- Mr. Speaker, I have the honour this afternoon to present to the National Assembly budget proposals for the financial year, 2005/2006. Since this is the first budget that I am presenting to the Ninth Parliament, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Honourable Members for their victory in last year.s general elections. I look forward to your fruitful and effective contribution towards maintaining and improving the record of good economic and financial management that this country has achieved thus far. This is crucial if we are to deliver development and improve the social welfare of Batswana.
- Heads of State and Government adopted the United Nations Millennium Declaration in 2000, outlining commitment to make significant and lasting strides to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empowerment; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development by the year 2015. These goals, referred to as the Millennium Development Goals or MDGs for short, now guide much of the interaction between developing and developed countries, as well as between developing countries and development assistance agencies. They can help galvanise communities and countries into action to achieve greater development results. It is also clear that the MDGs resonate well with the development ideals of Vision 2016. It is for this reason that the theme for this Budget Speech is "Meeting the Millennium Development Goals and Vision 2016 Through a Self-Reliant Approach to Development".
- Mr. Speaker, translating these goals into action requires an operational framework at the national level. This theme prompts all stakeholders; Government, the private sector, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), labour, and others, to assess the impact of their strategies as they relate to achieving the MDGs and Vision 2016. In the medium term, Government has put in place a number of strategies, to achieve these objectives in the form of the ninth National Development Plan (NDP 9). The Mid-Term Review of NDP 9, which is scheduled to start in March this year, will provide an opportunity to review our strategies. It is important to note that the Millennium Development Goals Status Report for Botswana was launched in 2004. The Report presented a generally positive picture of Botswana.s efforts towards achieving the MDGs, despite the challenges that we are still faced with, such as HIV/AIDS, poverty and environmental degradation.
- In order to achieve the MDGs it will be essential to ensure both cost effectiveness in the implementation of the Plan and improved revenue collection. The budget pressures we are experiencing call for firm control over the use of our limited resources. We need, therefore, to re-examine and re-focus our spending to ensure that we get good value for money. For example, we must ensure that the specification of each project is the most cost-effective. Government cannot continue to entertain requests for additional funds for projects designs above budget, or changes in scope or specification of projects. Living within our means and getting better value for money when investing in infrastructure, such as schools, health facilities, roads and telecommunications network, are crucial if we are to achieve Vision 2016 and the Millennium Development Goals. The current budgetary constraints challenge Government to have the courage and foresight to reshape its spending to better achieve both the immediate and future
- Mr. Speaker, Government has managed to balance provision of social services with good economic management as evidenced by the high sovereign credit ratings awarded by both Moody's and Standard and Poor's rating agencies in the A grade for the third year in a row. Botswana.s ratings, which are the highest in Africa, are indicative of the firm commitment of Government to prudent fiscal and monetary policy, as well as continuing political and macroeconomic stability.
- Government has emphasised cost effectiveness and sustainability in the provision of services. These included, but are not limited to, cost saving, cost sharing and cost recovery. Honourable Members will recall that the implementation of cost recovery, which was conceived during NDP 8, started in 2003, with cost recovery proposals already approved by Government for almost all Ministries. In addition, a revenue collection plan, which will guide implementation of the cost recovery, has been put in place to enhance revenue collection during 2005/2006. The plan provides for investigation of revenue collection capabilities and putting in place measures to enhance revenue collection, initially in a group of five Ministries to be followed by another group of Ministries. These measures will augment previous efforts to raise revenue, such as the introduction of Value Added Tax and subsequently the establishment of the Botswana Unified Revenue Service. Government will also continue to review and enforce tax
legislation in order to ensure fairness in the application of the provisions of the tax laws.
- The current budgetary situation, Mr. Speaker, dictates that those Batswana who can afford to, must make a contribution for the provision of services, such as education and health, to ensure both sustainability and expansion of these services to the entire country. It is for this reason that Batswana are encouraged to revive the spirit of self-reliance. This is consistent with
the four national principles of democracy, development, unity and self-reliance that have guided development in Botswana since Independence. In keeping with the spirit of self-reliance, public enterprises and the private sector must strive to reduce dependence on Government. We must reaffirm the values that shaped this country in the past 38 years. Here I am reminded of traditional values like hard work, paying one.s bills, and a sense of responsibility. In addition, I wish to call upon individuals to aim at creating employment for themselves and others by taking advantage of Government schemes, such as the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) and National Agricultural Master Plan for Arable Agriculture and Dairy Development
- Mr. Speaker, the major challenge that lies ahead for this new Parliament is to achieve the MDGs and Vision 2016 objectives, which will further improve the quality of the lives of Batswana.