Ahead of the finalisation of government’s National Poverty Eradication Strategy that is currently being developed, government has been warned not to dilly dally, especially on the part of implementation.
Renowned academic, Professor Keitseope Nthomang, said while the conference was mainly dealing with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) number one, which is to eradicate abject poverty, it is important to ensure that people do not slip back into poverty and this requires that it is closely linked with SDGs eight and 10. The goals deal with decent work and Economic Growth as well as Reduced Inequality, respectively.
While Botswana is famed for managing its economy well, a large segment of the country’s population is suffering the twin evils of poverty and inequality.
Statistics Botswana recently released statistics that show that despite the introduction of poverty alleviation initiatives in 2010, poverty has decreased at a slower rate compared to previous periods.
From the period of 2002/03 to 2009/10 poverty decreased by nearly 10%, compared to just three percent in the recent survey. There is a decrease however, in the number of people who worry about going to bed on an empty stomach or waking up and worrying about not having enough food.
On the other hand, inequality in Botswana remains one of the highest in the world. The Gini Coefficient of inequality, as measured by per capita consumption, declined from 64.7% to 60.5% from 2003 to 2010.
Nthomang warned Presidential Affairs minister, Eric Molale that things will not get done if government is more concerned with political expediency rather than making meaningful changes to people’s lives.
“The beneficiaries, do we know their needs; are they prepared for the help that is intended for them?” asked Nthomang, emphasising the need for better targeted interventions. “Poorly designed policies lead to poor results,” stated Nthomang categorically, also adding that “you can avoid facts but you must always learn from them”.
“We need a Ministry of Social Development as a matter of urgency,” Nthomang said.
Minister Molale said he agreed in totality with Nthomang’s sentiments and conceded that there has been failure to bring better inclusion. However Molale was non-committal on the creation of a new ministry as it is outside of his ambit.
The overarching sentiment shared at a poverty eradication conference held last week is that: “Poverty eradication is a plausible and attainable goal and no levels of poverty should be tolerable in any of our societies.” This was echoed by stakeholders, front-line workers, development practitioners, government representatives and academics throughout the international conference on “Leaving No One Behind: The Fight Against Poverty, Exclusion and Inequality” which ended in Gaborone on Wednesday.
In 2016, a World Bank Report indicated that more than 700 million people or 10% of the world’s population still live in extreme poverty, the majority of them being women and children.