Thursday, February 17, 2011

Diamonds must create jobs, says Saleshando

Even though it is one of the world's largest producers of diamonds, Botswana benefits less from them than non-diamond producing countries.

Member of Parliament for Gaborone Central, Dumelang Saleshando told Parliament yesterday that out of a US $90 billion (about P600 billion) diamond revenues, Botswana only gets US$3 billion (about P19 billion), which is only 0.03 percent of total revenues, and that only less than 30 percent of diamond cutting is done in Botswana.

Presenting the Botswana Congress Party's response to the recently presented budget, Saleshando accused the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) government of failing to take advantage of Botswana diamonds to create employment opportunities.

"It will be difficult to find a more impressive failure than BDP when it comes to creating jobs for Batswana from diamonds," Saleshando said. The youthful MP said that it was disappointing that even though Botswana has profitable mines; the government seems too shy to utilize opportunities in emerging markets in countries like Angola.

Saleshando described Minister of Finance and Development Planning Kenneth Matambo's budget as lacking innovation. He said last year's budget theme of "Transforming our Economy," has not been evident in the current budget of measures to transform the economy. Saleshando said the budget seems to operate on the idea that economic recovery is driven by recovery of diamond sales, and asked what would happen if there was another slump in the diamond industry. He said that increase in diamond sales does not bring in jobs.

"There is no Plan B, it is business as usual for the BDP," he said. He further accused the BDP of using revenue from diamond sales to create problems, citing the Ipelegeng and Constituency Tournament as examples.

He further said continuing with these two schemes is a contradiction to Matambo's budget objective of being cost-effective. Although the MP congratulated the government for moving from poverty alleviation to poverty eradication, he accused the government of using poor people as insurance at election time. He said that they have been cases where people have been removed from the destitute list, and then re-instated during campaign season. He also expressed disappointment at the policies proposed as the poverty eradication vehicles.

"It's not possible that backyard gardening will catapult anybody out of poverty," he said, adding that graduation rate out of destitute level is low. The MP said that as the BCP they propose a two-fold solution to poverty eradication, the first being job creation, and the other being provision of compulsory high quality free basic education for all Batswana. The MP said that as long as some Batswana have no access to high quality basic education, they will not be able to escape poverty, giving districts such as Kweneng West and Gantsi where he said poverty is prevalent because failure rates from primary level are exceptionally high.

Further, the MP said that despite promises to protect the small business sector since former president Festus Mogae's term, small business owners are still unprotected, and victims of byelaw officers. Saleshando said that there is therefore need to create an office of Small Business Ombudsman. He said although there are a number of measures in place to protect big businesses, there are none to protect the small businesses.

Regarding the budget, Saleshando noted that the rich have much to celebrate, while the poor have nothing to celebrate. The rich celebrate the opportunity to buy Botswana Telecommunications Corporation shares, and the opportunity provided by intention to outsource cleaning and landscaping services, he said.

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