IN LIMBO: Parliament is yet to decide on BMC privatisation

While they agree that privatization of Botswana meat Commission is overdue, some Members of Parliament (MPs) feel the bill, which seeks to repeal the current BMC Act may come back to haunt the Commission and the country in its current form.

The objective of the bill is to register BMC under the companies Act as a government company.

The arrangement is such that there shall be no loss of jobs during the transition period and the staff of the Commission will continue to be the staff of the company.

Debating the bill in parliament on Wednesday this week, Alliance for Progressives leader, who is MP for Gaborone Bonnington South, Ndaba Gaolathe said the bill, which seeks to change the complexion of BMC into a private company is necessary.

However, he poked holes in the bill, saying it is not complete and if not addressed well on time, they may prove troublesome as time goes on.

“Historically, any country that sought to develop the value chain of its meat sector had to achieve several things. One of the things that those countries needed to achieve was to invest adequately in that part of the value chain, which is the abattoir and the sale of beef abroad,” said Gaolathe.

The Ap leader further pointed out that his main problem with the bill is the issue of sequencing, saying while he agrees the bill is necessary; there is a serious sequencing problem.

“When you look at the BMC as it is and the type of challenges it currently faces, BMC is seeking to restructure itself and become more competitive than it is, and there are certain things that needs to go in that process.”

In his view, Gaolathe the regulatory framework should be put in place before the BMC Act could be repealed and eliminate its monopoly in the beef market.

“This bill, which we all agree is necessary, should have come simultaneously with the all the other aspirations, which is to open the market to competition which entails establishing the regulator,” argued Gaolathe, adding this is a major constraint.

Selebi-Phikwe West MP, Dithapelo Keorapetse argued that state owned entities should not be privatized to avoid such entities being sold to friends of those in power.

“Let us make sure we address issues of efficiency and effectiveness. A new entrant into the beef market, India is now a leading exporter of beef, controlling over 20 percent of the world beef market but are a new entrant,” said Keorapetse.

He argued that urgent issues that needed to be addressed were low prices and late payment of farmers.

“The third problem is the monopoly aspect, but some of you sincerely but mistakenly believe that the changing of ownership it de facto means that the monopoly of export is lifted, that is not the case, at least in terms of the bill,” said Keorapetse, adding that a regulatory framework should be put in place first.

However, MP for Kgalagadi South, Frans Van Der Westhuizen accused his colleagues of trying to score political brownie points at the expense of farmers.

“It will not be honorable of us to want to score cheap political points on this bill, what we should be considering is the plight of farmers in our different constituencies. The BMC has run in its present form is not adding value to the farming community,” said Van Der Westhuizen in arguement for the bill which he said was long overdue.