No hope in the briefcase!
With Covid-19 keeping the entertainment industry in lockdown, on Monday the long-suffering sector’s stakeholders tuned in with hopeful hearts as the Finance Minister, Thapelo Matsheka delivered his Budget Speech.
The hope slowly turned to dismay, however, as in his 33-page address, Matsheka barely mentioned the struggling industry.
“It is common knowledge that many sectors of the economy have severely been impacted by health restrictions that had to be instituted to fight the spread of the disease. Indeed, some sectors, such as tourism, the entertainment, and arts sectors, including bars and liquor outlets, we’re closed right from the onset of the pandemic.
“The advent of Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 threw everything into disarray, as countries the world over including Botswana moved into survival mode,” conceded the Minister in his gloomy review of the last year.
By nature, National budgets focus on tax rates and upcoming levies.
And so it proved with Matsheka’s latest installment, the Minister dwelling on VAT increases, sugar and fuel levies as well as the fortunes of state-owned enterprises and the decreasing national debt levels.
The impact of Covid-19 was also discussed in detail. However, despite being one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, the entertainment industry missed out on the microscope.
Expressing his disappointment, Chairperson of the Creative, Arts and Media Sector at Business Botswana, Tonderai Tsara, noted, “We would like to really see the detail or line items in the budget tables and extract exactly what government will be prioritizing.
“High on our list of expectations would be funding for the establishment of an Arts Council and adequate funding for the acquisition of creative locally produced content by government TV and radio entities.”
Attempting to find some light amid the gloom, Tsara added, “The allocation of P14.5 billion to ERTP [Economic Recovery Transformation Plan], with P7 billion in the current financial year is a welcome development.”
He was quick to point out, though, that there was no indication as to how much of the ERTP pie would be heading the entertainment industry’s way.
“We just hope that the allocation to our sector goes beyond just the establishment of the National Arts Council. There needs to be equity and a return-on-investment (ROI) analysis of how the expenditure is distributed across the various economic sectors which fall under the ERTP.”
Tsara further told Voice Entertainment he feels the national broadcasters would better serve the creative and arts sector if they are turned into a parastatal.
“We do believe that creative arts and media sector would be better served by the Department of Broadcasting and Information Services [BTV, RB2 & Daily News] being more commercially oriented or even being turned into a parastatal as there is currently a lot of value destruction happening in this space that inhibits growth in the creative arena.”