Botswana’s Minister of Finance and Development Planning recently gave the budget speech. Charting the country’s development and strategic goals for the coming year within the context of our Vision 2036 plan. Young people notably mentioned alongside unemployment. A National Employment Policy is said to be in the works, with little information how participatory or inclusive it is for young people. Public officials, comprised mostly of elders, are working on a framework that is to determine how young people will be engaged in labour markets. Whether this includes informal markets is yet to be known. The current Economic Diversification Drive really should be named the State Procurement inclusion drive. Notably focusing on making the ease of doing business in government procurement easier for youth and women. There is yet to be an understanding of what or how the private sector plays a role in both these policies. Even more glaringly so, is understanding how implementation will be monitory and accountability embedded when operationalised.
In the recurring budget, investment in Basic Education leads the highest allocation (BWP 9 billion), with Health and Wellness (BWP 7.7 billion being the fourth highest. This reflects a good commitment to early child development and adolescents. However, quality and care remain a concern for young people in both higher education and public health. Limited investments in mental health continue to impact intervention outcomes and progress indicators of human capital. Social inclusion is only mentioned in an aspirational manner, without a concrete commitment to reflect direct investment to achieve it. Although the opposite can be said for climate change; it remains focused on adapting to it and not working to prevent it. This may reflect how developing countries are the most impacted despite being the least contributor. There is a gap in how best to proactively work on climate change in a manner that will set precedent for the region and secure young people’s future. The development budget prioritized Land, Water and Sanitation (BWP 2 billion) whilst keeping the 2nd priority as per the recurring budget with the Defense, Justice and security (BWP 1.9 billion). Thus, Botswana’s aspiration towards being a knowledge-based economy fit for the fourth industrial revolution remains behind.
There is no mention of civil society despite there being new guidelines being development for resourcing the sector. Neither are there mentions on the violence that plagues the country, HIV, human rights, gender equity or sustainable development goals. These are significant omissions given the influence they have on society and the international commitments made by the government. It further reflects how narrow the recognition and investments to challenge the symptoms and social determinants of poverty in the country. These challenges remain systemic impediments to human rights and sustainable development. The presenting ministry houses the Sustainable Development Goals coordinator, Population Development Unit and other key facets that govern the country. If narratives, policy commitment and future orientation of the state can ignore the systemic trends that impact experiences; then we have a long way to ago in safeguarding our rights and leaving no one behind. Recommendations: 1) Transparency and feedback channels for reviewing spending measures and mechanisms such as the technical working groups, 2) Inclusion of social determinants to reflect a stronger commitment to human rights and sustainable development, 3) Building citizen participation platforms for engagement throughout the year.