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Gov’t should re-look its poverty intervention measures

Publishing Date : 18 February, 2019

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There is clear evidence that our poverty fighting measures have not been effective. Government should not at this time be looking and providing lifetime social grants to individuals. Individuals should be able to graduate from poverty at one point, and sadly this is not happening at the moment.


We need affirmative action intervention measures, which includes giving preference to individuals with poor backgrounds whenever there are job opportunities in the civil service, or even deliberately creating a group of vacancies in the civil services to be filled by graduates or people from poor families. Such vacancies may not be only for the skilled works, it can also be in other fields such as cleaning, security personnel and many others. Of course creating vacancies strictly for the poor in the civil service may not be the only solution, they may as well be others solutions.


Creating dependencies on government monthly food ratios have proved to be an ineffective way of fighting poverty. Poverty fighting measures should be more of empowerment, where government expects people to be catapulted to the mainstream of the economy; allowing them to create families that will not need to be taken care of by government.


One other important factor is to profile the poverty that exist in the country. With about 5.8 percent or 116 000 people considered to be extremely poor in Botswana, there is a need to realise that such people need different solutions to uplift them from poverty. Some are poor because of disabilities, while for others is the case of inter-generational poverty, where the affected were simply born in poor families.


We need to interrogate why children from poor families are likely to fare badly in schools, something which prevents them from escaping from poverty. What else more can government do to help kids from poor families to excel in schools? Government need to go into these kind of details, if it is to address poverty, or else the efforts of defeating it wold prove futile, as it is the case now.


Government should also know that, concern should not only be about people who are in poverty, government should also be concerned about preventing people who are not poor from becoming poor. Creation of Ministry of Social Upliftment, as envisaged by government is a positive step, provided such ministry will be accompanied by robust intervention measures which are implemented effectively.     


When Botswana gained independence in 1966, it was ranked among the third poorest countries in the world. Almost the entire nation depended on traditional lifestyle; with farming which was limited mainly to subsistence purposes. However, over the years, owing mainly to diamond revenues, Botswana was able to graduate to the level of upper-middle income economy. These success has however not been beneficial to everyone, with thousands languishing in poverty that passes from one generation to another.


Botswana is already faced by rising level of unemployment, especially among university graduates, which essentially means education alone is not enough to save poor people from the jaws of poverty. So it is not surprising today that a scores of Batswana graduates are still lavishing in the poverty especially those from rural and marginalised communities. Botswana situation is even made worrisome by the fact that, it is a society which is ranked among the most unequal in the world by various reports, including the United Nations Human Development Report.


The Palma ratio measuring of inequality, focuses on the differences between those in the top and bottom income brackets. The ratio takes the richest 10 percent of the population’s share of gross national income (GNI) and divides it by the poorest 40 percent of the population’s share. This measure has become popular as more income inequality research focuses on the growing divide between the richest and poorest in society.


This Palma ratio, as used by UN Human Development Index shows that Botswana is the third most unequal society in the world, coming after Haiti and neighbouring South Africa in the latest report. Recently government took a decision to offer 10 percent increase for lower scales (A-B) while the above scales were offered 6 percent. This is commendable effort and it should be maintained going forward to address the issue of devastating income disparities that exist in the civil service.

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