2 February 2012:

The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), wishes to congratulate the Minister of Finance and Development Planning Honorable Kenneth Matambo his presentation of the 2012/2013 budget earlier this week.

Speaking on behalf of BONELA, Ms. Nana Gleeson, BONELA’s Acting Director said that the organisation appreciates the honesty and caution with which the minister addressed the nation, given the gloomy outlook for the country in the coming fiscal year. The forecast regarding market performance is particularly a cause for concern against the backdrop of increased inflation figures between 2010 and 2011 as well as the high unemployment levels.

In addition, Ms. Gleeson said that BONELA appreciated efforts made by the ministry to consult with various stakeholders prior to the drafting of the budget. “We are pleased that we, through our mother body, BOCONGO, was included in the pre-budget consultation process, and it is my hope that all recommendations for expansion of Botswana’s revenue base given then will be included in the National Development Plan 10. This is especially in light of the global trends that may result in a double dip recession as Minister Matambo points out should be a cause for concern for all citizens and we concur with the need to diversify our economy and overcome current dependence on diamond sales as they will be the culprit of another recession”, she said.

However, Ms. Gleeson said that BONELA is concerned and worried by the transfer of HIV/AIDS activity budget from the National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA) to the Ministry of Health. “The budgetary control of NACA had always ensured a multi-sectoral approach encompassing civil society players. Whilst we are aware that the ministry rolls out various programmes in partnership with civil society partners, our worry is that if HIV/AIDS activity funds are to be channeled through the ministry responsible for all health issues, HIV/AIDS may not get the attention and priority it deserves,”,she said.

Currently, civil society organizations are battling to stay afloat, and this year will be especially difficult for Botswana and other African countries as the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria will not be funding any new initiatives. According to Ms. Gleeson, BONELA’s expectation was that this looming disaster in funding for HIV/AIDS and TB would have been reflected in the minister’s speech and formed the basis for review of current budgetary allocations, as it is clear that civil society’s contribution towards HIV/AIDS programming will be adversely affected.

As an advocacy organization, we are aware of the successes of Botswana in achieving its public health goals with regards to HIV/AIDS; however, the only thing that can reverse these gains is lack of respect for human rights. We hope that the rights-based approach for HIV/AIDS programming that NACA attempted to infuse into the national response will not be derailed.