The Minister of Finance and Economic Development Dr Thapelo Matsheka has said government of Botswana through Ministry of Health and Wellness has turned to China to procure medical supplies in the fight against COVID-19 worth P 2.4 billion and expected to arrive in short period. Dr Matsheka made the revelations on Friday afternoon while briefing the media he insisted that Botswana and China enjoy good relations of health ties hence the reason for courting Chinese. “The process of buying this medical supplies has been triggered by the danger that coronavirus poses to our country’s exposed health systems due to the nature of the disease. The medical supplies worth P 2.4 billion and we are expecting them to arrive anytime soon,” Matsheka said. He went on to buttress that COVID-19 emergency has forced government to change its plans in terms of allocating the 2020\ 21 financial budget hence cancelling some of the proposed plans. The inconvenience he said, resulted in government chopping proposed salary increment of 10% and 6% percent for the public servants adding that perks alone will need a budget P 1.4 billion.
Government in return received harsh backlash from Labour trade unions following its decision to defer the agreed salary perks hence eroding what was promising relations between the two. “We refocused a lot of budget proposals by not only halting salary increment for civil servants but we cancelled other things to divert funds to coronavirus. We will not be able to pay salary increment to civil servants in any near future if this situation still persists,” minister buttressed. Moreover, he elaborated that the country’s economy is poised for enduring tough conditions due to COVID-19 stating that Botswana’s economy will shrink by 13% thus need for refocusing. “It was anticipated that that the world economy will grow by 3% instead it will diminish by 3%. Our local economy was forecasted to grow by 4% and will shrink by 13%. Also, government has anticipated to have P 62.4 billion but instead government will have P 48 billion,” he bemoaned. Part of the budget amounting to P 26 million has also been allocated for hiring social w orkers engaged in doing assessment for COVID-19 food basket scheme while P 140 million has been allocated for the April food basket scheme, Matsheka underlined saying it might gobble more. He revealed that Botswana has only P68.9 billion in foreign reserves but only P 20.1 billion belongs to government and therefore is not enough to sustain should the virus spread wide. Jack Ma donations Prior, Chinese E-Commerce tycoon and founder of Alibaba Jack Ma donated twice to Botswana twice medical items that includes of 20 000 tests kits, 100 000 masks and 1 000 protective suits. The medical consignments were also donated by Jack Ma foundation to all 54 African states and were disseminated through African Union (AU) from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to rest of continent. “We cannot ignore the potential risk to Africa and assume this continent of 1.3 billion people will blissfully escape the crisis. The world cannot afford the unthinkable consequences of the COVID19 pandemic in Africa,” Jack Ma said quoted in Chinese Embassy in Botswana website. The Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Lemogang Kwape have since said the medical supplies are effectively working in fighting COVID-19 as some probed the quality of Ma’s donations kits.