Botswana’s new president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, plans to sell state-owned firms in order to lure investors

The newly sworn in fifth president of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi, is planning to sell state-owned companies, shrink the civil service and reduce bureaucracy. This is part of moves he hopes would lure investors into the country.

According to Bloomberg, the former vice president said in an interview that as part of his top priorities he plans on reducing the southern African nation’s reliance on diamonds and creating jobs for the almost one in five workers who are unemployed and in order to achieve this, private companies will have to take the lead.

“The government in and of itself does not really create jobs,” Masisi said. “It is not my desire to grow the public service any bigger, if anything it is my desire to trim the civil service so we are more efficient, we are leaner, meaner, and we can do business and we are more attractive to the private sector for them to invest.”

Labor unions, however, are not happy about Masisi’s proposals to reduce the role of the state in the economy. The General Secretary of the Botswana Public Employees Union, Topias Marenga, told Bloomberg that reducing the size of the civil service would be “a major blow” and the benefits of privatization remained unproven.

“The problem with our leaders is that they are under the sway of the International Monetary Fund, which wants the public service wage bill cut down by 5 percent,” Topias said. “Our problem is that we don’t have effective platforms to discuss these matters with the government as equal social partners.”

Masisi, 55, who sworn in 6 weeks ago, will remain the president of the country for 18 months before the national elections scheduled for October 2019. Batswanas will vote for their members of parliament and then the party with the majority of votes, in turn, elects a president.

Botswana is a landlocked country of about 2.2 million people and it shares borders with Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia and South Africa.