It is a great honour and privilege for me to welcome you all to the 2019 National Planners Seminar. Let me express my profound gratitude to be hosting planners from all cadres at such a momentous occasion. The presence of other stakeholders from non-governmental organizations and private entities amongst us makes the whole event a great success. This forum accords us another opportunity to reflect, interact and share ideas pertaining to the development agenda in order to meet sustainable development goals. It goes without saying that, today’s challenges need that time and again we assemble as players in the planning fraternity and chart the way forward regarding our development path.
I am reliably informed that it was resolved in last year’s Planners Seminar that this important event will be held annually in a bid to accelerate efforts to reach a common goal of developing our nation through continued engagement. Let me hasten to mention that in preparation for this year’s event we partnered with the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA), Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services and Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. It is also worthy to note that Non-governmental actors and the private sector will be part of this occasion. I would have failed in my duty to applaud this partnership which is multi stakeholder oriented. A reflection that indeed our Ministry places the interest of the people first hence the slogan, “Batho Pele”.
As you might all be aware, this Seminar is held under the theme; “Accelerating Development through the Localization of the Sustainable Development Goals”. This theme indeed comes at an opportune time when as a country we have fully embarked on implementation of the sustainable development goals and I am happy to indicate that, their roadmap has been officially launched. You will recall that, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a commitment to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development by 2030 world-wide, ensuring that no one is left behind. The adoption of the 2030 Agenda is a landmark achievement, providing for a shared global vision towards sustainable development for all. Let me remind all of you that, the SDGs have targets directly related to the responsibilities of local governments, particularly to their role in delivering basic services, it is imperative that local governments are at the centre of the 2030 Agenda.
Over and above that, for Planners, this seminar also provides a good platform to engage on goals, targets and indicators which are suitable to your local contexts to determine the means of implementation and using indicators to measure and monitor progress. Let me also make mention that this seminar comes at an opportune time, as the National Development Plan (NDP) 11 mid-term review is also under review. This gives us another opportunity to re-strategize and refocus where need be. I am aware Director of Ceremony that the Districts, herein fully represented, have all done their Midterm review of the District Development Plan 8/Urban Development Plan 4. The Midterm Review Exercise was done in such a manner that it will feed to the midterm review of the NDP 11.
It is worth noting that localizing SDGs is making aspirations of the agenda become real to the local levels, especially the communities, households and individuals, particularly those at the risk of being left behind. I wish to implore all of you today to guide the next course of development by ensuring that SDGs are infused into Sectoral and Annual plans. I am happy to indicate that, the National SDGs Strategic Guiding Documents such as the SDGs Roadmap, SDGs Domesticated Indicator Framework and Baseline Statistical Brief and the SDGs Communication Strategy are in place for you to adopt and suit them into your local context. This year’s theme also challenges us to speed up our efforts in the way we do things. We need a radical transformation in order to achieve our goals. This cannot be business as usual, and I urge you to be highly considerate of this development reform and change the way we do business for the betterment of the lives of our people to ensure that indeed we leave no one behind.
Let me indicate at this juncture that, the strength of achieving the SGDs lies at the District level and I wish to urge you delegates to have that at the back of your minds during the proceedings. Local Governments are critical in turning Agenda 2030 from a global Vision into a local reality. I purposely say this because the people we serve are at the 16 local authorities and we would be missing the mark by not localizing the 2030 agenda. We should pause and ascertain whether we are ready to implement and monitor the SDGs. It goes without saying that we all need to properly plan and formulate new concepts coupled with data and advanced analytical tools to inform policy formulation.
Let me further hasten to challenge you planners to be more oriented toward generation of accurate and well packaged data. This will make it easy to report on the SDG indicators. We should be worried when we produce district development plans that are not informed by any meaningful data or research results. On the same wavelength, we should also worry when we produce reports that are not driving the SDG indicator framework. I call upon all of you to come up with profiles for your Districts from time to time and to always have readily available District data for ease of reporting and producing reliable information. Let me remind you that, whatever information you gather at your respective districts should complement each other. We need to work as a team in order to meet the objectives of our development agenda. Nothing should ever be done in isolation because the development planning process is homogeneous in nature. Bagaetsho, the time is now, we need to be moving with the rest of the world and we need to bench mark on the best practices for continuous improvement.
As I reiterated earlier, this year’s planner’s seminar has been organized by multiple players including NGOs and Private companies, which is commendable indeed. This decision was made in alignment with the theme to ensure inclusivity, building long lasting partnerships with stakeholders as per the guidance of the 2030 agenda as it calls for breaking the silo mentality. My presence here is an assurance of the Ministry’s commitment to the spirit of “leaving no one and no place behind”. We shall continue to engage all of you whenever we have an opportunity to discuss the development reforms. We are mindful that government cannot go alone as regards to realizing the SDGs and we shall continue to find new ways of partnership and plan with new partners in view for sustainable livelihoods and improved local governance.
Planning is all encompassing and should not be done in isolation. There is a dire need for all concerned players to know what each is doing to avoid duplications and loss of resources. Remember we target one client. My Ministry through the Local Economic Development Programme (LED) is working with local authorities to profile their local economies, map their stakeholders, do the Business Enabling Environment surveys and document their LED strategies. This is done to complement existing programs by other players and not to compete with. I therefore urge you planners to always have this data readily available and produce it to share with stakeholders. This data should also be at par with the normal District Development Planning Process but should be used to inform Plan preparation, Mid Term Reviews and other documents. Over and above that line Ministries should also feel free to access our Ministry for this economic data in order to inform their planning processes. This is necessitated by the fact that we are one country addressing a common vision.
For your work to be more efficient, there has to be an enabling environment or an enabler to support that. As you are may be aware, my ministry with the engagement of other stakeholders has been working on the Decentralization Policy which is aimed at giving decision making powers to the Districts. You will agree with me that planning will bring more results under a decentralized function of government. Empowered Local Authorities will be able to grow their economies as per the injunction of the Local Government Act. The progress on this policy will be shared with you and please feel free to give constructive feedback.
My Ministry has also requested that you hold Business Round Tables as part of enhancing the LED process. These roundtables are aimed at bringing all the business people together to better understand their needs. The exercise will enable us to work directly with the grassroots and policy issues will be elevated to the relevant structures such as the Sectoral Level Consultative Committee and other high level structures. You will be amazed how some issues will be solved at the respective local authorities with no need for further elevation.
Let me make an appeal to all of you planners to take a leading role of diversifying your local economies. You are well placed to influence change at your respective local authorities. As Planners you should guide the ease of doing business by mobilizing key departments such as Commercial Affairs, Building Control, Bye Laws, Physical Planning to name but a few. These departments are well placed to transform the local economies if they are properly transformed to focus on radical transformation for the growth of business at Districts. You will agree with me that there are many untapped opportunities within your local jurisdiction that we need to fully explore to transform our local economies.
In the same vein, let me urge you to have dialogue with your superiors in order to formulate a totally new approach using these key departments to deliberately allow for growth in our districts. It is possible and can be done and all it takes is the willingness to be innovative enough to bring new ideas that have never been done before to influence growth. Let us cut the red tapes, form partnerships and formulate new bye laws that allow for new business activities.
We made a deliberate decision to plan with non-governmental organizations because our believe is that as a developing economy, which is multi-faceted and need multi stakeholder engagement. We are excited to learn from the partners on how they influence Botswana’s development patterns and how they wish to work with us in future. Let me take the same opportunity to thank UNDP, African Alliance and Mascom for co-funding this event and wish that we find long lasting friendships. It is our Government’s commitment to facilitate private sector and the planner’s seminar is a good launching platform. A million thanks to the organizers and the host for making this seminar a resounding success. We thank the leadership of North West District for giving us the opportunity to come work, relate and make connections.
*Minister of Local Government & Rural Development