Mixed Reactions to first budget speech under Masisi

The 2019/2020 Budget Speech, the first under President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s administration has been met with different reactions by different sections of the community, including politicians, analysts and the general public.

When presenting the budget speech at the start of the week, Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Kenneth Matambo said that this year’s budget proposals are informed by the need to consolidate the country’s gains in many areas of development and address the challenges to achieve economic growth to support employment creation and alleviate poverty.

Matambo noted that the focus would therefore be on high impact infrastructure development; human capital development with emphasis on technical and vocational education as well as Information Communication Technology (ICT) backbone.

For the upcoming financial year, total revenue and grants are estimated at P60.20 billion and the bulk of it coming from mineral revenue at P21.09 billion or 35.62 percent of total revenue and grants.

However, this is short of the expected expenditure for the 2019/2020 financial year, which is estimated at 77.54 billion.

This essentially means government will have to source the extra P7.35 billion elsewhere to finance its financial obligations.

Unlike in the past year when the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security used to enjoy the Lion’s share of the recurrent and development budget, this time around the Ministry of Basic Education has been allocated the largest share of the recurrent budget at P8.24 billion followed by the Ministry of Health and Wellness at P7.63 billion.

The budget for Basic Education ministry is meant to cater for investments in human capital development covering payment of teachers’ salaries and allowances as well as provision of other needs such as stationery and meals.

Speaking to The Voice following Matambo’s budget presentation on Monday, Member of Parliament for Gaborone Central, Phenyo Butale said throwing money at problems will not bring any solutions to the challenges currently experienced by the education system.

Instead, he suggested that the whole system should be overhauled.

“We have had similar allocations before where ministry of education got the bulk of the budget, but what we got in return is the ever plummeting set of results across board,” said the Alliance of Progressives.

MP for Nata/Gweta Polson Majaga shares similar sentiments to Butale’s with The Voice, saying Basic Education often gets a huge chunk of the budget, but the results come back poor.

In his view, the Ministry of Transport and Communication should be also be prioritized for development of roads infrastructure.

“You cannot carry out any developments without a good road network,” said the outspoken MP.

The ministry that Majaga spoke about got P1.85 billion of development budget, which will mainly cater for ongoing road projects.

Speaking at the annual FNB Botswana budget review on Tuesday, the bank’s economist Moatlhodi Sebabole expressed worry at the depreciation of SACU receipts as well as the mineral revenue, which have been main contributors to government revenue.

Even though government allocates money to ministries each and every year, the worry is that a large share of it is eventually returned without being spent, which is thought to be a major contributor to arrested development.

Sharing his views at the same budget review, FNB Botswana Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Steven Bogatsu said he was confident that implementation of all developmental strategies would translate into achievements that could create employment opportunities.

Bogatsu is of the view that such will also enhance access to resources, improve productivity levels and provide better protection against economic and environmental shocks.

“One of the biggest challenges that this country is faced with is youth unemployment, therefore it is important that when we deliberate on some of these national challenges that we put in place workable solutions to this particular problem,” said the FNBB CEO.

Youth unemployment rate has been estimated at 2 percent according latest figures by Statistics Botswana, and Bogatsu feels if this problem is left unresolved, it has the potential to disrupt the economy.

However all economists interviewed agreed that the current budget proposal is much in support of the challenges that the country faces such as plummeting education standards and floundering health system.

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