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'Diamonds not our best friend'

2005-05-24 13:53

Gaborone - Botswana, the world's biggest diamond producer, was over-dependent on the crystal and therefore vulnerable, President Festus Mogae told an international diamond conference in Mumbai on Tuesday.

Diamonds accounted for four fifths of Botswana's export revenues.

"Trying to construct an advanced and sustainable economy on such a narrow platform is no easy task," he said as he explained government policy on the future of the industry in Botswana.

"We hope to strike an appropriate balance between competing policy objectives," he said, but Botswana would not, at this stage, impose any fiscal or other penalties on the export of rough diamonds, or compel domestic beneficiation.

Mogae is on a five day official visit to India. He returns to Botswana on Saturday.

"I wish to correct the popular misconception that diamonds have transformed Botswana into a land of Mammon (the worldly rich)," Mogae said.

"If we are fortunate, this year our diamond revenues will be at the level of $1.75bn, which is less than the turnover of some of the major corporate players in the industry. Dividing this by our one and three quarter million citizens, gives a per capita income of just over two dollars a day - the international benchmark for those living in poverty!"

It should come as no surprise that many Batswana criticised his government for permitting the export of rough diamonds.

SAPA