“Lives or livelihoods?”- Balopi

For some time now Botswana’s economy has been negatively impacted by the pandemic we are currently facing- Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19), This had led to poor livelihoods as many people lost their jobs, while others had salary cuts. According to this year’s national budget speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Empowerment- Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, unemployment, especially among the youth has increased by roughly three percent (3%) as of December 2020.

The underlying factor for this economic blow is COVID-19 restrictions and measures put up by the government in an effort to arrest the spread of the virus. Some of the measures implored include lockdowns, and curfews, this led to closing down of some businesses, while some are running but with injuries.

Some of the businesses greatly impacted include the alcohol industry, the sports, entertainment and recreation industry, others include mining and tourism. With these industries affected, it means the economy is not running as before; businesses and individuals who could be contributing to tax no longer have such income, in addition, they can no longer provide for their families sufficiently.

Though the nation is hard hit (increased unemployment rate being the proof) the government also has had a blow which is proved by the massive spending of the Government Investment Account (GIA). Twelve billion pula (P12 billion) is reported to have been spent in a space of twelve (12) months or less. Notwithstanding that up to now the economy has not been opened up yet, the government has decided to increase taxes and levies as well as introducing some. The move that attracted displeasure from most Batswana and critisism from some economists.

The Minister of Employment, Labour productivity and Skills Development- Mpho Balopi has taken the matter to Facebook, asking whether it is important to save lives or improve livelihoods amid this pandemic.

“For over a year now, we have all been debating whether to preserve lives against COVID-19 or to let livelihoods carry on without disruptions. The truth is that this is not an easy act. COVID-19, as it is, can be controlled by limited movement of people, that is social distancing etc. But we also know that booming economies are due in part to large population, regular movement of people for extended hours etc. This is a clear PARADOX. As such ,there is a need to strike a balance between saving lives and protecting livelihoods. ” he said through his Facebook post.

However, the Minister took the same opportunity to give himself and his government a tap on the shoulder “I think we must give ourselves credit for what we’ve achieved so far. We’ve saved many lives, and next up we must focus on getting the economy on its feet again.”

What do you as a citizen think regarding the issue at hand, do you agree with the Minister that the Government has been doing a good job so far, or do you think there is something the government can do or could have done better?

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