Office of the President (OP)
Botswana-Mauritius Share Common Values and Interests Welcome to another edition of your weekly window into events and issues involving the Presidency. This morning His Excellency the President, Lt. General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, will be awarding medals to deserving members of the Botswana Police Service, while tomorrow he will attend the annual Police Day celebrations at Molepolole Stadium. The highlight of the past week was the President’s hosting of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius, the Rt. Honourable Dr. Navichandra Ramgoolam, who arrived on Monday for a two day Official Visit. The visit was an opportunity for the two countries to deepen their bilateral relations, while reaffirming their common values and interests. Botswana and Mauritius are often paired as Africa’s two oldest multi-party democracies, which since independence have in each case also enjoyed high economic growth and social development. On Monday evening, the President hosted the visiting Prime Minister for a State Dinner, during which he expressed his gratitude that last year’s signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Mauritius Cardiac Centre has resulted in the performance of cardiac surgeries at Princess Marina Hospital. He further observed that the agreement has reduced the local cost of cardiac surgery, while also providing for the transfer of medical skills to Batswana by Mauritian specialists. His Excellency also hoped that the two countries broaden their collaboration in such fields as tourism and Air and Financial Services. In response, Prime Minister Ramgoolam voiced his admiration for Botswana’s international reputation for the prudent management of public resources. Observing that his visit coincided with the arrival of a sizable Mauritian business delegation, he also expressed optimism that the two countries could forge win-win economic partnerships, adding that: “We also look forward to opportunities that will come forth in the Botswana Innovation Hub project.” On Tuesday morning the two leaders held official talks at the Office of the President, following a private bilateral meeting. At the talks the President was joined by H.H. the Vice President, Lt. General Mompati Merafhe, and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Health, Transport and Communications and Trade and Industry, as well as the Permanent Secretary to the President; while the Mauritian Prime Minister was joined by his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade, Secretary to Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service, and other senior officials. In welcoming remarks, His Excellency thanked the Prime Minister for the reception he and his delegation had received during the President’s 2009 State Visit to Mauritius. He further welcomed the fact that the visiting Mauritian business delegation would be meeting with members of the local business community, in order to explore mutually beneficial partnerships. The President also noted that already a number of Mauritian companies had been set up in Botswana, with six manufacturing companies having collectively invested over 100 million into our economy. For his part, the Prime Minister expressed his own strong desire to build upon the existing and mutually beneficial partnerships in such areas as ICT, textiles and tourism. With respect to the latter, some tourism stakeholders are reportedly exploring ways to expand “Beach and Bush” packages that would allow international visitors to sample Botswana’s wilderness and wildlife, as well as the surf and sand of Mauritius. Following the talks the two leaders departed for Molepolole, where the Prime Minister was the Guest of Honour at the official opening of the Molepolole Institute of Health Sciences. At the event, he commended Government for its delivery of enhanced health services to Batswana, noting that health and education were pillars upon which human resource empowerment for economic development and poverty reduction were achieved. He further praised Botswana for its socio-economic progress since independence, observing that: “Prosperity and progress do not occur by themselves. They demand leadership, vision, dogged determination and hard work.” The Mauritian Prime Minister departed for home on Tuesday evening. Also during the week that was, the President’s schedule included briefings by the Ministries of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism and Minerals, Energy and Water Affairs. On Wednesday he accepted the Credentials of the incoming High Commissioner for the Federal Republic of Nigeria, H.E. Mr. Okubotin Charles Cocodia. Following the ceremony the High Commissioner noted that Nigeria was working with Botswana and neighbouring countries on the possibility of directly exporting petroleum to the region. To further reduce costs the prospect of a local refinery is also being explored. On Thursday, Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, the Hon. Mokgweetsi Masisi, was a Guest of Honour at the Limkokwing University Graduation ceremony. Last weekend, the Minister was also the Guest of Honour at a Francistown UCCSA Fundraiser. While in the North-East he further inspected poverty eradication projects. In Parliament, the Minister responded to Members Questions on the President’s salary and upkeep, which were revealed to be modest by regional standards, the appointment of Director General Counsel, to provide appropriate in-house legal services to the President, and Government’s proactive follow-up Election Observer Mission recommendations.
"Botswana is rightly regarded as the great success story of post-independence Africa" - Throup Report The week that was During the past week, H.E. the President, Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, presided over two meetings of Cabinet, his party's Central Committee and briefings by the Ministries of Agriculture and Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Discussions with Agriculture focused on ongoing progress in bringing Foot & Mouth Disease under control and reopening BMC access to the EU market. With respect to arable production, it is notable that the total area planted in 2010/11 is 11% greater than the previous season. Yesterday, the President addressed dikgotla and greeted the residents of Mmokolodi, Gabane, Metsimotlhabe and Mmopane in the Kweneng South East Constituency. In Parliament the Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, the Hon. Mokgweetsi Masisi, responded to Members questions on the use of the National Anthem, voter qualification and overseas voter registration. As previously reported, last week OP participated in the annual Botswana Consumer Fair. This week we are pleased to report that the Department of Information Services scooped position one in the media category at the Fair's Prize Giving, while Broadcasting Services achieved third position in the same category. The Throup Report Last Friday a statement of concern was issued over series of articles published in a local newspaper, which falsely claimed to be based on an AFRICOM (US military) compiled intelligence report. The freely available report - "Botswana: Assessing Risks to Stability" - is not an official, much less intelligence report. It is rather one of a series of ten academic studies, which were published online at the time of their release by CSIS, a Washington D.C. based NGO. As the USA embassy has confirmed, the American military's only link to the report was its sponsorship of the CSIS study series. As CSIS itself further states "all views expressed in the report are solely those of its author", a British academic named Dr. David Throup In the context the 18 page report's focus as a risk assessment on speculative academic projections of "worst case scenarios", we are encouraged by the study's many accolades, more especially its positive conclusion. Taken as a whole, Throup's final analysis is clearly inconsistent with some of the interpretations that have appeared in the media, making one wonder whether a few of those who have embraced the report have actually bothered to read it. For our readers benefit, reproduced below is the entire text of the Throup's conclusion: "Botswana is quite unlike any other African state. It is essentially a rentier state that is dependent on its mineral wealth. But unlike most African rentier states, its revenue from diamonds has been well spent on improving the road network, providing schools and health clinics, boreholes and barbed wire, and an extensive network of social services and short-term employment-generating activities. ""GDP per capita is now 100 times higher than it was at independence. This is a real achievement. An arid, poverty stricken, landlocked state has been turned into one of the wealthiest societies on the African continent. "Moreover Botswana is a true nation, endowed with a strong sense of pride in its achievements, rather than a state without political legitimacy. By virtually any criteria, Botswana has been well ruled for the past 45 years. Democracy and open political debate are firmly entrenched and defended, and it is not riven by ethnic or sectarian cleavages. "In comparison with other countries in this study, this places Botswana in a fortunate circumstance. Under normal circumstances, few indicators suggest that the current development strategy will not work for the next 10 years. Growth will continue. "Botswana is widely regarded as a model for the continent. It will not implode or even face serious problems. There are few politically and virtually no ethnic pressures posing serious challenge within that time frame. But over a longer period, Botswana will have to grapple with serious social difficulties and make fundamental economic decisions. "The tried-and-tested development paradigm is coming to an end of its utility. A new, micro-economic, job-generating approach is essential. Without it, disaster lies ahead, but not until the 2020s or 2030s or, if Botswana is lucky, the 2040s - and by then the world will have been transformed and the day of reckoning may never come." Given the above, it is unfortunate that some media practitioners appear eager to drag others down through their sensationalised and misleading reporting, such as the blatant mischaracterization of both the nature and conclusions of Dr. Throup's risk analysis. Such criticism should not be misconstrued to imply that this office fails to appreciate the contributions of a free press in a free society such as ours. As the President recently observed: "Contrary to what some may assume, we appreciate the fact that the news media is a watchdog for our own good governance. They certainly do keep us informed and on our toes. However, when they become irresponsible, unbalanced or misleading they can cause damage to the reputation of our country as a whole as well as their own credibility."
"Botswana-Mozambique Partner for Development" Welcome once more to your weekly window into the Presidency. On Saturday His Excellency the President, Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama returned from his successful State Visit to Mozambique, where he had gone at the invitation of his counterpart, H.E. President Armando Guebuza. The visit culminated in the signing of a total of 10 Memorandum of Understanding with Mozambique for cooperation in such areas as transport, minerals and energy, control of cattle diseases, health, education and human resource development, taxation and the abolition of VISA requirements. Mozambique will also establish a museum in our country honouring their founding father Samora Machel, who lived in Lobatse during the early 1960s. With respect to transport both countries agreed to invest in projects that will enhance Botswana’s access to the Indian Ocean. For its part Mozambique announced plans to invest approximately P 2.5 billion to double capacity of the Port of Maputo. Both countries further confirmed their intention to construct of a new deep water port in Mozambique’s Techobanine region, which will be linked to Botswana, via Zimbabwe, by a railway and oil pipeline. The upgraded facilities will allow Botswana to export up to 20 million tons of coal and other minerals through Mozambique, while receiving fuel and other imports. Both countries are further linked by our joint participation in the East Africa Undersea cable initiative, which will ensure enhanced international connectivity. In his remarks at a State Banquet in his honour, the President observed that the multiple visits that he and President Guebuza have made to each other’s countries over the past two years is a reflection of the strength of the bilateral relationship. His Excellency noted that since 2005 cooperation between the two countries has been broadened and deepened through the regular meetings of the Joint Permanent Commission for Cooperation. The President also noted that the Southern African region as a whole continues to experience political challenges, which should be addressed through concerted and collective efforts, adding that: “Botswana is deeply concerned about the unconstitutional changes of government that still occur on our continent like in Madagascar, tarnishing Africa’s image in the international community. Botswana is on record for its condemnation of these unfortunate developments and is committed to applying necessary measures to discourage this trend.” Other Events During the week His Excellency received quarterly progress briefings from the Ministries of Infrastructure, Science and Technology and Labour and Home Affairs. In the case of Infrastructure discussion focused on ongoing interventions with respect to delayed project, which remain an area of serious concern given Government’s commitment to delivery. The President was also briefed on the progress of the campaign to curb alcohol abuse. In addition he met with the new BOCCIM President, Mr. Alex Letlhogonolo Monchusi, and received a courtesy call from the reigning Miss Botswana, Ms. Karabo Sampson. Yesterday morning, His Excellency opened the new Ngoma Lodge in Chobe Enclave. The President noted the event was a milestone for local tourism as the Lodge is the product of a meaningful Joint Venture Partnership between a community based organization, the Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust and the Ngoma Management Company. In other matters the President sent out an appeal for food aid to Somalia. He also consulted with the Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, Zambian President H.E Rupiah Banda, on the political situation in Malawi, which is expected to be taken up at the SADC Summit. Vice President and Acting President While the President was in Mozambique, the Minister of Infrastructure, Science and Technology, the Hon. Johnny Swartz served as Acting President, as H.H. the Vice President, Lt. Gen. Mompati Merafhe has been away for a medical evaluation in South Africa. As Acting President, Hon. Swartz opened the annual Judicial Conference, which this year was held under the theme: Enhancing Access to Justice and service Delivery through Judicial Reforms". In his remarks he noted that international institutions rate Botswana governance very high and the independence of the Judiciary is a yardstick used to measure our performance. He further observed that: “We realize that this independence can be reinforced by the conditions which judicial officers operate under and generally by their competitive terms and conditions of service. Government is currently engaged in looking at the terms and conditions of service of magistrates and I can assure you that everything will be done to expedite the conclusion of this exercise. We did this with the full understanding and appreciation of the needs of the Judiciary in meeting the rising levels of litigation.” The Acting President also took part in last Friday’s OP Community Service Day at Gakuto, where Office staff donated blankets to needy individuals and planted fruit trees and herbs at the Kgotla, School and local clinic. Consumer Fair This past week and coming weekend, the Office of the President has been participating in the annual Botswana Consumer Fair at Fairground Holdings. Departments and Units participating include Information and Broadcasting, National Disaster Management Office, Printing and Publishing Services, Appeals, People Living with Disabilities Coordination, and Government Communications E-Portal. We hope to see some of you there.
PRESIDENT THANKS PUBLIC SERVANTS Welcome once more to your weekly window into the Presidency. A highlight of the past week was the convening in Mahalapye of the 34th National Congress of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party. In his Keynote Address to the Congress, H.E. the President, Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, spoke at length about the recent public service strike, reiterating that Government remains mindful that inflation has eroded workers earnings of its workers, further observing that: “”It is not that the Government does not know the effects of inflation on ordinary households, including public sector employees, and that there is a need to increase salaries, but we are without means to increase them in our present economic and financial circumstances.” The President went on to thank the majority of public servants who, despite feeling the effects of inflation, chose not to go on strike. He also announced that the 3% pay increase that shall be given to public sector workers in September will not be extended to political leaders. Before departing for Mahalapye, the President bestowed the “Golden Star Award” to Mr. Kutlo Kebaikanye, for his having been this nation’s top performer in the 2010 BGCSE Examinations. The award, along with other academic prizes that were conferred at a subsequent ceremony, was sponsored by a donation from the Diamond Empowerment Fund. The President’s schedule this week included chairing Cabinet and receiving a progress brief from the Ministry of Local Government. Yesterday, he greeted residents and addressed Kgotla meetings at Pitseng, Seherelela, Sesu and Selokolela in the Ngwaketse South Constituency. H.H. the Vice President Also yesterday, H.H. the Vice President, Lt. Gen. Mompati Merafhe, opened a meeting of SADC Ministers responsible for Agriculture and Food Security, an event that included the formal launching of the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development in Southern Africa, which is based in Gaborone. In his remarks, the Vice President reminded delegates of their collective commitment to prioritise agriculture for poverty eradication and sustainable food security, as reflected in such regional instruments as the “Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security”, the Regional Indicative Strategy Development Plan and the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme. His Honour also noted that, for its part, Botswana has come up with a roadmap for poverty eradication, which has identified and funded backyard gardening, bee keeping, small stock and nurseries as key areas in the agricultural sector that can contribute to poverty eradication. The Minister On Monday, the Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, the Hon. Mokgweetsi Masisi, opened the 7th Pan African All Reading Conference, which was hosted by UB. In his remarks the Minister stressed the relationship between eradicating illiteracy and poverty, observing that there is a correlation between the two throughout the continent. The Minister also responded to questions raised in Parliament. Issues addressed included the good work of the President’s Housing Appeal, the constitutional status of Ntlo-ya-Dikgosi, the editorial parameters of state media and the fact that, contrary to a persistent rumour, State House is on state land (a legal status that dates back to the 1890’s). He further informed Parliament that so far 957 dismissed essential services employees have been re-employed, including 34 are doctors, 470 nurses, and 453 from other professions. He also confirmed that as Government has not refused to certify professional certificates for dismissed employees, further adding that none of the dismissed employees have been blacklisted. Media Responses This Office circulated a statement expressing its disappointment at recent unwarranted criticism of the Commander of the BDF for remarks we view as having been twisted and taken out of context in various media reports, noting that he had stressed that the BDP has and will continue to at all times respect the constitution. The Executive also expressed its disappointment at Parliament’s annulment of the recently issued Statutory Instrument adding Diamond, Teaching and Veterinary Services to the Schedule of Essential Services covered under the Trades Dispute Act. The statement further affirmed the administration’s intention to bring the matter back to Parliament as soon as it is appropriate. This Office also commented on an article that recently appeared in a weekly South African, as well as local newspaper, whose clear object is to tarnish the President and two former Presidents. In the case of the current President its author twisted an acknowledged investment in a Linyanti tourist concession with a lodge in the CKGR, in which he has no stake. Now that we are seeing media reports from across the border reporting that “South Africa’s strike season is underway” we wonder if sections of the same media will report this circumstance in the alarmist and speculative fashion that they had adopted during our own recent industrial action. President’s Day This coming Tuesday His Excellency will be the guest of honour at this year’s President’s Day Awards Ceremony. President’s Day holiday began as a celebration of political sovereignty. Before 1966, the colonial administration had celebrated its imperial sovereignty as “Queen’s day”. Replacing Mmamosadinyana’s with President’s Day was thus symbolic of the break from foreign rule to democratic self-rule. The holiday has now also become be an occasion to celebrate our country’s rich and varied cultural heritage.
A Regal Reminder Welcome once more to your weekly window into the Presidency. This morning, H.E. the President, Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, will have the pleasure of giving an award to the student with the best 2010 BGCSE examinations results. Thereafter he will go to Mahalapye, where later today he will open the Congress of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party. A highlight of the past week was the visit of H.R.H. Princess Ann of the United Kingdom, who paid a courtesy call on H.E. the President on Tuesday. The presence in our country of the Queen's daughter, following last year's visit by her grandsons, Princes William and Henry, underscored the warmth of the Botswana-UK bilateral relationship, which is reflected personal ties to our country by members of the British royal family dating back to the time of Mmamosadinyana. At this week's local celebration of Queen Elizabeth II's 85th birthday, Princess Ann had the opportunity to meet with a few of our surviving World War II veterans, who recalled having also been on hand to greet her grandfather King George VI at Lobatse in 1947. On the latter occasion Princess Ann's mother, then Princess Elizabeth, had also been present. Earlier, Princess Ann laid a wreath at the monument honouring Botswana's wartime sacrifice. Presidential engagements During the week His Excellency met with the Deputy Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Ms. Fatou Bensouda. Following the meeting, Ms. Bensouda commended Botswana for its steadfast commitment to the work of the ICC, as most recently reflected in our support for the enforcement of the arrest warrant recently issued for the prosecution of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. ICC representatives were in Gaborone this week to participate in a regional workshop for journalists on International Criminal Law. With the approach of his party's Congress, as well as this week's reconvening of Parliament, much of the President's schedule was focused on political matters, including hosting a luncheon for BDP Parliamentarians, which contrary to one media report included members of Cabinet as well as the back bench, and chairing a meeting of its Central Committee. This week's Presidential briefings included presentations by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Finance and Development Planning and Environment Wildlife and Tourism. Additional activities by the President since our last edition included his weekend visit to Lobatse, where he conducted a walkabout in the Woodhall Ward and attended a cultural talent competition. This Office subsequently issued a statement expressing its disappointment at media reports suggesting that the President's chance encounter with one Woodhall resident, who was recorded expressing her misgivings about having participated in the recent civil servants strike, was somehow a "set up" or had otherwise been "choreographed". The statement also expressed deep concern about the fact that this Office had received reliable information that following the encounter, the lady in question has been harassed and even threatened. Further evidence of this sad development subsequently emerged in various independent media reports. Clearly such malicious behaviour is not in keeping with our society's tradition of tolerance and mutual respect. This Office further responded to media reports which have misinterpreted remarks made by His Excellency during his visit to the Letlhakeng West Constituency. In his remarks, the President observed that while the Public Service constituted some 7% of the total population, Government has to also be concerned about the interests of the other 93% of Batswana, which included the unemployed, underemployed and those in the private sector. In this respect, in his full remarks the President did not say that 93% of Batswana were unemployed, as some have reported. This Office has also noted with particular concern continued reports of some teachers failing to carry out their professional responsibilities, including allegations that a few are engaging in political advocacy in the place of proper subject teaching. Such inappropriate activities shall not be tolerated. Vice President opens haemodialysis centre H.H. the Vice President, Lt. General Mompati Merafhe's was the Guest of honour at the official opening of Riverside Hospital Kidney and Dialysis in Francistown. The Centre's opening brings to three the number of haemodialysis centres in our country. In his remarks for the occasion the Vice President affirmed and commended the increasing role now being played by the private sector, alongside Government, in catering for the health needs of Batswana, further noting that: "Private health facilities such as Tati River Clinic and Riverside Hospital go a long way to augment the efforts of Government in the provision of quality health care services as well as employment creation...I am pleased to learn that Riverside Hospital is networking with some of the best centres in the world in that way bringing home technological expertise and enhancing capacity building." Also In keeping with their community service commitments, Office of the President staff were pleased to be associated with the "2011 Disability Tour", which was kicked off in Lobatse last week and ends today in Mahalapye. The event has been spearheaded by the Botswana Council of Churches and Botswana Council for the Disabled together with the South African Action for World Evangelism (SAAWE).
Experts applaud Botswana's Economic Management H.E. the President returned to Botswana on Saturday amid reports that the five public service workers unions affiliated to BOFEPUSU had decided to suspend their strike. This positive development was confirmed the following day in a meeting between the unions' representatives and the DPSM. Government welcomed the union's decision, while reminding those essential services workers who were dismissed for defying the Industrial Court's order of the need for them to apply for re-employment with DPSM, further reaffirming that all such applications would be expeditiously attended to. On Monday morning, His Excellency was briefed by the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, the Hon. Mokgweetsi Masisi, and others on matters relating to the strike. In the aftermath of the strike's suspension, Government appreciates the fact that the majority of public service workers remained on duty during the period, while the majority of those who did go on strike remained law abiding. The Botswana Police Service has received praise for its professional conduct in upholding public order and safety. The suspension of the strike coincided with an announcement by Moody's Investor Services that, notwithstanding our current economic difficulties, Botswana would once more retain the highest credit rating in Africa. Moody's specifically endorsed Government's refusal to give into unsustainable wage demands, while still facing a budget deficit, as evidence of sound executive leadership, noting that Government's continued commitment to the prudent economic management should ensure long term recovery and growth - "it signals to us that the Government is very serious about its budget strategy, the easy thing would be to give in." Echoing similar recent findings by the IMF and Standard and Poor's, Moody's further observed that while Botswana's economy has been especially hard hit by the global economic downturn it has now "bounced back". The views of international market observers about our country's prospects are generally consistent with the expert analysis of our own Bank of Botswana, which on Tuesday hosted the President and members of Cabinet for its annual briefing. In a subsequent statement, the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee announced that it had decided to maintain its Bank Rate at 9.5 percent. The statement observed that while the medium term outlook for inflation continued to be positive, it was currently being pushed upwards by increased fuel and electricity costs. The Bank further observed that while both domestic and global economic recovery appears sustainable, growth around the world currently remains sluggish, uneven and vulnerable to events, such as the recent calamities in Japan and unrest in the Middle East. During the week, the President also received a detailed briefing from the Department of Youth on the ongoing progress of its various youth empowerment initiatives such as the Youth Development Fund, Young Farmers Fund and Youth Exchange and Exposition Programmes, which were given additional impetus in the aftermath of last year's Youth Pitso. On Wednesday afternoon and Thursday, His Excellency was in the Letlhakeng West Constituency were he consulted with people and addressed dikgotla at Motokwe, Salajwe, and Tsetseng. Today the President's schedule includes a farewell courtesy call by the outgoing Canadian High Commissioner. OP has also acknowledged US Secretary of State Mrs. Hillery Clibnton's renewed praise of our country as a benchmark of democracy and good governance, in her Monday address at the African Union in Addis Ababa. Her remarks are further evidence of the continued good name our country enjoys among international political as well as economic observers, notwithstanding the efforts of a few to undermine our reputation. We are, of course, now all looking forward to next weekend's scheduled Gaborone visit by US First lady Michelle Obama. H.H. the Vice President The President's return from the USA coincided with H.H. the Vice President, Lt. Gen. Mompati Merafhe's, departure for Guateng, where he led the Botswana delegation at two consecutive Summits, which were held there over the weekend. On Saturday, His Honour attended an Extraordinary SADC Summit, which has been convened to receive and consider a report on the political situation in Zimbabwe by the SADC mediator, South African President Jacob Zuma, as well as to further consider the unresolved political conflict in Madagascar. Speaking to journalists, the Vice President noted that the political impasse in Zimbabwe was hampering regional efforts to achieve greater economic integration. He further stressed that before any elections were held in Zimbabwe there was a need for proper mechanism to be first put in place to ensure that the poll would be free, fair and peaceful. With respect to Madagascar he reaffirmed Botswana's position that any solution to conflict must be inclusive of all of the principle parties. On Sunday, His Honour attended the 2nd Comesa-EAC-SADC Tripartite Summit of Heads of State and Government, which reported good progress on the establishment of a Free Trade Area for Southern and Eastern Africa. As a reflection of our own commitment to greater regional cooperation, His Honour was joined by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Trade and Industry and Finance and Development Planning
Still shining but not invulnerable Welcome once more to your weekly window into the Presidency. Notwithstanding the negative effects of the ongoing strike by a segment of public the service, this past week our country was in the global spotlight for its emerging economic prospects and traditional political stability. On Tuesday Standard & Poor's Ratings Services reaffirmed its confidence in the macro-economic policies of Government and the Bank of Botswana by maintaining its “A” credit ratings. In a globally circulated press release the agency noted that: "Botswana's stable politics, track-record of prudent macroeconomic policies, and high level of transparency are strong by emerging market standards…abundant diamond resources, well-managed and exploited, and a social-democratic-style welfare state, have helped Botswana to develop from one of the world's poorest countries to a middle-income country.” The S&P statement, however, warned that our current economic recovery could come undone if the Government were to abandon its efforts to control and reduce its deficit spending. Renewed confidence in Botswana was also globally communicated on Tuesday by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in a statement issued at the end of a two week mission here to consult on recent economic developments. Among other things IMF concluded that: “Thanks in large part to good policies supported by a rebound in diamond exports, the Botswana economy is now back onto a strong growth trajectory." The mission further praised government's current spending priorities noting that: “The mission supports a number of ongoing government initiatives to improve public financial management, including better prioritization of overall government spending, emphasis on maintenance and refurbishment of existing infrastructure projects rather than initiating new projects..." But, the IMF also expressed continued concern about Government's large share of total GDP as reflected in the public sector wage bill which it characterized as being "unsustainable": "...the mission’s view is that wage policy should be prudent and any nominal adjustment made in FY2011/12 would need to be financed by either over performance in revenues or expenditure savings generated elsewhere in the budget so that the budget deficit remains unchanged. Going forward, the government would need to reduce the size of the wage bill as a share of GDP as this remains rather high relative to comparator countries and is not sustainable. Reducing the wage bill would also require efforts to make the public service leaner and more efficient." Faced with similar advice from the IMF and others in the past, H.E. the President and his advisors have remained mindful of the social as well as economic costs of putting people out of work. As the Hon. Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration most recently observed at a briefing on the strike: “During the economic recession, Government took a deliberate decision to avoid retrenchments and salary reduction in the public service, and even assisted some private sector companies in the mining and textiles sectors to maintain current jobs and incomes. This was made possible by running huge budget deficits, and maintaining high expenditures despite lower revenues.” The Minister also reminded those in attendance that last year Government incurred additional costs in order to comply with the provisions of the new Public Service Act by paying all public service employees who are on permanent and pensionable terms for a 22-day month instead of the 20-day month, further observing that: “This resulted in a 10% increase to the Government Wage Bill, in actual Pula this amounts to about P700 million. The public sector wages cost Government P 12 billion annually, which is more than the P 10 billion allocated for development projects during this financial year.” Botswana’s enviable international standing was still further highlighted this week by the release of the 2011 Global Peace Index (GPI). As in past, this year’s index once again listed Botswana as among the world’s most stable societies, as well as number one in Africa. Our world ranking was 35 out of the 153 countries, placed us immediately ahead of France and well above such democratic friends as Brazil (74), the USA (82) and South Africa (118). The obvious question in light of ongoing events is will we be able to maintain this enviable position? That some Government workers are on strike need not, in itself, become a long-term threat. Strikes can and do occur in the life in any democracy, which is why our country has appropriate laws and mechanisms in place for managing such circumstance, which are fully consistent with relevant ILO protocols. The danger rather lies when the democratic and legal right of workers to go on strike is corrupted by those willing to incite others to break the law through such actions as ignoring court orders and vandalising public property. In this respect the Index is a useful reminder of where we have been and should remain - a nation whose social and economic progress as well as peace and stability is rooted in our respect for one another and the rule of law.
President addresses HLCC and Nation on Strike Welcome once more your weekly window into the Presidency. H.E. the President, Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama will be in Namibia today attending the Extraordinary SADC Summit. The Summit is expected to discuss regional political issues, including the unresolved conflict in Madagascar and the status of the SADC Tribunal. The President is scheduled to return home this evening. During the week His Excellency’s announced the appointment of the Hon. Dr. Gloria Somolekae to Cabinet as the new Assistant Minister of Finance and Development Planning. She replaced the Hon. Vincent Seretse who was transferred to the Ministry of Trade and Industry in place of the Hon. Maxwell Motowane, who in turn replaced the Hon. Kentse Rammidi at Local Government. On Thursday, the President chaired the 30th meeting of the High Level Consultative Council (HLCC). The biannual meetings of the HLCC bring together senior representatives of Government, the private sector and additional key stakeholders to discuss ways of ensuring that Botswana becomes a more productive and prosperous nation. The work of the HLCC is supported by regular meetings of economic sector sub-committees within each Ministry. Besides addressing industry specific issues, yesterday’s meeting provided an opportunity for His Excellency to not only address the HLCC but also the nation, through the public and private press in attendance, on the ongoing strike action by a segment of public sector employees. The President reminded the gathering that Government spending remains in deficit, with a projected revenue shortfall of P 7 billion in the current financial year. He further noted that public sector wages already cost Government P 12 billion annually, considerably more than the P 10 billion allocated for development this year. A 16% wage increase would thus add nearly P 2 billion more to the budget deficit, in the absence of deep cuts elsewhere. The President further cited continued volatility in the economy, due to internal and external developments, such as rising fuel prices and the earthquake in Japan, to explain why Government had made a conditional offer of a 5% increase, which would be implemented if Government stayed within its budget projections. He also confirmed that Government had also offered an unconditional 3% increase. His Excellency noted that unlike many other countries burdened with budget deficits Botswana had not cut public sector salaries or jobs. He expressed his regret that this fact was not appreciated by those on strike. The President also reminded the meeting that Government was committed to spending large sums of money on critical infrastructure projects such as new power stations to ensure the country’s economic future, while at the same time assisting Batswana through various social welfare and empowerment programmes such as Ipelegeng (50,000 monthly beneficiaries at an annual cost of P330 million), ISPAAD (currently 156,000 beneficiaries at P 200 million) and Poverty Eradication (64,000 beneficiaries at P 100 million). Summing up the challenge the President promised that he would not take any decision that would drive the country deeper in debt, noting that one cannot give what one does not have. Earlier in the week the President had also spoke at the Mmopane Kgotla about the need for Government to live within its means, while carefully balancing its spending priorities for the equitable benefit of all Batswana. He affirmed that Government remained committed to assisting those most in need. He was in Mmopane to participate in this month’s Office of the President Community Service Day activities, which involved environmental clean-up and the donation of winter blankets, jackets and wheelchairs to the needy. One of the most unfortunate outcomes of the strike has been the recent outbreak of violent unrest in some schools. As a result Government took the decision on Monday to close all Government primary and secondary schools until further notice. This step was taken out of concern about the safety and security of students, teachers and members of the public, as well as public and private property. As H.H. the Vice President, Lt. Gen. Mompati Merafhe informed the nation on Monday evening, the closure will give time to restore a proper learning environment. In this regard, His Honour noted that Botswana has progressed on the basis of our paramount value of Botho, and respect for the rule of law, adding: “It will take time, money and sacrifice to undo the damage that has been caused by a few to our economy. This means that we shall face serious difficulties in repairing, fixing and rebuilding facilities in schools that may have been damaged. As a result, the welfare and future learning of our children will be further compromised. On behalf of Government and all Batswana, I appeal to all those bent on disturbing the peace to refrain from any destructive behaviour, more especially injury to fellow Batswana, and damage to property.” The Vice President will be in his home village of Mahalapye this morning, where address residents at the main Kgotla for the first time since his return to duty. Tomorrow he will return to the Mahalapye Kgotla as the guest of honour at this year’s National Culture Day celebration.
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