Gaborone — For Botswana to continue being an African developmental success story, the country needs to chart a new course since current methods of governance have started to stagnate, two of the four presidential candidates in the upcoming general elections have said.
Speaking during a debate organised by the Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO) and the Botswana Sectors of Education Trade Unions (BOSETU) in Gaborone on October 11, Alliance for Progressives (AP) leader, Mr Ndaba Gaolathe and his counterpart from the Botswana Patriotric Front (BPF), Mr Biggie Butale promised to usher in a new era if elected into power.
The two other presidential candidates- incumbent State President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), and the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) president Advocate Duma Boko, whose parties are the only ones which have fielded candidates in all the 57 parliamentary constituencies, had excused themselves from the debate.
Mr Gaolathe said Botswana was currently in a 'do or die' situation where the country could sink into an abyss of a dark age if current methods of economic planning were to continue over the next five years.
"Half of our people live close to poverty, the nation is divided between the elite and the poor, the median income is less than P2 200 per month, and most of our people live in crowded conditions, they only have access to poor health and education, and we live in a constitutional dictatorship where opportunities are hidden from the majority by a minority," Mr Gaolathe said.
He said the time was nigh for the country to pursue a new vision, where the quality of life improved for all, where opportunities would be availed for people to acquire skills and knowledge, to speak their views freely, and express their language, culture, literature with pride.
Mr Gaolathe said in their manifesto they planned to pursue this by working to double median income, attracting billions from entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, multilateral organisation, invest in an ambitious infrastructure development programme, broadband high speed internet and inspire business models in the information, communications technology (ICT) sector.
He said if given the chance to govern, AP would invest in the construction of railway line extensions, dry ports, state of the art airport, new towns, dual north-south roads, upgrading the national electricity power grid, commercial agriculture and food processing with more hectares of land to be added to be availed for agricultural production.
Mr Gaolathe said the state, acting in concert with private partners and investors would look to use the country's resources and human capital to create a large company that would generate around P10 billion by 2026, plus about 10 others that would generate in the region of P2 billion.
Mr Butale on the other hand said the BPF had a clear vision and had identified priority areas to work on which include sustainable job creation, economic diversification, improving infrastructure, and the moving towards heavy manufacturing.
He said jobs could be created through the hiring of qualified but unemployed teachers, teacher aides and doctors in order to reduce the teacher-pupil and doctor-patient ratios, and said the beneficiation of minerals could also generate wealth and jobs.
Downstream activities in minerals such as diamonds, coal, and uranium could make Botswana a manufacturing economy and a net energy exporter, Mr Butale said, and added that the country should invest in the trans-Kalahari railway line to link the country's mining areas to Namibia's ports.
"We need to leverage on tourism. We have the Okavango, Chobe, and need to add the Kalahari and south areas like Gaborone to our tourism package. Most of the population is young, we should tap on the youth dividend by coming up with an innovative youth development programme. In government we would get rid of inertia and red tape and ensure equity, fairness and social justice," Mr Butale said.
He further said that countries that recorded marketed significant economic progress had pursued targeted immigration by inviting people with requisite skills to become residents or citizens, and said a country with a small population like Botswana should consider the same.
Source : BOPA