The 2020/21 budget speech and it's take on environmental challenges to support national development initiaves
In the 2020/21 Budget Speech delivered early this week by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Honourable Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, mentioned that “this Government is committed to transforming the economy through, refocusing existing policies, strategies and programmes, such as: service delivery through ICT; creating sustainable jobs; fighting corruption; improving education and training; providing quality health care; and attracting local and international investors, in order to create an inclusive economy with greater citizen participation.” Unfortunately environmental and climate change issues were not prioritised as one would have expected given their adverse impact on growth of the national economy.
As stated the 2020/21 Budget Speech was developed with guidance from the Vision 2036 Pillars that aim to address issues of, Sustainable Economic Development; Human and Social Development; Sustainable Environment; and Governance, Peace and Security. The Mid-Term Review (MTR) of the National Development Plan (NDP) 11 identified climate change to be a critical issue but yet no specific funds have been allocated to the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism for public awareness and mitigation strategies for climate change. This is obviously an oversight given the threat posed by climate change. This would require immediate intervention from the various stakeholders and perhaps the Committee of Supply Speech from the Minister responsible for this portfolio, that is still to follow, would clear this mist.
According to the 2020/21 Budget Speech, the first priority is Promotion of export-led growth. The Government’s objective is to ensure that the drivers of the economic growth in Botswana shift towards export promotion. A deficit of P4.2 billion was recorded in 2018 and was followed by a higher deficit of P10 billion in 2019. The Budget Speech states that the increase was due to the rise in imports as compared to exports. If local recycling of waste was encouraged, it would contribute to the rise of production and export of locally produced goods.
The Economic Review and Outlook of the 2020/21 Budget Speech mentions that the Government will be refocusing attention to the agriculture and manufacturing sectors. Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) will be of necessity to the two mentioned sectors to assist in the mapping out of sustainable, job creating viable projects. Economically viable projects such as, the implementation for Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) practices and recycling of glass and plastic for green roads could assist in mitigating some of the negative climate change impacts triggering the failing of the sectors. The focus on green construction, Waste To Energy (WTE), and CSA practices would contribute towards the reduction of deficits and positively turn around the export to import ratio. The budget should adequately cover these initiatives.
The Performance of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) section of the 2020/21 Budget Speech states that the subcommittee will review the role of the SOEs in the transformation process along strategic intervention areas such as, utility supply, tourism, transport, agriculture, ICT and innovation, business development, regulation and human capital development. Once again Environmental Social Management Systems (ESMSs) are not mentioned in the Budget Speech as a strategic intervention area for SOEs to address with caution. Currently Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) is incorporating the ESMS to their organisational structure, to assist in the assessment of environmental risks for investment projects. This should be the trend that all the other SOEs incorporate into their organisational structures.
On measures of Investing in economic infrastructure to support transformation, the key infrastructure needs for transformation included, electricity/energy, water, roads/railways and technology. The Government should have development a policy to support the renewable energy private power distributor initiative. Currently Botswana can produce and export renewable energy from solar, cattle manure and through WTE initiatives.
To tackle issues of drought caused by global warming, it is vital the Government follows up on the lagging project for the development of a water recycling plant by Water Utilities Corporation (WUC). It is high time Botswana catches up with the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR), invests in recycling plants to create sustainable roads and enhanced technology.
The review of the Environmental Impact Assessment Act mentioned in the Budget Speech, is of extreme importance to enforce strict time frames for the regulator, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), to process EIA reports accordingly to promote ease of doing business in Botswana.
The allocated P164.57 million for Sustainable Environment is not sufficient to assist in the implementation of capital intensive environmental projects such as, waste management rehabilitation.
Climate change was identified as a critical issue in the MTR of NDP 11 but The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism was not one of the five Ministries to account for 60.2 percent of the total Ministerial recurrent budget but rather grouped with “other Ministries including Extra-Ministerial Departments”, allocated P5.95 billion to be shared. The Government should be live to the fact that sustainable environmental management is the basis for the country’s economic development and the implementation of development projects.
Creation of sustainable jobs occurs not only in an inclusive economy but together with a circular economy, of which is not mentioned anywhere in the 2020/21 Budget Speech. According to The Broker Online, an inclusive economy means creating more sustainable and inclusive societies that aim at including all members of society in the growth process itself instead of distributing wealth among them after periods of steep growth, whereas other sources define a circular economy as an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources for the benefit of the entire society.
The Government and the private sector through PPPs, need to revise and enforce Environmental laws and develop a roadmap to tackle issues of carbon emission. The 2020 Budget Speech still read as ‘business as usual’ due to it not addressing all critical issues affecting the nation at large.