Gaborone — As Botswana continues to undergo a phased approach to ease out of lockdown to facilitate economic recovery and social transition to a "new normal," the private sector has been urged to work hard to recoup losses realised during the period.
Updating the nation on government's response to the pandemic on Saturday, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said for its part government would continue to offer strategic interventions to aid the private sector in the collective push toward full economic recovery.
The country, he said, needed to fast track the move towards domestic production of essential goods and services.
"In this regard, the government will move with speed to implement the amended Trade and Industrial Development Acts, which will contribute in no small measure to the empowerment of citizens. Similarly government will prioritise the enactment of the Citizen Economic Empowerment and Economic Diversification Drive laws," Dr Masisi said.
With one of the key sectors of the economy, tourism, being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic global restrictions of movement, President Masisi noted that community trusts and tourist operators were enduring losses.
Government would therefore accelerate initiatives aimed at stimulating local and regional tourism in order to address this challenge, he said.
"Furthermore, land reserved for tourism purposes has been identified across the country and shall be made available to citizens for investment. This type of land has been identified in various districts such as Kgatleng, Ngamiland, Chobe, Central and South East," Dr Masisi revealed.
The President said government had worked on ensuring that the vulnerable people were catered for during the lockdown period, with 97 per cent of those illegible for food distribution already having been assisted.
Government was also in the process of assisting Batswana based outside the country with 400 in South Africa already having been assisted to return home, he said.
President Masisi said government was putting necessary arrangements in place to ensure that Batswana based elsewhere were assisted in the event they needed to return home.
In this regard, government had engaged Ethiopian Airlines and Namib Air to assist in the transportation of Batswana from Addis Ababa, London and Frankfurt, he said.
Dr Masisi further said government had put in place a temporary measure to facilitate financial assistance to Batswana based abroad who were adversely affected by the pandemic, including students and Batswana who were on short term visits abroad but were caught up in the travel restrictions.
The President said the assistance, facilitated through the country's diplomatic missions, would come at a great cost and would therefore only cover those assessed to be in great need.
Meanwhile the President has lauded the public for cooperating in ensuring that initial government strategies to combat the COVID-19 pandemic had a measure of success in preventing the scourge from causing greater harm.
Dr Masisi said while the pandemic still had the potential to cause harm, Botswana had done relatively well in the early stages of combating its spread.
"I thank Batswana for their understanding and cooperation with government in this trying period. I am very grateful that since the outbreak of COVID-19, Batswana have mounted a spirited response, first to prevent the spread and transmission of the disease in the country, and secondly to contain the rate of infection," Dr Masisi said.
He said the low number of local transmissions was testament to how the national strategy had brought a measure of success.
The President however cautioned that it was too early to celebrate as COVID-19 remained an "invisible enemy that knows no geographical boundaries."
Dr Masisi extended gratitude to institutions and individuals who produced equipment utilised in curbing the spread of the virus.
"I am happy to note that individuals in this country are producing face masks, which will help in containing the spread of the virus. The University of Botswana is also producing face shields and sanitisers, and is currently working on a prototype for possible ventilator production," Dr Masisi noted.
The President revealed that Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) had produced a drone that could be used to disinfect contaminated places while research institutions were engaged in the search for a Coronavirus cure based on indigenous knowledge systems and plants.
<i>Source : BOPA</i>