Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) President Advocate Duma Boko says the President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi’s transformational agenda is still a dream.On 1st April Dr. Masisi celebrated his first anniversary as head of state. The president has indicated in his maiden state of the nation address that he intends to transform the country’s economy from a resource to a knowledge-based one.
He also pointed out that as a matter of urgency his government would come up with ways of creating jobs, with the aim of reducing unemployment especially among young people.Boko told Botswana Guardian in an interview that there is no how the government of the day would achieve these key issues under the leadership of Dr. Masisi. He said there are no proper mechanisms put in place by the president to give assurance that he is walking the talk.
According to Advocate Boko who is also Leader of Opposition in Parliament Botswana has under-achieved under the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). He argued that the country has not even achieved half of its set targets since independence.
He cited the recent performance of academic results of public schools where the top school stood at below 5 percent pass rate.“If we now institutionalise this underperformance and accept it, we will become a country of non-achievers. We could have done better. In the 80s when the discovery of diamonds was established, we could have invested in infrastructure especially roads.
“If we did that, we could be a transport and logistics hub in southern Africa. We are the most fortunate landlocked country because we are in the central. So, we need to position Botswana both as a haven and a gateway. “We become a haven so that those who flee violations of human rights should come here and assist Batswana in the development of this country. “We should be a gateway into Zimbabwe, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo and the rest of the region”.He said if one looks at it that way one will realise that Botswana is sitting at a radius of 1.5 million potential customers. He posited that the region offers over 200 million customers adding that the country is strategically positioned.
Advocate Boko pointed out that visitors to Botswana are estimated at 2.5 million every year and about 90 percent come by road. “We have 90 percent of 2.5 million by road, what if our roads were even better? “We need to invest in road networks that are world class,” said the Leader of Opposition. He explained that when his party talks about creation of 100 000 jobs in 12 months and establishing a P3000 minimum wage President Dr. Masisi and his government together with their friends get offended. He argued that government should not be banished from involvement in the arena of production as the government of the day suggests.
Boko believes that government should be involved in some creative and innovative partnership with businesses so as to harness and take advantage of what businesses present. The government can deploy public resources for the empowerment of its citizen and underwrite their active participation in the economy. He accused Dr. Masisi of talking about having citizens owning the economy while there is nothing to show as to how that would happen. “What is the president talking about? Who is he talking to when he says the economy should be in the hands of the citizens. He has not identified his target, which Batswana to own what? When you say all these things you should give us something practical.
“As the UDC we are saying if the government needs to issue bonds to underwrite businesses in which Batswana participate and have an equity stake, then government should do that. We are not talking rhetoric because time for talking aspirations has passed.
“Today job seeking has also turned into a job because you need money and you have to travel around until you give up. We are now estimated to be sitting at around 35 percent of unemployment. If we use our conservative estimate that 30 percent of our population is unemployed and 70 percent of that are the youth, majority of which have tertiary qualifications, then we are sitting on a time ticking bomb.
“So, what we are saying is do not just say you will create jobs as our president is always saying. Tell them something tangible and give them something that they can hang on to and reveal how many jobs you intend to create in how long,” he said.
Recently Masisi revealed that government would create between 1000 and 2000 jobs for the youth in the Information Communication Technology. He said this would happen when internet is being connected to homes and businesses. He said he would not make a target of how many jobs would be created in how many months or years, citing the UDC job target as an unrealistic joke.
Advocate Boko believes the 100 000 jobs is a modest and achievable number. He argued that the 100 000 jobs creation does not talk about only formal employment. It also according to him means allowing the informal sector to grow by removing unnecessary regulatory barriers to make doing business easy adding that this would be inclusive as everyone would be participating in the realisation of creating 100 000 jobs.“Your President is busy talking about a knowledge-based economy. What knowledge is he talking about? Where are we in the knowledge scale and who are we competing with?
“The problem is even our financial system is configured to exclude new knowledge, exclude experimental and exclude research and development. This means this government does not like start-ups,” argued Boko adding that there is disconnect between industry and academia, which is a bridge that needs to be closed.
The closing of this gap according to the opposition leader will ensure that research centres and universities become centers of generational knowledge, which knowledge would be converted into products that respond to specific challenges. He said that as things stand there is no prospect of achievement by Dr. Masisi, saying the president should just wait for elections this year where he would be removed by the ballot and the UDC will take over power.