Botswana to prioritise defense spending in 2018/19

Mpho Tebele

Gaborone – Botswana has identified defence and security sector as one of the key areas that will receive a large chunk of the 2018/19 national budget estimated to be around P66.9 billion, Finance Minister Kenneth Matambo has announced.

This comes at a time Botswana is accused of sparking an arms race in the region. Botswana is on a shopping spree as it intends to buy eight Gripen Fighter jets from Sweden worth more than P16 billion, according to the local media.

Presenting expenditure estimates at a recent budget seminar in Gaborone, Matambo revealed that the defence and security sectors would receive a large chunk of the national budget to upgrade existing equipment and enhance national security.

“Government, through the National Development Plan II, committed to implement strategies to safeguard territorial integrity and sovereignty and ensure public safety and protection,” he said.

It is estimated that the government will spend P66.9 billion in the next budget, which commences in March 2018, compared to revenues of P58.8 billion in the previous year.

Funding will go towards “upgrading of equipment to enhance security capabilities,” as well as construction of offices and housing accommodation for police, prisons and soldiers.

The budget estimates read in part: “Government, through NDP II, committed to implement strategies to safeguard territorial integrity and sovereignty and ensure public safety and protection. The nature of operations of the safety and security agencies makes it inevitable to invest in infrastructure development in order to realise the goals envisaged under the national priority area”.

Economic and Financial Policy secretary, Dr Taufila Nyamadzabo, said as a country, Botswana must feel protected.

“People are saying we are spending too much but they forget that this is a form of insurance. That equipment has to be replaced over time.

They have to replace worn out equipment to be able to work properly,” he said in reference to the army.

In 2016, the Botswana Defence Forces (BDF) was allocated P14.8 billion for the national Development Plan II, which runs from 2017 to 2023.

President Ian Khama and Defence Minister, Shaw Kgathi, have since defended Botswana’s intention to procure Gripen fighter jets, dismissing calls by opposition parties and civil societies to halt the envisaged multi-billion procurement.

According to Khama, “these critics are in parliament so that is the opportunity that they have in a democracy to raise their concerns and try to reverse any of our procurement plans”.

President Khama said at the end of the day Botswana has to use equipment that it believes is suitable as a deterrent and for the defence of its territory.

“There is no doubt that military expenditure is very high. In every country, if you look at equipment like rifles, if you talk about military type of communications, artillery, if you talk about aircraft, it’s all expensive, we cannot get away from it, but we need to have the insurance of being able to keep our country and what we have been able to achieve in the infrastructure development safe and secure,” he said.

Kgathi said the BDF’s commitment to providing national security was premised on a number of initiatives that would be undertaken over the coming years.

“These will include development of modern and effective capabilities to deter potential aggressors, implementation of effective counter terrorism strategies, effective and efficient operations in cyberspace, as well as provision of aid to civil authority in conducting of humanitarian and disaster relief,” he said.

As its strategic policy objectives, Kgathi said, the BDF intended to bridge the existing security and capability gaps through the acquisition of defence systems, communication systems and mobility assets, which would enable the BDF to undertake operations that were both defensive and offensive in nature; and to undertake training necessary for responding to the hybrid of security threats.

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