Botswana: Reset Urgent

Gaborone — Government will soon introduce major reforms that will affect cabinet, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and the public service with a view to improving service delivery and Botswana's economic standing.

Briefing the nation on Saturday following a cabinet and BDP retreat, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi said the current global crisis caused by COVID-19 and the resultant economic meltdown necessitated re-evaluation of the way government had been doing things.

"The combination of the devastating global pandemic - COVID-19 - and the catastrophic economic recession it has caused the world over, dictates that we revisit our problem-solving strategies, that we regroup; that we reset," he stated.

He said the resetting of priorities aimed at breaking barriers, removing hurdles and building momentum towards Botswana's goal of becoming a high income country must be immediate.

"To reset is to set new priorities, to adopt new approaches and to put new implementation resources in place immediately," he said adding that the resetting would bring clear, evident and immediate change.

"This is not a turnaround that will take years; It is immediate," he stated. President Masisi also stressed that resetting was for the entire nation.

"We want to move forward in unison. Hence this reset button encompasses not only my cabinet and the whole government but also the ruling Botswana Democratic Party and the entire population of Botswana, whom we represent by virtue of having been elected by voters in 2019, to effect broad- based change in our country and economy," he said.

The President said a new mindset, seeking new and smarter ways of implementing projects on time and budget, whose focus was citizen economic inclusion, was necessary.

To that end, he said, the public service, as the key tool of governance and delivery, had been scrutinised, revealing degradation in the sector.

Dr Masisi said the degradation led to implementation failures that appeared to have become the norm in government.

"There is a correlation between the quality of the public service texture of the high economic growth rates of post-independence to the 90s, and the degradation of the public service of the post 90s with much lower growth rates of the economy in the last 30 years," he said.

The President said there was evidence that it was the underperforming public service which called the shots instead of the political leadership.

"We find an evolving culture of a democratically elected but increasingly pliable political leadership of the last three decades, held to ransom by groups of abrasive technocrats in low productivity mode, albeit with rising incidence of corruption," he said.

Dr Masisi said the retreat also found that there were entrenched interests that had caused economic exclusion and denigration of indigenous Batswana.

Stating that change would be effected within two weeks, he said government implementation machinery would be aligned to the presidential agenda encompassing his roadmap and the transformational agenda.

Among government's key priorities, the President mentioned the need to save Batswana from COVID-19 through implementation of life saving programmes including successful and timely vaccination.

President Masisi said digitisation was another key priority because of its service delivery benefits and the immense potential to unlock and enable high productivity.

Also on the high priority list was value chain development as it had potential to unlock opportunities for new, high-growth companies and youth employment among other citizen empowerment attributes.

Initially the development would focus on minerals, tourism, food and education with the intention of identifying new sectors in the global export product space which could successfully grow in Botswana resulting in job creation for the youth while also driving export diversification.

The President reiterated the need for mindset change stating; "We cannot remain locked in the thinking of the unproductive eras and expect to escape the middle income trap. This comes with developing capacity for entrepreneurship, eliminating our inferiority complex, and implementing government and strategic reforms that put citizen economic inclusion at the centre of our economic development initiatives".

President Masisi said to achieve the set priorities, the public service must be harnessed therefore energetic reformists would be empowered to think outside the box and implement accordingly.

He also emphasised the need for deeper scrutiny of the public service which he said was failing to implement projects on time and on budget.

He said although there were some notable positive outcomes, a litany of unfinished or poorly executed projects filled the development roadmaps of the last 30 years.

As a result, President Masisi said, the mindset of Batswana had been pulverised by negativity and a cancerous inferiority complex that thwarted the ambitions of young and old.

The President said private sector participation was also critical to the implementation of the new priorities. The new implementation approach would therefore include Batswana from the private sector to enhance job creation ability, he said.

President Masisi said strategic reforms that would be enacted in the coming months were intended to change the state of Batswana.

"This is the implementation of the change mandate that the electorate of Botswana entrusted to us 2019. This prioritisation accelerates the implementation of the most impactful aspects of our change mandate," he said.

Dr Masisi said the mandate would result in attainment of goals and should start with accelerated implementation of priorities with the reset woven throughout the society.

Stigma of dislike among Batswana should be uprooted, he stated.

Source : BOPA

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