The 2013/14 national budget speech has come and gone with Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo highlighting some depressing developments during 2012 which ranged from low diamond sales to drought and flood damages.
Matambo added that there were also some delays in the completion of some major projects such as the Morupule B and the connection of additional power supply to the national grid.
In the light of the challenges, the finance minister said prospects of the domestic economy remained fragile as it faced global economic hurdles, particularly diamond exports which are destined for developed countries.
Matambo said maintenance and repair of existing government assets would continue to be a priority noting that about P1.77 billion has been allocated to maintenance and refurbishment of government buildings (P798 million), equipment (P548 million), roads (P388 million) and P32 million for others.
The budget has been received with mixed reactions with some acknowledging its accuracy while others labeled it as inappropriate.
Minister of Transport and Communications, Nonofo Molefhi whose budget for this year was reduced to P1.5billion from last year’s P2.10billion said his ministry’s share was justified.
“It does not mean that we have accomplished our projects. What happened is that some of our projects were started last year and the costs were carried forward into this financial year.
There are several projects that we should be undertaking but because of the uncertain economic situation we’ve decided to focus on the ones that we’ve already started,” he said.
Molefhi said some of the projects included the expansion of the Francistown/Tonota road together with two bridges as well as the Lecheng/Malaka and Goo-Sekgweng/Goo-Tau roads in the Tswapong area.
Botswana Confederation of Commerce Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM) CEO, Maria Machailo-Ellis, said she hoped the P11.1billion that was allocated for the maintenance of government projects would be sufficient noting that the same amount was allocated last year but failed to sustain the construction sector.
“Some construction companies have since closed down due to lack of business but this year we hope to see a lot of difference in the infrastructure that we have.
Another infrastructure that we hope to see is that of e-governance. By now Transaction administration is supposed to have moved into an ICT platform which makes business easy.
The budget speech is not clear on how much has been reserved for e-governance, but the minister highlighted that P200million has been allocated for ICT equipment but it is still not enough,” she said.
Machailo-Ellis said she was impressed that government was pursuing the privatization drive which BOCCIM has since advocated for.
For his part, President of the Botswana Movement For Democracy Youth League (BMDYL) Phenyo Segokgo said the budget speech was not any different from any other previous budget speeches.
“All the factors outlined always focus on the Youth Development Fund, Internship, dilapidated projects and Ipelegeng.
It is basically a document that was prepared by Festus Mogae when he came from Oxford and every minister who comes into office just changes figures.
Anyone can comment on the speech without even having to listen to it because it’s so predictable,” he charged.