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Page last updated at 12:18 GMT, Tuesday, 1 April 2008 13:18 UK
Botswana: Africa's shining jewel?



As Seretse Ian Khama replaces Festus Mogae as president of Botswana, BBC Focus on Africa magazine asks opposition MP Dumelang Saleshando his opinion of the country ruled by Mr Mogae he has ruled since 1998.

Dumelang Saleshando
Dumelang Saleshando is an MP for Botswana Congress Party
The phenomenon of limited presidential terms is a new one to Botswana, having been promulgated in the mid 1990s. It must be noted that Festus Mogae has set a good precedent.

Before assuming the presidency, Mogae had been part and parcel of the management of Botswana's economy for decades.

This economy has been hailed as a model of excellence, achieving high growth rates, recording impressive budget surpluses and maintaining huge foreign reserves when other countries are plagued by insurmountable debt.

However, this immaculate achievement at a macro-economic level has for a long time been accompanied by high levels of unemployment, unacceptable levels of poverty and gross inequalities.

Over-reliance on diamonds

National prosperity has co-existed with deprivation for significant sections of the population.

When Mogae assumed the reigns of power in 1998, the country had just adopted a long-term vision which promised to change radically the economic landscape by 2016, when the country would be celebrating 50 years of independence.

Botswana has one of the highest levels of inequalities in the world
Vision 2016 promised full employment, the eradication of absolute poverty, and an economy that will grow in a distributive manner.

But economic data indicates that ten years of the Mogae presidency has not steered the country sufficiently close to the noble goalposts of that vision.

As a middle-income country with a strong and growing economy and a population of less than 1.8 million people, Botswana has an unemployment rate of 17.6 percent and a poverty headcount of 30.1 percent.

Labour statistics indicate that the gap between the growth rate of the country's GDP and the employment growth rate has been widening and has, as a matter of fact, worsened during the Mogae term of office.

The distribution of wealth in the country has become more disproportionate, with the result that Botswana has one of the highest levels of inequalities in the world.

One of the key problems of the Botswana economy is its over-reliance on the mineral sector, in particular diamonds.

Mineral revenue accounts for 40 per cent of government revenue, and about 75 percent of our foreign-exchange earnings are from diamonds. This dominance of mining over other sectors shows a highly undiversified economy.

And though known as a thriving liberal democracy, the political institutions necessary for providing effective checks and balances are weak in Botswana.

Flaws

The presidency controls all levers of power. In fact, our parliament is a department of the presidency.

The legislative agenda is set by the executive and parliamentary staff are recruited and deployed or redeployed as desired by the presidency.

Diamond
There are claims Botswana is too reliant on its diamonds
The ombudsman remains weak and ineffective in the face of this.

The Botswana electoral system has also been a source of concern for a number of observers who have visited the country during elections.

There is no political funding of parties. This gives the ruling party a major advantage as they are able to use state resources to support their campaign to the exclusion of the opposition.

Private businesses also shower the ruling party with donations that need not be disclosed so as to protect their commercial interests.

Mogae refused to introduce electoral reforms, presumably because his party is the biggest beneficiary of the flaws in the current system.

Though perceived to be a model of success and regarded as a shining example of democratic governance, Botswana finds herself in a highly precarious economic situation with under-developed political institutions that need to be modernised.


SEE ALSO
Law enrages Botswana bar owners
16 Feb 06 |  Africa
Country profile: Botswana
29 Mar 08 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Botswana
29 Mar 08 |  Country profiles


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