Botswana could fail to reach UN goals on poverty eradication

  • High income inequality and failure to achieve inclusive economic growth demoralise poverty eradication, says UN report


Botswana has been cited among countries which could fail to reach United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) which, among others, intend to end poverty by 2030.

This emerged last week at the national launch of a roadmap that has been initiated to assist the country’s implementation projects aimed at reaching targets of the SDGs.

A review report released at the launch and intended to evaluate Botswana’s progress in the implementation of the goals shows that high income inequality, which remains the highest in the world, and government failure to ensure inclusive economic growth, threaten achievement of UNSDGs on poverty eradication.

According to the UN assessment, the results of Botswana investment in national development and rapid economic growth are not satisfactory as the country is still having worrisome levels of poverty.

Says the report: “While Botswana has over the past five decades executed its National Development Planning (NDP), the results are not satisfactory. Rapid economic growth has been achieved at a faster pace than social justice and sustainable development and the country still has worrisome levels of poverty.”

The assessment indicates that economic focus through mining and non-inclusive economic growth policies are contributing to high poverty and rising inequalities in the country. “The capital-intensive nature of mining and the vulnerability of minerals to external market shocks created an economy with structural rigidities that restricted significant employment creation,” the report notes

The assessment report indicates that the 2017/18 budget cumulative deficit of over P6 billion poses a threat to Botswana’s ability to achieve SDGs on poverty eradication by 2030. “The 2017/18 budget indicates a cumulative deficit of over P6 billion and this means that should there be any economic shocks, the government’s ability to support subsidies might wane, leading to a reversal in the achievements previously made in reducing poverty.”

The report added that because of its upper middle-income status, Botswana has limited opportunities in benefiting from external grants intended to reduce poverty. “The need to address poverty issues on the backdrop of declining diamond revenues and government budget is a serious challenge that the country is facing,” it warns. “The country needs external support financially and capacity-wise, but its upper middle income status limits the extent to which it can benefit from globally available grants and address poverty issues.”

The UN also indicated that increasing urbanization also threatens to Botswana’s ability to achieve SDGs. According to UN, the increasing urbanization is likely to escalate urban unemployment, poverty and crime rates, as well as environmental issues such as demand for water, energy, construction raw materials and waste.

The UN has indicated that in addition to worrisome levels of poverty, high inequality and unemployment, Botswana has also underperformed its peers’ upper-middle income averages in the areas of infrastructure, health and quality of primary education, higher education and training.

“Botswana is faced with challenges such as limited access to infrastructure,” the report continues. “While the country has made significant progress towards improving its infrastructure, particularly in the road, water and sanitation sectors, and has increased rural access to power, sectors such as agriculture have no infrastructure such as access roads to markets and food processing structures.

“Livestock off-take rates over the years remained constant because of limited access roads to the cattle areas and this has hampered the country’s potential growth that the sector can offer the economy.”

The UN has indicated that rapid economic growth is a necessity but not a sufficient condition for addressing issues of food and nutrition and adds that well articulated policies and establishment of related programmes do not provide a panacea for poverty and nutritional issues. “This suggests that policy interventions must go a step further and ensure that poverty must be directly addressed with tools taking cognizance of its multi-sectorial nature.”