1. On Monday, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Honourable Dr. Thapelo Matsheka delivered the 2021 Budget Speech. The Minister’s speech was delivered against the backdrop of COVID-19 and the deleterious effect it has had on the nation and the economy. Underpinning Dr. Matsheka’s speech was the need for a public service that is accountable and runs its affairs in a cost effective and considered manner. BONELA shares the Minister’s sentiments that cost effective spending will ensure value for money and that the few resources we have go further.
  2. The Minister stated that various measures will be implemented to increase the low domestic revenue base; including increase in fuel levy, withholding tax on dividends as well as well as threshold for income tax. Sadly, these measures will put pressure on households, which will undoubtedly adversely affect access to health services due to rising out of pocket expenditure.
  3. Dr. Matsheka allocated the largest share of the budget (18.8%) to the Ministry of Basic Education. He further allocated the 4th largest share of the Development Budget (10.1%) to the Ministry. BONELA welcomes the increase of resources to the MOBE to improve the education infrastructure in the context of COVID 19, which will allow for smaller class sizes and school digitalization initiatives, hopefully resulting in better learning outcomes for children. BONELA encourages the Ministry to ensure that children in hard to reach areas where no infrastructure exists are prioritized, and that there is inclusion of children with disability through adequate planning and resourcing of special education units. Furthermore, policies and programmes for learners with disability in senior schools and tertiary institutions need to designed and implemented. Since the onset of the pandemic, children with disability have been particularly disadvantaged, being the first to be sidelined as schools make allowance for the observance of COVID-19 protocols.
  4. Although BONELA appreciates the far reaching and multi-ministerial impact of COVID -19, and the fact that the Government needs to be able to continue providing goods and services during these challenging economic times; we are rather troubled by the fact that the Ministry of Health and Wellness did not receive a larger allocation. If we have learnt anything in 2020, it is that COVID-19 is a costly disease to manage – the burden of which primarily rests on the Ministry. If we are indeed to “come out of this crisis” the health of Batswana ought to take absolute priority including through the provision of resources to purchase the COVID-19 vaccine and associated commodities such as PPE. It is disturbing that at the height of COVID 19, BONELA continues to receive reports from districts through its Community Led Monitoring Programme suggesting that COVID 19 supplies such as testing reagents stock outs are a regular occurrence in health facilities. There are reports of shortage of health staff as the health cadre becomes infected and affected by COVID 19. This calls for a robust health system strengthening strategy in order to effectively address shocks resulting from COVID 19.
  5. BONELA commends the Minister for ensuring the allocation of resources to cover psycho-social support arising from COVID-19 and to address Gender Based Violence. We therefore encourage the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to conduct participatory budgeting of allocated funds to ensure that resources go where they are needed most by engaging communities to identify needs (such as places of safety for survivors of gender based violence), gaps and strategies to assist those in need, including key and vulnerable populations such as people with disability and the LGBTI. Furthermore, BONELA encourages the Ministry to utilize communities and community organizations through the issuance of social contracts to deliver the services where government does not have requisite capacity to do so.
  6. COVID – 19 gives us a harsh reminder that health is indeed a human right, one that requires all stakeholders to work together to ensure that all available resources are used diligently and with fidelity, that there is accountability as well as constant and sustained monitoring and evaluation. Government should continue to engage communities, civil society and other non-governmental actors to ensure a coordinated approach for the avoidance of duplication and effective use of resources.

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