Let us walk the talk on austerity
MEMBERS of our coalition government are erudite and well-travelled enough to be familiar with the saying that “what is the sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander” too.
An alternative proverb enjoins everyone to practice what they preach.
The government will do well to heed this time-honoured wisdom by taking the same medicine that they have prescribed to the rest of us, namely to curb our inclinations to unnecessary and excessive spending.
We cannot overspend even in those instances when a bit of indulgence might appear warranted for the simple reason that the country’s economy is just too poor to afford any excesses.
Finance Minister, Moeketsi Majoro, has thus far presented two budget speeches since his appointment last June and both have highlighted the need for austerity lest the country plunge into the depths of economic and ultimately politico-social chaos that always await countries that are too broke to provide the basic amenities of life to their citizens.
As a responsible publication, we have given praise where it is due for such insightful budget statements.
We have also praised the government for its stated commitment to rein in on unbridled expenditure. We led the chorus of praises when it was announced by the esteemed minister that he and his colleagues in government would no longer travel first class and that they would even be forced to use the cheaper WhatsApp instead of the conventional more expensive voice calls while on foreign trips.
But in keeping with our responsibility as the fourth estate whose mandate is to speak truth to power and be the voice of the voiceless, we cannot but express our deep concern when government dips its hands into the coffers to fund a three-day retreat for spouses of ministers.
Some might argue that the event was well worth it. And possibly the funds expended too miniscule to warrant much hullabaloo. But that’s besides the point. It’s the principle that is of concern here. While on one hand the government tells us to tighten our belts, and even goes as far as cutting down on essential training projects for public officials, it surely cannot spend money on such frivolities as summits for spouses of politicians.
Dr Majoro’s reluctance to comment on the junket is perhaps a clear statement of his revulsion at such unnecessary line items which he has repeatedly warned must be avoided.
According to the Prime Minister’s Press Attaché, Thabo Thakalekoala, the event which was held in Teyateyaneng from Friday to Sunday was borne out of the need to “re-orient” and “counsel” spouses of ministers and their deputies to deal with the pressures that come with living with partners who lead very busy public lives.
We are not so heartless as to suggest that the spouses should not take time off to receive counseling to keep their marriages intact as well as to learn how to conduct themselves in a dignified manner.
We, however, take exception to the apparent belief by some in our government that money can just be taken out of the treasury and spent on unbudgeted fringe activities.
There will always be so many contending issues or challenges that need to be dealt with and clearly those in power will have to decide as to which ones are priority areas.
It is difficult to convince long-suffering ordinary citizens to accept austerity measures while the government does not lead by example and continues to spend and spend without restraint.
Simple economics teaches us to eat what we kill and that has been the gist of Dr Majoro’s message in his two budget presentations.
We fully agree with the minister and we urge everyone else in government to walk Dr Majoro’s talk on curbing expenditure.
We just cannot have a situation where ordinary citizens are asked to tighten their belts while government continues to spend without restraint. Some might
What is sauce for the goose should certainly be the sauce to the gander as well.