The BDP vows to take the opposition out of the game at this year’s general elections. On Sunday-at its 2014-2019-election manifesto launch, the party’s supporters were issued with football-like “red cards” which will be ‘shown’ at opposition parties to take them out of the game just like in football.
Launched by the party president Ian Khama, the manifesto is as expected loaded with promises and gifts for the electorate, to believe in voting the party into power once more and rule for another five years. This being an election year the BDP did not spend much time in self-criticism, only on self-praise. It only makes political sense, because voters are expected to use party manifestos to make better decisions on voting day.
Apart from the chapter on the economy where the party acknowledges hardships the country experienced in the past years, in the end not recording rapid economic growth the BDP is all out about its achievements over the years. But again in the chapter about the economy voters are reminded that at “independence, we were one of the poorest countries in the world.” Then follows a long list of achievements.
The party manifesto says:
• Minerals, Energy and Water Resources: Significant strides have been made in diamond beneficiation; to date 21 diamond cutting and polishing factories are in operation with more 3 000 jobs created.
• Education: The quality of education (in the country) has significantly improved
• Transport and Communications: The BDP has carried out many information, communications and technology (ICT) projects and initiatives to achieve universal access, affordability and efficient services.
• Lands and Housing: We have registered major achievements in our housing programmes, especially targeting low-income groups.
• Trade and Industry: We made significant progress in diversifying the economy against difficult economic conditions.
And then follows a long list of promises. Of course, election manifestos are promises made to the voters, in progressive democracies, the party with better promises wins the election. A manifesto-the fundamental document for any political party entering the battle at the ballot-should carry the people’s dreams and aspirations. This is a blueprint of what a political party intends to do for the country. And just like kids waiting for gifts from Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, voters will get theirs for voting the BDP into power.
Surprisingly the BDP is willing to pursue Khama’s pet projects such as the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Development (ISPAAD), which has been widely disparaged by analysts and politicians alike. As an electoral promise, the BDP says it will increase agricultural production through improved ISPAAD and improve national food security by recognising subsistence farmers, merging farmers and commercial farmers as the key drivers of this.
However, analysts, opposition parties and some members within the ruling party have on many occasions questioned the rationale behind these programmes, wondering if the country is getting any value for money. ISPAAD, analysts from Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) have long argued that, is a high cost programme whose role should be to drive social rather than economic policies because it emphasises on increasing production through expansion in cultivated area with the yields remaining low.
BIDPA senior research fellow Dr Tebogo Seleka has been quoted in the media on many occasions saying that this input subsidy programme, which delivers free seeds, fertilisers and grants for ploughing services is tantamount to state production. BDP Member of Parliament Samson Moyo Guma is on record saying that ISAPAAD-which has been getting cash injections from government running into millions-cannot diversify the country’s agriculture sector. Further noting during last year’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) sitting that the programme has not given “us value for money.”
However the BDP feels that a lot of strides have been made and is willing to pursue the programme further and thus its policy direction in agriculture will continue in the same vein as in the past five years since Khama took over. “The output under ISPAAD has increased from 55 000 tonnes in 2007/2008 to 118 000 metric tonnes in 2010/2011,” reads part of the manifesto. Analystst though argue that the programme has only succeeded in achieving expansion in acreage and total output. But this come at a higher cost as there is no value for money as government spends P400 to get 200kg of grain and added that if farm labour and administration costs are included, it is clear that there is no value for money.
On labour issues the BDP is painting a rosy picture. “The Botswana government has been ensuring harmonious labour relations in the country to the extent that we have avoided wild-cat strikes,” reads the manifesto. But the unions are singing a different song. They feel the last three years have been difficult for them when dealing with government. “It’s a daylight lie to say harmonious labour relations have been achieved,” charged Ketlhalefile Motshegwa of the Botswana Federation of Public Employees Organisations (BOFEPUSU).
In 2011 Botswana experienced the longest public sector strike. What followed then was court case after court case. Government fired over 2000 workers, including nurses and doctors for participating in the strike. For a government whose actions serve to disregard trade unions, Motshegwa argues that the BDP manifesto is deceptive and the party is just electioneering. As an electoral promise the BDP says it will nurture harmonious relationships among all stakeholders in the labour market.
Meanwhile, the BDP has not committed any radical changes in its approach towards education-a sector, which is literally on its knees. Despite the ministry of education and skills development getting the bulk of the developmental and recurrent budgets, its performance remains questionable. The BDP has vowed to continue pumping more money in the education sector. “We therefore, strive to continue to put more funding into education,” reads the manifesto on education.