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Inequality promotes injustice

Publishing Date : 30 January, 2018

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Disparities that exist in societies the world over, including in our own Botswana will haunt the future generations if left unattended. Botswana in particular, is ranked as the fourth most unequal society in the world, with our neighbour, South Africa being ranked the most unequal in the world.

In contrast, according to UN Human Development Index, Ukraine, Norway and Slovenia were the most equal countries to live in when considering distribution of income between the richest and poorest in society. GDP is no longer considered a good measure of well being as a result of these inequalities that exist in societies. Botswana being ranked as a middle-upper class economy attest to that.

The status quo is a result of both policy decision and subconscious decisions made over the years by those at the helm. If the current prevailing inequality is to be reversed, it would without doubt be a matter of policy measures. When Botswana gained independence in 1966, the country was ranked among the poorest in the world. Virtually everyone was poor at that time. Yet it is shocking that 50 years later, some sections of society have progressed, while others have been left in the lurch. Instead of throwing food rations over the past decades, what else have been done to help them off?

What seems disturbing is that, the current situation is an artefact of our policy decision especially the last 20 years of the 50 years Botswana has been independent. The current practices also point to a possibility of perpetuation of already depressing situation. Government Enclave find it perfectly befitting for it to refuse to implement salary increase  structures such as pyramid structures, where the lowest paid will get better increment and the highest paid vice-versa. The current modus operandi, instead of helping those who earn less, and those who are feeling the pinch of the ever rising cost of a living, they tend to reward top civil servants, a greedy decision which help to sustain the entrenched inequalities in our society.

Part of the problem the country is facing is collapse in values. Botswana is known historically as a society that promoted equality. The traditional initiatives such as mafisa, letsema, dikgafela and others used to keep everybody afloat in the society. Traditional leaders facilitated and ensured that everybody benefits from these initiatives.

What we have done, not only as a country, but the entire world, has resulted not only in more inequality, but in lower growth, more instability, and overall poorer economic performance. We have experienced a slow growing economy since the 2008 Global recession, and even that growth has not been coupled with new jobs. It’s a jobless growth, coupled with massive jobs losses that would entrench inequalities even much further.

Having an unequal society basically means, we have both a group of rich people at the top, as well as a group of poor people at the bottom. A group of people that can afford the luxuries and privileges of the world — good education as well access to good medical care. On the other side of the aisle is a group of people who fighting with little success to make ends meet.

There is often a reason as alluded to by the The Global Risks Report that inequality unfairly help to perpetuate injustice against those at the receiving end. Those who are poor are unable to graduate from poverty, because the environment and available systems do not necessarily help. Kids from poor families are forced to enter into a competition with those who are well-off, doing so will little resources, with no support structures and under unfavourable environment, a situation which inevitable puts them down.

There is certainly a broader need for collective action to ensure middle‐class living standards, and that our economy works for all. Everybody should benefit and we should as a matter of necessity devise policies that promote inclusiveness. We may as well, as nation, move to implement affirmative action policies that are pro-poor; adequately funding rural schools in poor communities; and giving preferences to children from disadvantaged background in government posts, as well as enacting laws that promote inclusiveness.

In contrast to the global trend of widening gaps between rich and poor, which has become a growing concern since the financial crisis, World Economic Forum reckon that the world is waking up to the corrosive effects of inequality, not only on society, but also as a drag on further economic growth. Botswana should join the affray, sooner than later!



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