Botswana: Doubt Over P2 Billion COVID-19 Relief Fund

Amid their concern about government's proposed budget towards the recently established COVID-19 Relief Fund, the country's main business representative body, Business Botswana (BB) is now hesitating to support the fund.

Government has capitalized the fund which is meant to assist mitigate the impact of Covid-19 pandemic in Botswana with P2 billion. President Mokgweetsi Masisi as well as the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng have since pleaded with individuals and the private sector to also contribute to the fund. It appears that Business Botswana which is quizzical about the amount of money pledged by government remains unsure as to whether they should also come to the party and support the government request. "As Business Botswana we have required and we continue to request of how did they arrive at that P2 billion," the organization's President, Gobusamang Keebine said during a press conference on Tuesday. The organization believes that the proposed budget must be a discussed matter taking all into consideration.

Keebine is concerned that government did not consult the private sector about the amount it has already put into the fund. He is of the view that before concluding to the P2 billion budget government should have first engaged the private sector for the two parties to come up with a budget which they both think is realistic.

"We want to believe that a more representative case would have been seating around a table as the private sector, banks, and all relevant stakeholders together with government to work out what we think should be a proper package that can go towards helping Batswana," Keebine suggested.

Keebine said at this current point they remain undecided as to whether they should or should not support the request made by government. "The 2 billion is a statement from the president, and we are saying its difficult for us to support or not support it at this stage because we do not know how did they arrive at that amount."

In a statement Business Botswana said they however remain committed at supporting government during this times. The organization has also revealed that they are working on a private sector relief and recovery plan which they will share with government in due course.

Keebine revealed that as the private sector they have also opened up a fund of their own requesting for contributions from amongst themselves. He explained that they will thereafter engage government as to how the money collected can be used towards the fight against covid-19.

That as it may several companies operating in Botswana continue to respond positively to the government appeal by pledging their monetary support towards the fund. Amongst those include Turnstar Holdings Limited which has already pledged one million Pula into the fund.

Meanwhile Finance and Economic Development Minister, Dr Thapelo Matsheka has revealed that one of the component that will be financed by the relief fund will be the wage subsidy to employees of businesses affected by covid-19. When addressing a press briefing on Wednesday Matsheka said the idea of the subsidy is to retain employees of the affected businesses. "There will be 50% basic salary of employees of the affected businesses, the subsidy will range between a 1000 and 2500 per month for the period of 3 months with the possibility of extension should we encounter more problems," Matsheka said as he explained the structure of the subsidy.

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