debeers, a predominantly family business. The Government has no qualms capitalising its share in the family business. The same Government is happy to build state of the art infrastructure and offer stellar services in mining towns. The same Government says small businesses must fend for themselves or in some cases receive token financial assistance. State of the art infrastructure or services in the hawker of SME districts is unheard of (hawkers told they expect too much from the Government) Progressives are decisively different from the current Government. We are creatively pragmatic with the way we treat both big and small business. We will be fair-minded in creating an eco-system that gives us the best chance for job creation. The current view on poverty, people living under the poverty datum line or people living under the harshest material conditions is that they should be entitled to some social safety net, or some Government programme that entitles them to some grant or wage. The current Government’s attitude is that as long as these people receive something are off the backs of Government, the problem is solved. We as the Progressives believe that we should never believe that superficial compassion is what will transform the material conditions of the majority of our people. We still have a majority, whether we classify them against the poverty datum line or not of a majority of our people living in poverty or living under very harsh conditions, in the rural areas and in the ghettos of our main cities – Manaka, Kgapamadi, Bophirima, Morula, Peleng and other areas. We Progressives do not see this majority as subjects for pity; on the contrary this majority is a resource gone to waste. We see this majority as a resource that is available and able to generate our nation’s fortune. We must never be judged on the pity we say we have for others, but instead we should be judged by the way we are able to facilitate the best in others, so they too can unleash their own potential. We as the Progressives do not see it as our task to remind the majority of our people that they are poor. We have an obligation to remind them that, in fact the largest retail stores, whether food or clothes or household appliances or transport – make most of their monies from selling to the struggling majority. These companies make billions of Pula. This means no matter how poor we may feel at an individual level, collectively we have massive buying power; collectively we are wealthy. We at the Progressives believe the time has come to facilitative our collective talent to ensure we tap creatively into our mass markets and individually struggling families participate meaningfully in this process and opportunity. We are about opportunity. (forms a major part of policy offering). This means Progressives believe that Government is not the be and end all in the affairs of our nation. Our people and our communities have the greatest role. The People of Botswana should be the most important participants in our politico-socio-econo-cultural process. We as a people, from all walks need to start making demands on those to whom we have entrusted the management of our resources. We must make demands on a governance system that is truly of checks and balances, to curb the excesses of any one authority. We must demand fairness in the appointment judges and management of the courts. We must demand a Parliament that is capacitated adequately so it make play its role competently to craft sound legislation and exerting some of its monitoring mandate over the excesses of the central Government. We must demand services. We also need to celebrate competence, cherish it and not begrudge it. It is not wrong to become wealthy if its fair. We need to set minimum standards for shelter and for wages, that evolve with the success of our economy and our time.
ECONOMY, OTHER SECTORS
We as the Progressives insist that no country, not America or Brazil, not China or Europe, not Australia or South Africa have been able to create a truly viable economic locomotive without a sound agriculture and food industry. We intend to facilitate economic transformation and agriculture as a key part of that process. We will assist modernize agriculture, enhance land and labour productivity, instill more market orientation, establish production diversification, forge domestic and export competiveness. (yields for cereals in recent years are about 1 000 kg/ha in sub-Saharan Africa (about that level for Botswana), compared to 5 000kg/ha in East Asia, 4000kg/ha in Latin America and 2500kg in South Africa). We will facilitate creative efforts to process and beneficiate raw agricultural produce from other African countries for export or re-export. This is part of growing the manufacturing sector and industrialization. We will invest in major long term investment in arable farming supporting infrastructure (electricity, water, formalized land rights) and make such serviced land available for accomplished farmers and emergent/apprenticeship farmers. We will provide incentives for research institutions and Agricultural colleges to involve their students in training with production. The Progressives will pass legislation that lowers barriers for small scale farmers from accessing supply contracts of large chain stores that often make doing business with them prohibitive. Models for such legislation are available in South Africa and Namibia. Botswana needs more than a gradual incrementalist approach to job creation. We need a transformation of our economy and of our way of doing things. No country has been able to achieve this without a special way of cultivating and fathoming the skills and personnel for that task. This entails the conception and implementation of an effective education and skills management regime of which a robust immigration policy is also a key ingredient.
MARSHALLING THE RIGHT PERSONNEL AND SKILL DEVELOPMENT
The Progressives will transform the education from the current emphasis on churning administrators and white-collar graduates to one of cultivating practical and technical skills. We encourage a culture of science, management science, entrepreneurship, the creative arts and problem solving. We will develop a focus on producing more engineers, artisans, plumbers, carpenters, computer programmers, creative innovators and entrepreneurs than we need administrators. Our system should be one strong on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Yes the current Government says it is moving in that direction through the ETSSP (for which some credit is due), but the budgets for their plans betray the envisaged path. We will significantly increase, over the years, the vocational/technical stream at early secondary school from the estimated current levels of 8% to 30 of 40% within five or eight year period. We, the Progressives will manage our national human resources well once we are n Government. The current system has often failed to retain our doctors, nor have we been able fully utilize our best professionals. There is little cross-fertilisation of personnel across the arms of government and the private sector. The Progressives will amend relations between the Unions and the Executive Branch of Government. We will rehabilitate our relationship with ILO convention 84 and 87 which Botswana has ratified but has since violated through its treatment of BOFEPUSO and consequent collapse of the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC). The Progressives plan to repeal the offending clauses of the draconian Trade Disputes Act, which go against the spirit of Convention 87, and place 90% of employees in the essential services cadre. This action has attracted the attention of the Committee of Application of Standards of the ILO, on account of Botswana sliding to accompany the class of countries that are the worst 40 violators of core ILO conventions. The Progressives will instill and cultivate fairness towards fair remuneration and better conditions of work for our workers, including for uniformed cadres and teachers.
THE ROLE OF INFRASTRUCTURE IN MASS JOB CREATION
We the Progressives will introduce a modern, integrated and economy transforming Infrastructure Upscaling Plan. The plan is more than just about the maintenance of major roads, hospitals, schools and the building of dams, airports and power stations is important to any economy but it is about strategic long term investments beyond the normal 5 year projects. We will embark on 7 to 40 year horizon projects with the potential to totally change our way of life – fast regional trains and superhighways connecting African countries (in partnership with other African countries), non-traditional transport modes connecting key centers around our cities, farming zones with top class infrastructure and amenities, railway to the coasts, last mile broadband connectivity projects, public transport systems to manage traffic congestion, digitization of Government processes with an appointment of a Chief Digital Officer in Government. We will ensure to the competent coordination by a revitalized Government Project Office. These projects alone should generate tens of thousands of jobs over the years, and multiplier effects for more job creation across the economy.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT AS INPUT TOWARDS MASS JOB CREATION
The Progressives plan to incentivize and develop a culture of Research and Development. We will encourage major corporates and partner with them, as well as with the UB, BIUST, BITRI, and other local and international centers of excellence to focus on identifying areas of special need inorder to : a) Give us a niche area of expertise b) Save us financial resources c) Create jobs associated with the production of the research issues and d) Create opportunity for export to those third world countries needing the same solutions. Through this approach, we will develop a) water harvesting methods to harvest rain water at all levels b) ways and methods to significantly improve crop yields, develop food recipes, process foods, preserve foods, commercialise recipes and revise tenures towards title-holding c) scientific ways to assist grow small businesses using the intellectual capacity of our tertiary institutions and wisdom of retired practitioners around the world and d) entrenching technology in our economy f) product development from coal and our other minerals, product development from our flowers/flora and g) material science
DELIVERY IN OUR SYSTEM, AND MANAGING COSTS
We, the Progressives will refine the government budgeting process. Parliamentary Budget office should play a key role in enabling an efficient budget process. We will assert a transparent and aggressive monitoring and evaluation: in order to drive delivery, government should increase transparency with a rigorous and public monitoring mechanism. Our Government will publish on a monthly basis statistics that show expenditure, efficiency, and progress in implementation of projects. We will digitise Government processes to raise cost efficiencies; we will manage contractors for efficiency. We will invest in capabilities - functional leadership and capabilities across government in order to support delivery. We will upskill middle and senior management level staff across ministries to improve ability to develop, operationalize and review budgets. We will invest in commercial capabilities and improve the ability of Ministries to understand the fair costs of goods and services.We will create a distinguished Delivery Unit to improve our ability to deliver projects on time and on budget. The priorities of this Delivery Unit would be to coordinate the planning process for any economic transformation plan; monitor and communicate progress with Government and citizens; identify risks for escalation; and to deploy top talent to unleash implementation bottlenecks and challenges as they arise.
These were examples of our envisaged programmes.