Cabinet is expected to receive and approve the final document of the National Employment Policy in Septembler. The NEP is meant to address the high rate of unemployment in the country. Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Kenneth Matambo told parliament that his ministry is currently finalising the draft which they produced in conjunction with international consultants.
He said government is making final touches to the document after which it will be submitted to Cabinet for approval. “I am hoping by September this year”. Member of Parliament for Nkange Edwin Batshu had asked Matambo to appraise parliament on the progress made regarding the drafting of a National Employment Policy for Botswana as announced in the last State of the Nation Address by President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi.
Matambo said it was true his ministry is developing an overarching National Employment Policy for Botswana in order to address the high rate of unemployment in the country. The policy is expected to assist the country achieve productive, gainful and decent employment for all, as well as contribute to the reduction in income inequality and support government’s poverty eradication efforts.
Matambo said they are working on the NEP with the assistance of the World Bank. “I am happy to say a draft policy has since been produced and consultations have been taking place with stakeholders through workshops, which were held at first on the 21st of March this year and the next on the 25th of June this year”.
Batshu then asked why the policy was not availed on the targeted date of March as per President Masisi’s promise in his SONA, and if as the ministry they have told the nation of their anticipated delay so that the nation does not remain hopeful. Matambo said he was not fully aware of the date of March.
“Had it been in the answer, I would have tried to find out information, as to precisely why we did not meet the target of March so that then I will be able to answer you fully”. The minister assured parliament that he had been discussing NEP with his staff to see whether it was not possible to deliver it before September. “However as you would be aware from past experience, the consultations are very important. We do not want to bring something here which is half-cooked and then you all tear it to pieces”, he said.
Sovereign wealth funds remain an integral part of any economy as they act as a fall back when revenue declines, but there is need to ensure their mandates are clearly defined, lest they become prone to abuse by those entrusted in managing them. This is the message that came out clearly from different speakers at a recent high level conference meant to discuss sovereign wealth funds in Africa, policies that govern them and best practices that can ensure they are sustainable for future use.
Botswana, better known for its mineral resources, especially diamonds is one of the 14 African countries with a sovereign fund, known as Pula Fund. The Fund, which was established in 1994, is managed by Bank of Botswana (BoB), and is a long term fund which forms part of the foreign exchange reserves. The Fund is being used largely to fund some of the country’s budget constraints that include deficits, which have been recurring since the 2008/9 recession, which affected major consumers of the country’s biggest exports, diamonds.
In a briefing after the opening of the two day conference, BoB Governor, Moses Pelaelo told Botswana Guardian that, government has in the past tapped into the Pula Fund, to plug out budget deficits which have largely occurred due to fall in mineral revenue in recent years, which affected the national budget. He could not immediately provide the amount that government has withdrawn from the Fund. “I don’t have the numbers, but it is true government has used part of the Fund to fund budget deficits,” said the Governor. It is not clear if the expected budget deficit of P7,1 billion for the 2019/2020 national budget as announced by finance and economic development minister, Kenneth Matambo will be funded by tapping into the Pula Fund, which is managed 50 percent by the bank and the rest by independent asset managers.
As of February 2019, the Pula Fund was valued at P49, 9 billion, having dropped from P55, 5 billion the year before. Botswana, like most of her peers in Southern Africa is struggling to contain abject poverty, rising unemployment rates, HIV/AIDS, among others.
The question that came from the floor was whether the Pula Fund can be used to help in fighting these social challenges which can in the long term affect the country’s cohesion?
Pelaelo stated that, while he agrees that the country is struggling with some social and economic challenges, it must be understood that, ‘the Fund is for long term purposes’, arguing that the country also has other options either borrowing locally and internationally when the need arises to tackle pertinent problems such as the one mentioned above. “When managing the Pula Fund we are more concerned with its safety, liquidity and return on investments,” noted Pelaelo. World Bank Vice President and Treasurer, Jingdong Hua said sovereign wealth funds could also be important in funding Africa’s infrastructural problems, which in most cases curtail economic developments.
It is particularly critical for this funding, especially in Africa where infrastructure development is largely being done by governments. Botswana also lags behind when it comes to infrastructure development and its Private Public Partnerships (PPPs), which infrastructure was among sectors to benefit from, is experiencing teething problems. “They (Sovereign wealth funds) can also help with long term capital formations,” added Hua who is based in Washington, United States of America. In Africa, where corruption is rampant, various funds have not avoided those who want to enrich themselves at the expense of the larger population.
Pelaelo and Hua concur that, funds need to be carefully managed and protected for future generations, especially for countries like Botswana which depends on limited commodities. Botswana in particular needs to tighten its screws on the Fund especially that it is being funded by savings from revenues from minerals a finite resource which will get depleted and expose the country to shocks. The central bank in Botswana has made it clear, they review all policies and procedures governing reserve management, including the Pula Fund every five years, to ensure they are watertight.
When opening the meeting, which the central bank hosted jointly with The Brown Capital Management, President Mokgweetsi Masisi also added that, the mandate of sovereign wealth funds have evolved over the years, and called on regulators to keep pace with these developments. “At the same time, there is less emphasis on Sovereign Wealth Funds as guardians of the nation’s financial wealth, but rather a greater focus is on their active participation, including through funding of infrastructure, to achieve national development objectives,” said Masisi.
He added that governance is key in managing sovereign wealth funds to avoid situations where they are used for political agendas. The President added that accountability to citizens is important for those who manage these types of Funds.
At the end of the closed-door meetings, Pelaelo and other top officials told the press that, a lot has been learnt from the conference.
“Sovereign wealth funds differ in form and mandate, but they all support liquidity,” he said, adding that, proceeds from these funds need to be used for economic priorities of each country. “There is need to look at long term benefits. We also have to work closely with other institutions such as World Bank and IMF (International Monetary Fund,” said Botswana central bank chief. Hua said they are willing to assist any country with issues relating to sovereign wealth management.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Kenneth Matambo said the ministry is in the process of drafting the credit information bill to improve access to credit by small businesses.
Presenting the budget for the Ministry to legislators on Tuesday, Matambo said as part of implementing the national financial inclusion roadmap and strategy that runs from 2015 to 2021, the ministry is in the process of drafting the bill. “The bill will seek to improve both positive and negative financial information which will improve access to credit which is extended to small businesses and citizens,” said Matambo.
He said currently, Botswana Savings Bank (BSB), which focuses on developing low cost accessible and flexible savings products for the low-income earners currently excluded from the formal banking sector, is driving the financial inclusion mandate. The bank is expected to open two more branches in Hukuntsi and Kanye this year. Matambo proposed the budget of P1. 5 billion for his ministry out of which the recurrent budget amounts to P 950 million (64.8%) while development budget amounts to P515 million (35.2%).
The Botswana financial inclusion roadmap 2015 to 2021 objective is to help improve citizens’ welfare and support national objectives.
The roadmap is based on the diagnostic findings contained in making access possible. According to the research findings by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development published in 2015, formal access to finance stands at 68 percent. With most segments having broad access to financial services, 46 percent of adults use more than one product category including savings, credit, insurance and payments. “However, access is still a challenge in certain segments and 24 percent are completely excluded, mainly in the lower income, rural and remote populations.” Among the key findings pointed as the barriers to financial inclusion in Botswana, are low income and lack of understanding of financial products.
Commenting on the budget allocation on Thursday, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Bogolo Kenewendo said the tender awarding committee should be made ad hock and anonymous to reduce corruption in the tender awarding system.
“We need more deliberate efforts to fight corruption as it has hit this country so hard. We need to shift the tender committees and make them ad hock and anonymous, invite many professionals that are very experienced in structuring and closing deals in the private, public partnership projects because we have many talented and well trained Batswana,” said Kenewendo. Last year the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board introduced the Code of ethics for procurement personnel.The institution states that tender committees should be given full powers to adjudicate, award, issue instructions to tenderers and oversee project implementation.
The PPAD Act allows the Board to adjudicate and award tenders for Central Government and any other institutions specified under the PPADB Act for the delivery of works, services and supplies of related services. It also deals with the registration and grading of contractors who wishes to do business with government
She said the economic growth of the country is commendable at 4, 7 percent compared to other African countries but government should ensure that the budget speaks to this in implementation. “We need to ensure that our budget does not only speak in figures but there should be delivery and we will be able to create jobs, open doors and facilitate wealth creation in Botswana,” However, she pointed out that there is a concern as Batswana front on business reserved for them by government. “This is stealing, there should be a deliberate action and punishment to stop this. Fronting is a serious issue and we are currently looking at how we are addressing this issue as a ministry but it is also a legal issue,” she said.
She also pointed out that in the oil industry which government has identified to empower Batswana, it is alleged that Batswana are leaving it because they are offered what seems as a good deal in the short term. Presenting the 2019 Budgets Speech Minister of Finance and Economic Development Kenneth Matambo said government has already put in place measures to address some of the concerns about doing business in Botswana. He said government is keen on promoting its long standing principle of inclusive growth and equitable distribution of wealth in Botswana by giving citizens the opportunity to have ownership through privatisation of profit making public enterprises.
Recently, PPADB Supplies Executive Director, Kgakgamalo Ketshajwang told the media that the development of the code is in line with Section 90 of the PPAD Act, which mandates PPADB to ensure that a code of ethical behavior for procurement personnel is in place and enforced.
“Compliance with the provisions of the Code of Ethics is mandatory for all procurement practitioners who are engaged in the service of Procuring Entities covered under Sections 3 and 8 of the PPAD Act. This code will enhance integrity and ethical conduct of public officers handling procurement as global procurement and supply chain standard will be followed and appropriate action taken against those breaching the code,” said Ketshajwang.
The repercussions of an undiversified economy will show their ugly side into the budget in the medium to long term, a situation which will affect all and sundry, economic observers have pointed out. The 2019/2020 budget, presented by finance and economic development minister, Kenneth Matambo this week will - as it has been the case over the years -be funded in majority by revenue from minerals and Southern African Customs Union.
According to the budget speech, total revenue and grants are estimated at P60, 20 billion, a notable increase of P4 billion when compared to the 2018/9 budget which ends this March. Once more, mineral revenue dominates contribution, standing at P21, 09 billion which is 35, 62 percent of the total estimates. Customs and Excise revenue which mainly comes from SACU revenue pool is expected to add P14, 02 billion which is about 23 percent to the total budget. This means the two components contribute two thirds to the national budget.
A seemingly concerned First National Bank of Botswana Chief Economist, Moatlhodi Sebabole told Botswana Guardian on Wednesday afternoon that the current composition in revenue for Botswana ‘leaves the country very exposed’. This is made worse by the fact that SACU and mineral revenues depend on trading conditions which the country does not have control over. This means that the country’s budget is left helpless in the event that market conditions get worse.
Most minerals revenues are received from diamonds exports to major markets such as the United States, China and India. Botswana does not have any control on these markets. Sebabole, who was also part of the FNBB budget review session on Tuesday night said the current trade tensions between US and China who are among the biggest consumers of diamonds, do not bode well for the country’s revenue prospects. This situation once more calls for authorities to up the ante when it comes to economic diversification. For example, De Beers, which sells Botswana’s diamonds to the international markets, experienced its slowest sales in three years last month (January 2019) – indicating possibilities of a turbulent economic climate ahead.
The provisional rough diamond sales for the first sight, also known as sales cycle, came to about $505 million (P5 billion) - a decline of 25 percent from 2018’s first sale of $672 million and a 30 percent drop from 2017’s corresponding period which netted $720 million. Traditionally, the first sight of the year has always been the largest of the year as traders and manufacturers return to the market after working down their inventories over the festive selling period.
This clearly has sent early red flag signals to the sector, which Botswana depends dearly upon for funding of expenditure. Responding to this newspaper, Barclays Bank Botswana economist, Naledi Madala said the economy will be in for a challenge this year due to slower diamond demand. “We highlight that growth may falter in 2019 as global demand for diamonds is likely to be challenged by ongoing trade disputes (the US and China are the largest consumers of diamonds). A De Beers report also forecasts lower diamond production in 2019,” stated Madala. Based on this expected poor show by diamonds, Barclays has downgraded the country’s economic growth to 3, 9 percent, a bit less than the ambitious growth of 4, 2 percent projected by Matambo earlier this week.
For Botswana, the budget cannot be without diamonds or mineral revenues. This has been the case since the early 1970s when diamonds were first mined. By depending on SACU revenues for budget funding, Botswana is stuck in a precarious situation. SACU which is made up of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland depends on trading conditions between the five countries and external markets. South Africa, the trading bloc’s biggest contributor is currently under economic pressure and this will also affect revenue going forward, unless something dramatic happens.
According to the World Bank, South Africa’s economy will grow by 1, 3 percent this year, a downgrade when compared to the ambitious 1, 7 percent forecast made by Finance minister Tito Mboweni in November 2018. Botswana Guardian has been made aware that South Africa, Africa’s second biggest economy by GDP, continues to push for the revision of the SACU revenue sharing formula, which will ultimately affect Botswana and other countries negatively.
“It becomes even more worrisome, with South Africa intent on seeing a revision to the SACU revenue sharing formula, which could fundamentally result in declining government revenues,” stressed Jonathan Paledi, a Portfolio Manager at Inkunzi Investments.
Nonetheless, contributing to the FNBB budget review on Tuesday, Botswana Unified Revenue Services’s Acting Commissioner General, Segolo Lekau stressed that eligible taxpayers should ‘pay (domestic taxes) for the country to move forward’. In addition, he said tax exemptions as determined by government are also another factor that can boost development. BURS, is the government agency which implements tax and related tax laws in the country.
Related to this, Matambo said there is need to mobilise domestic resources for development. “To this end, efforts will continue to be made to expand our tax base through review of tax legislation and regulations, to enable the revenue authority to effectively discharge its mandate,” said Matambo.
All commentators agree that government is under pressure to diversify revenue base in its bid to move way from mining and SACU revenues. Matambo also agrees that dominance by two components to national budget is not ideal. “The country’s dependency on one commodity for exports, and two major sources of revenues, poses a systemic risk, hence, this Government pledges to continue with efforts to diversify the economy in general, and its exports and government revenues, in particular,” stated Matambo in a prepared speech.
One of the strategic initiatives identified to promote economic diversification, according to Matambo is the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD), which was established in April 2010. The EDD is based on the approach of Government using its purchasing power to support local production of goods and services. To this end, P17.2 billion or 53 percent of the total cumulative amount of P32.5 billion worth of goods and services purchased by Government since the inception of the programme was from local manufacturers and service providers. “In an effort to further enhance economic diversification, the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) policy was adopted in 2011.
The main objective of this Policy is to diversify the economic and export base of the country,” added Matambo. Another initiative aimed at promoting economic diversification is the implementation of the cluster development initiative. The Initiative aims at improving business productivity, value chains and competitiveness.
Salary negotiations for public servants are yet to start under less than a month before Minister of Finance and Economic Development Kenneth Matambo makes his annual budget speech to the nation.This publication has gathered that the negotations which were to start in December 2018 failed to take off as the parties- public sector trade unions and the employer represented by Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) - could not meet.
This seems to have been the culture for years between the two parties to fail to agree on salary increment and conditions of service for public servants before the budgeting process gets underway. In most cases negotiations have been carried over to the next financial year. Trade unions have accused the DPSM of stalling to have the negotiations kickstarted.
However, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed his wish for the unions and DPSM to conclude their negotiations before the delivery of the 2019/2020 budget. The president said this on New Year’s Eve when receiving a report on the Review of Salaries Conditions of Service and Entitlements for the Political Leadership, Justices of Court of Appeal and High Court, Members of Ntlo ya Dikgosi and Councilors.
The report was presented by the commission chairperson Justice Monametsi Gaongalelwe. The president assured public servants and union leaders that government has left some space in the budget within which to maneuver but the space cannot be as big as everyone would want.
DPSM Director Goitseone Mosalakatane could not be reached for comment as her mobile phones were not going through. Her supervisor Permanent Secretary to the President Carter Morupisi said he had not much information regarding the negotiations and Mosalakatane would be better place to talk about the issue.
“I do not have their timetable for the negotiations but in our recent meeting she told me that they should be meeting soon with the trade union party regarding the negotiations. It might be before end of this week but I am not very sure about the date because I do not have sufficient information on that,” said Morupisi in an interview.
Botswana Federation of Public, Parastatal and Private Sector Unions Deputy Secretary General Ketlhalefile Motshegwa confirmed that negotiations were scheduled to start in December last year. “As trade unions we wanted negotiations to start on the 21st of December 2018, but DPSM said they are not ready. So, we are still waiting for them to tell us as when they are ready,” said Motshegwa in an interview. Regarding the statement made by the president, the BOFEPUSU spokesperson said Dr Masisi has a propensity to announce things which his ministries and the DPSM operate parallel to.
He indicated that earlier during the State of the Nation Address, the president stated that the unions have been given a Report of Pemandu Consultancy which government commissioned to look into conditions of service of public officers.
“This was all lies, as up to now we have not been given the report. When we confronted the DPSM in our last meeting with them over this misleading announcement by the president, they could only apologise saying they do not know how the statement found the day,” he revealed.
The unionist stated that they have been promised the report before end of December 2018 but nothing has happened. Motshegwa said currently as unions they cannot share with third parties their proposals to the employer regarding increment and conditions of service.He however indicated that public servants in Botswana are currently living under severe, unpalatable and unberable conditions of service in a country so rich.
He said this was so mostly for lower scales employees some of whom though working are painfully poor and constituting the working poor. According to Motshegwa this is immoral and it’s a shame on the leaders of this country in that they have failed to instil dignity in the lives of the people despite the country being blessed with abundance of resources.
“Workers are creators of wealth of this country but sidelined to the periphery when it comes to economic distribution. It so happens that politicians always brag about how there has been developments in this country. What is disturbing is that the hard work of working people is not recognised as the national economic gains of their efforts does not translate or come with any meaningful reward for them.
“This is much driven and influenced by a capitalist system riddled with selfishness, massive corruption, a system with no regard for social justice and thus has created economic disparities, poverty and breeding many social ills,” Motshegwa said.
He pointed out that it is to that effect that as public sector trade unions they urge Government to be serious about improving the conditions of service of workers. There is need to addresses current salaries which are failing against the many economic dynamics inclduing the burden of inflation, he explained.
He added that there is urgent need for conditions of service to be reviewed for purpose of dignity at work.
Finance Minister, Kenneth Matambo has put out a begging bowl for Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) at the 5th General Assembly of the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF), this week in Gaborone.Though rated as middle income economy, Matambo said the local economy still needs assistance and has urged international donors to consider Botswana.
“There is a notion that Botswana is rich out there, we do not necessarily agree, I do not believe Botswana is rich, we have pockets of poverty here and there. We certainly most welcome any assistance from anybody,” said Matambo bemoaning that overseas’ development assistance to developing countries has declined over the years.
“The decline in ODA has spurred many of the developing countries in Africa to turn to domestic resources for financing their development needs,” said Matambo.According to the Minister, the local contribution of ODA to the budget is less than one percent, while 60 percent of Botswana’s budget sourced from domestic tax revenue and balance comes from the domestic duties and other revenues.
“The tax to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio is around 20 percent, which, though lower than in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, is very competitive among the Sub-Saharan countries,” said Matambo, highlighting that despite the relatively high tax to GDP ratio, the country’s challenge remains narrow domestic revenue base and volatility of the two main sources of mineral revenue and customs receipts.
He challenged African tax collectors to gear up mobilising domestic tax revenue to finance infrastructural development on the continent.“With the declining ODA, it is time for revenue authorities to step forward and assist governments to mobilise adequate domestic resources to finance the infrastructure development in Africa,” Matambo said.
Citing statistics, Matambo indicated that Africa’s funding gap for infrastructural growth by financing partners such as African Development Bank run into hundreds of US dollars.However, Matambo told the ATAF general assembly gathered under the theme, ‘Moving Africa beyond Aid through Tax Revenue Mobilisation’ that governments are cognizant of some of the challenges that revenue authorities face in mobilising domestic revenue for development.
“Addressing some of these challenges within the confines of the borders of your member states can be overwhelming, hence, the need for fora such as the African Tax Administration Forum to brainstorm on these issues,” said Matambo.
Over the past nine years ATAF has trained over 15 000 tax official in its 38 member states, produced a number of guidelines, guided some of the nations on tax treaties and apart from online training, the Forum has also established Tax Researchers Network of academics.“Four of our members have collected 170 million more through our intervention and would have lost it,” said Logan Wort, ATAF Executive Secretary highlighting the forum’s achievements.
Botswana recorded a second trade surplus for the month of February, indicating that the country was not importing more that it was selling outside the country.
This is according to fresh data from Statistics Botswana, which shows that, in the month under discussion, the landlocked country exported goods worth P6, 7 billion to various destinations.
The trade merchandise statistics which was signed off by Statistician General, Annah Majelantle, shows that exports ballooned by 6, 1 percent month-on-month. “This increase is mainly due to a rise of 7, 2 percent (P424, 2 million) in diamond exports,” said the statement released this week.
Experts, including the Finance and Economic Development minister, Kenneth Matambo have forecast a recovery in the diamond sector after a slump in the past few years. This was largely due to weak economic growth in major diamond markets such as the United States, Europe and China.
US is poised for a robust growth this year same as China which is expected to leapfrog by 6, 5 percent in 2017, according to Fortune magazine. Diamonds are the single biggest export revenue earner for the mining economy which has seen its efforts to diversify falter for various reasons.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if diamond exports will continue on an upward trend following South African government refusal to grant De Beers (SA) an exemption to export diamonds to Botswana for aggregation purposes. De Beers has since taken minerals minister Mosebenzi Zwane to court over the decision, which is likely to fuel tension between the two neibouring countries.
After a deal with De Beers six years ago, all diamonds from De Beers mines are aggregated in Botswana, and then exported to their various destinations, which has worked well for Botswana.
Meanwhile, statistics also shows that for the month of February, vehicle and transport equipment also picked the country’s exports. “Vehicle and transport equipment group contains mainly re-exports,” added the statement.
For the period under review, the group recorded a 100 percent increase to close February at P21, 5 million. Some of Botswana exports include beef and soda ash.
As far as imports are concerned, the country imported goods and services worth P4, 2 billion in February 2017. Fuel contributed the highest in terms of value. To power its activities, Botswana imported fuel amounting to P215, 4 million.
Machinery and electrical equipment also had a notable contribution to imports.
According to Statistics Botswana, the country recorded a trade balance of P2, 5 billion, keeping the country in a healthy balance sheet.
Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Kenneth Matambo has dismissed claims that he is planning to increase taxes. Matambo was responding to various reactions to his Budget Speech which he delivered beginning this month. Matambo this week stated that people jumped into making conclusions of the taxation matter.
In the budget speech Matambo said with mineral revenues declining and those from Southern African Custom Union (SACU) being volatile, there is an urgent need to diversify revenue base towards more sustainable and reliable sources.
“To this end, my ministry is considering proposals by the Taxation Review Committee of how to diversify the government revenue base. These proposals include adjusting various taxes, levies, permits and licenses and reviewing some tax expenditures such as VAT exemptions”.
This prompted impassioned calls from various quarters for government not to increase tax. Some MPs during their debates on the budget speech said it would be cruel for government to increase taxes while there has not been salary adjustment for public servants. The tax increase especially VAT, said economists, would have a negative impact on households.“I never said we are increasing taxes. I said we are reviewing tax structures. Given the trend of annual high expenditure we have to diversify our sources of revenue. If we do not do that, then it would mean the option we have is to restrict our expenditure, which is not a good thing. We have to seriously look at how to increase revenue. One or two taxes could be increased but I would be looking at proposals by Taxation Review Committee carefully,” explained Matambo reiterating that he is not going to make any increase.
Matambo said there is need to increase revenue to meet expenditure. He called on MPs to work with his ministry in coming up with suggestions on how to increase revenue without increasing taxes. “Tax review could also mean reduction. If you take for instance issues of Special Economic Zones there could be reduction of taxes in such areas. We can apply lower taxes in areas like Selibe Phikwe for a special purpose like economy growth and creation of employment,” said Matambo who was responding to MPs' debates on the budget speech. Matambo also took a swipe at opposition MPs accusing them of not reading the budget speech but rushing to oppose everything. He said except for MP for Gaborone Bonnington South Ndaba Gaolathe, the MPs concentrate on dismissing everything. He stated that he used to take Parliament seriously and listened attentively to debates but no longer does.
“I used to seriously take notes when MPs debate, hoping that I would reap something from opposition MPs. I have stopped taking notes because their debates have been turned into tactics of asking for votes. They just oppose and distort what is in my speech so as to appease members of the public.” Matambo also stated that his statement on employment creation has been distorted. The minister explained that what he meant was that it is not government’s primary role to create employment and not that government does not play a part. He said failure by opposition MPs to read has contributed to them always stating that there is nothing new in the budget speech.
“They say the policies and programmes have been mentioned before. It should not be surprising that the programmes and policies keep on recurring as they were discussed in State of the Nation Address and National Development Plan 11. These three are interrelated. People will keep on hearing about these programmes and policies each year because they fall under a six-year Plan.” He also condemned MPs who argue that government priorities are misplaced. Matambo said there is alignment between resources and priorities. He explained that resources allocation is made so that priorities could be achieved as stated in NDP11.
Botswana Federation of Public, Parastatal and Private Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) has castigated Minister of Finance and Economic Development Kenneth Matambo over Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC).
This comes after Matambo said this week that PSBC is a problem. The minister, who was responding to debate by Members of Parliament on the Budget Speech, said the PSBC is the one that hinders government from increasing public servants salaries. He told Parliament the route that is taken to address the issue of public servants’ salaries is not helping both the government and public servants. “If there was no PSBC, we would have increased salaries for public servants. As cabinet we would have decided to increase salaries and the public service could be preparing for the increase to be implemented effective April,” said Matambo. The minister also condemned MPs who have been calling for a 17 percent salary hike for public service workers.
He stated that this could have a negative impact on the government coffers given that government is currently operating on a deficit budget. “It is not that we do not value the public service. We value them more than any other stakeholder as government because of the input public servants make in the running of this government. We only differ on the extent of the increase,” he said.There would not be any increment for public servants in April this year. If anything, increment would come after May 2017 after High Court has handed down its ruling in a case in which BOFEPUSU wants a determination to be made regarding the scope of work for PSBC. Government and BOFEPUSU have not yet started negotiations for the 2016/17 salary increment.
The increment was expected to come into effect on the 1st of April 2017. BOFEPUSU Secretary General, Tobokani Rari hit back on Wednesday saying that Matambo’s remarks are reckless and unfortunate. He said Matambo is part of the very same Parliament which enacted the Public Service Act that caters for the PSBC. “This shows lack of respect for the PSBC by the minister. Everyone has to respect the PSBC because it is an industrial council established by law. This clearly also shows that the minister is only interested in serving the interest of those who have appointed him,” said Rari.
He stated that until laws are changed, PSBC is here to stay and everyone must respect it. He said PSBC is currently not functional because of government. “Government is the one making it difficult for PSBC to work properly. We suspect the aim is to legitimise the argument of PSBC’s ineffectiveness. When they came up with the Public Service Act they did not know that it would mean they would be partners and equals with employees at the negotiating table. This is why now they are trying to reverse such decision by amending labour laws. So Matambo’s statement is a careless one to have been made by a finance minister,” argued Rari.
Rari said the PSBC would only sit after the High Court decides on their case in May this year. “There would be no increment any time soon until the matter has been decided. We have notified our members about this development and they have given us the go ahead with the case to guard against the integrity of the PSBC. There will be an inflationary impact on public servants but they have told us that they are prepared to live with it for the interest of protecting the PSBC”.