Sunday, March 1, 2009

Youth grant move under discussion

GABORONE - The Out of School Youth Grant Programme is set to be moved to the CEDA portfolio in the next financial year.
However, the agency's Senior Public Relations Officer, Mr Masegonyana Madisa said the modalities of the arrangement are still being discussed Mr Madisa said the transfer of the youth grant programme to the Youth Development Fund under CEDA was announced the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Mr Baledzi Gaolathe in his budget speech.
"At this stage we do not know exactly how it is going to be implemented or if there will be any changes in the way it will be administered.
"Once this has been mapped out, CEDA will inform stakeholders," Mr Madisa added. He, however, said CEDA and the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture have started to hold meetings in order to agree on the roll-out of the fund and to ensure a smooth transition.
With regards to the rationalization of CEDA branches, Madisa said that the decision was taken prior to government's decision to transfer the youth grant programme to CEDA. "It is a decision that was taken objectively to find the most effective and beneficial way of rationalising CEDA's branch network at the time," he proclaimed.
Mr Madisa said as of now the only change that they are aware of is that the project ceilings under this revised programme have been set at P100 000 per project with the funding provided in the form of a 50 per cent grant and a 50 per cent interest-free loan, except in cases of default where 5 per cent interest will be charged. BOPA

Trade ministry requests budget

GABORONE - The Ministry of Trade and Industry has requested about P420 million for its recurrent budget and over P100 million for its development budget during the coming financial year.
Presenting his ministry's budget proposal on Monday, Mr Neo Moroka said they plan to use the bulk of the funds to develop the Local Enterprise Authority, the ministry infrastructure facilities and BEDIA.
He said P51 million will be used to implement the ministry's management information system, the Francistown light industrial incubator, the Gaborone leather incubator and the second phase of the Pilane multipurpose business incubator.
He said BEDIA on the other hand requires funds for the construction of factory shells in Gaborone.
Mr Moroka said the ministry's infrastructure facilities will require P27 million for the construction of an office block and staff houses in Kasane, an integrated office and staff houses in Tsabong and a co-operative training centre in Sebele.
The minister also appraised Parliament on the achievements of his ministry during National Development Plan 9.
He cited the review and enactment of laws and regulations and the development of policies to attract investment.
He said some of them are the Companies Act of 2006, the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act, the Industrial Development Act of 2006, the Trade Act of 2003, the Liquor Act of 2003, the Alcohol Levy, the formulation of the traditional beer regulations, the review of the Cooperative Societies Act and the Industrial Development Policy of 1997.
Mr Moroka said BEDIA is continuing to employ a strategic approach of investor targeting in order to achieve greater results, increase investment flows, employment and export revenue.
On other issues, he said the consultants have submitted the draft policy and a model law on special economic zones for consideration.
"My Ministry is currently soliciting input from stakeholders after which recommendations will be submitted to cabinet," said the minister Mr Moroka, who is also the MP for Kgalagadi South, said land-measuring 414 hectors has been reserved for special economic zones.
He added that they will be depended on pre-requisites that will be undertaken such as investor demand analysis, provision of infrastructure, development of a regulatory framework and establishment of a regulatory authority.
He said the regulatory framework for special economic zones would include special legislation relating to labour, immigration, taxation and customs.
Mr Moroka said the establishment of free zones will take much longer than had been anticipated due to the need to review related laws.
He added that there are also substantial financial and human resource implications as well as the lack of expertise in the development and management of special economic zones.
On other issues, Mr Moroka said the Botswana Brand Management Organisation (BBMO) has been approved to manage the country's brand. He said the board of directors of the organisation will be fully operational during 2009 and that the recruitment of the CEO is ongoing.
On international commerce issues, Mr Moroka said the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (IEPA) that was initialised in 2007 will be signed during the course of 2009.
He said the agreement replaces the goods chapter of the Cotonou Agreement that expired in December 2007.
The minister noted that the new agreement will ensure unhindered market access for Botswana's products to the European Union.
He said pursuant to the commitments made under the IEPA, Botswana and other SADC IEPA member states who initialised the interim IEPA have started negotiations on trade in services and investment that will lead towards a full agreement.
He said the negotiations are expected to be concluded in three years.
"I am also happy to announce that together with other SACU member states, we concluded and signed the SACU-US Trade and Investment Cooperation Agreement (TIDCA) in July 2008. BOPA

Time to instill responsibility in youth - Nkate

GABORONE - The youth should be made to understand that every right imposes a responsibility, says the Minister of Education and Skills Development.
Presenting his ministry's budget proposal on Monday, Mr Jacob Nkate said it is time to instill a sense of responsibility amongst the youth.
He urged parents and all responsible citizens to condemn the unruly behaviour that is creeping into society in the name of entitlements and rights.
"Remember, every right imposes a responsibility," Mr Nkate said.
He said it is regrettable that the University of Botswana (UB) council had to close the institution, following students riots, which resulted in destruction of school property.
He informed MPs that the recent boycott of classes was triggered by two reasons. He said the first was one group of students who had been staying on- campus in the first semester but decided to move out in the second semester and demand that the ministry should pay them off-campus allowance. He said they declined to pay the allowance on the basis that accommodation is available on campus.
"It should be understood that accommodation at the UB was put up at a public cost, and it cannot be the same public that pays for students to stay elsewhere while thousands of these units remain empty." He said his ministry has since agreed with the UB management that in future all accommodation would be taken up before students could be allowed to stay off-campus.
Mr Nkate said he refused to address the student community because he feared being insulted.
"They wanted me to go to the UB so that they can stand there in the crowd unrecognizable and insult me." He said four years ago he tried to address UB students, but came out with his "tail between my legs." Mr Nkate vowed that it is not going to happen again.
"Who am I not to be afraid of them? Their own MP has been moaning about how he cannot get the opportunity to talk to them. He is also afraid of them," he said.
He said the second group of students had failed their end of year examinations and wanted the government to continue sponsoring them.
He added that some students had in fact repeated the subjects twice while some are going into their sixth year for a four-year programme.
The minister said it is clearly stated in the memorandum of agreement that repeat sponsorship is not automatic.
He said it is for this reason that, despite the invitation by the ministry for individual students to present their case, they all failed to do so and instead opted to boycott classes, intimidate other students and destroy property.
"I still want to invite any student who feels he or she has a case to present themselves," said the minister.
He said contrary to statements that he declined speaking to students, he in fact waited for the Student Representative Council (SRC) to see him but that they never did until the day students resorted to violence.
On the issue of giving students notice, Mr Nkate said the affected students were written letters on October 20, 2008.
He said the SRC also held discussions with officials from his ministry on the issue and were also informed of the government's position nine days later.
"It is therefore not true that the students were taken by surprise.
They in fact knew that they were not going to be paid allowances in the second semester," he said.
On other issues, the minister said the pass rate at the various levels of national examinations is not satisfactory. "This is quite disturbing and I intend to engage with relevant stakeholders to work on solutions," he said.
He noted that a total of 41 471 candidates sat for the 2008 Primary School Leaving Examinations compared to 41 191 in 2007 which is an increase of 0.68 per cent.
He said there has been a decline in the percentage of candidates awarded grade A to C, saying it was 69.9 per cent in 2008 compared to 72.9 per cent in 2007.
The minister also noted that girls performed better than boys in all subjects.
He said in the Junior Certificate Examinations (JCE) the overall performance of the 2008 candidates improved by 0.1 per cent. He said it was 75.1 per cent in 2007.
The minister said girls perform better than boys because boys have the attitude that "you cannot touch me I am the big boss" while girls tend to be more attentive, interested and more enthusiastic about what is taking place in the classroom. "So we cannot be surprised that the girls are doing better than the boys," he said. BOPA

Students clear their debts

GABORONE - Completing junior secondary school students have to pay all their outstanding debts before they could start classes at senior secondary schools, a move the education ministry says is intended to ensure maximum compliance with cost recovery policy.
The policy is such that form three students are not issued with admission letters to form four until all the payment has been done.
These include among others development fee, school fees, lost books and money collected during sponsored walks.
Before the formulation of this policy, form four students collected their admission letters at the senior schools they are admitted to, hence it was difficult for junior secondary schools to trace students who had outstanding balances.
Public Relations Officer in the Ministry of Education and Skills Development, Mr Godfrey Kalanke said the motive is to promote a sense of responsibility on students.
"Students should take charge of their lives and stop vandalism," he said.
In addition, he noted that the ministry is trying by all means to recover the costs, particularly that the country has been affected by the global economic recession.
Maoka JSS school head, Ms Theresa Mmolawa welcomes this policy saying that since its inception, the school has been able to recover all the costs. She said lost books in particular have been a serious problem in her school, but with this policy completing students who lost books are requested to buy them before being issued with admission letters.
"Books are very expensive and it is crucial for students who lost books to replace them. We even write letters to parents of students who are not completing to pay for lost books or pay development fee or any fee that a student has failed to pay for." Students are in turn supposed to produce these letters at senior schools, failure to which the student will not be permitted to start classes until they cleared all outstanding balances at the junior school. BOPA

Renovation costs supporters, small businesses

GABORONE - A premier league action drought will continue until April, following the closure of three stadia.
The trio, National Stadium, University of Botswana and Sir Seretse Khama Barracks have been closed for renovations.
The closure has left some with no choice but to stay home and watch televised games.
This also has a negative financial impact on teams, which are based in and around Gaborone as they used to smile all the way to the bank after hosting a game.
It could prove cumbersome for some supporters to attend games at places far from Gaborone.
Hawkers, who used to trade during the Gaborone or Mogoditshane games have also been affected.
According to Ms Motlhalepula Tsabeng who used to sell food and beverages during the games, the situation has left her four children in the streets as she is now struggling to put food in the table.
"We now depend on hand outs from friends which is something against my principles. I was also evicted from my house last month as I was struggling to pay rent and I am now sharing a one room house with my sister and her five children. This renovation has made me an instant destitute," said Ms Tsabeng.
Public transport operators plying their trade along roads leading to the stadia experieced a decline during weekends.
Mr Kabelo Masilo, a mini bus driver in Broadhurst Route Two used to make a kill when there was a soccer game at UB or National Stadium but ever since the two closed, he no longer operate on weekend afternoons. The refurbishing of the National stadium, which commenced in November last year and is anticipated to be completed in January 2010. Government has allocated P90 million for the project.
Meanwhile, construction of Francistown stadium, which commenced in March 2008 is expected to be completed in January 2010.
The stadium has got a capacity of 26 000 and there will be a provision of seats in all stands.
The project has been allocated P200 million. And on one hand, construction of Lobatse Integrated Sports facility started in January 2008 and is also expected to be completed in January 2010. The project is allocated P189 million. BOPA

Reatile calls for equitable development distribution

GABORONE - The Ministry of Trade and Industry has been criticised for failing to establish industries in towns and villages.
Contributing to the debate on the proposed budget allocation for the Ministry of Trade and Industry on Tuesday, Mr Mephato Reatile said the ministry is concentrating its efforts on urban areas such as Gaborone, Francistown, Palapye and Selibe-Phikwe to a lesser extent.
He said mining towns such as Jwaneng, Orapa and Letlhakane are turning into ghost towns in the wake of the global economic recession.
The Ngwaketse West MP accused the ministry of concentrating on regulating liquor outlet.
He called for a more equitable distribution of developments around the country.
The MP also criticised the ministry for engaging too many consulting firms to do obvious studies.
He gave the example of squatting in Gaborone, saying it is caused by the lack of industries in other towns such as Jwaneng.
For her part, Mahalapye East MP, Ms Botlogile Tshireletso complained about the over dependence of the Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS) on the South African Bureau of Standard (SABS) values.
She said South Africa is Botswana's economic competitor and that services from the SABS may be designed to give South African produced goods an edge over local products.
Ms Tshireletso also complained about the entry of sub standard goods into the country, asking what BOBS is doing about it.
The Mahalapye East MP also complained about the abuse that many Batswana working for foreign firms are often subjected to. She urged the government to revoke the license of any business that abuses locals.
Another contributor, Kgatleng West MP, Mr Rakwadi Modipane urged the trade and industry ministry to collaborate with other stakeholders to ensure that industries are established in rural areas.
He said industrial sites in places such as Mochudi lie idle.
Mr Modipane also complained about the withdrawal of important institutions such as the National Development Bank and CEDA from Mochudi.
He appealed to the trade and industry minister not to relocate the office of the Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) from Mochudi.
Another MP, Mr Slumber Tsogwane of Boteti North, said the industrialisation of the country is long overdue.
He also urged the government to establish cottage industries, saying they are less costly than conventional ones.
Mr Tsogwane also complained about the high utility costs.
He said the industrialisation of any nation can never be achieved with high utility costs.
He pleaded with the government to find a strategy to reduce the cost of utilities.BOPA

Ramokgwebana road construction starts

FRANCISTOWN - Construction of the P386 million Francistown/Ramokgwebana section of the A1 Road Project is expected to commence soon.
Speaking in an interview, Department of Roads project officer, Mr Simon Motai said the project's official commencement date was September 29, 2008.
In addition, Mr Motai said the project had been awarded to a Chinese company, Sinohydro Corporation Limited and it had started erecting a camp at Tsamaya Village, clearing and grubbing for construction of a detour road.
He said delayed acquisition of the construction team's work, resident permits and visas delayed the start of the project.
Mr Motai said the construction of the 80-kilometre road starts at a traffic circle near Francistown Central Police Station and ends at Ramokgwebana Boarder Post He said the first 4.45 kilometres road from the circle up to Dumela junction would be a dual carriageway and the remaining 74.35 kilometres would be a single carriageway of 3.7 metre lanes and two metres surfaced shoulders.
He said the road was expected to be completed in September 2010.
He said included as part of the main road were the upgrading of access roads to Ramokgwebana and Tsamaya dikgotla, which were about 200 metres away from the A1 Road.
He noted that the upgrading of Siviya/Kgari/Jakalasi 1/Themashanga/Mabudzani/ Jakalasi 2 were tendered for separately as they were to be carried out by wholly citizen owned contractors.
In addition, he said tendering of Sinyawe/Butale access road would be done in March. BOPA