Khama's poverty projects fail

SHARE   |   Sunday, 31 August 2014   |   By Staff Writer

Poverty eradication strategies introduced by president, Ian Khama after taking office in 2008 have been dismissed as total failure by some insiders at government enclave. 

The poverty eradication program is headed by Dr Mothibi at Office of the President. To drive the program, the Poverty Eradication Coordinating Unit (PECU) was set up to oversee implementation of the poverty eradication projects around the country, which reports progress to cabinet every two weeks. PECU is made up of representatives from the ministries of local government;  agriculture; labour and home affairs; and  environment, wildlife and tourism.

A member of PECU tells The Patriot on Sunday that at inception, the poverty eradication program was centred on backyard gardens. She said most backyard gardens have failed because: beneficiaries were not properly assessed (failed to check if people who wanted to benefit had any interest in backyard gardens); market survey not properly investigated...the beneficiaries could be grouped together to produce on a commercial scale because production in small gardens cannot meet the costs incurred e.g. of water bills.

In the current report, the Auditor General found the stores accounting as laid down in Supplies Regulations and Procedures practically non-existent, in all centres his office visited. The centres are responsible for the implementation of backyard gardens as part of the poverty eradication programme under the ministry of agriculture's department of crop production. The auditor general found that the non-existence of proper accounting procedures creates losses through dishonesty or otherwise, without detection or notice.

The purchase of all backyard garden materials is done centrally at ministry headquarters for deliveries to various centres thorughout the country, without so mucb as advice to the cnetres of the materials and quantities that they should expect to receive, the report reads. Over-purchasing was common in the centres, with large stocks of materials beyond requirement. For example, at Palapye gumpoles were estimated at over 3 000, wheel barrows 250, shade nets 153 and gutters 439. On receipt of the materials the centres do not raise any accounting records to record the quantities received and maintain the balance of each item of stores at any point in time. "There are large stocks of the various materials for these projects, comprising 5 000 litre water tanks and accessories, water pipes, galvanised fence wire, spades, rakes, wheelbarrows, corner poles, gumpoles, and so on. Unless steps are taken to introduce proper accounting procedures for these stores, the management of these stores is liley to go completely out of hand, leading to losses and issues of misuse and abuse," the auditor general warned.

Some PECU members suggest that packages in the poverty eradication programmes should have been designed based on the needs of people in different geographical locations. Government has since introduced alternative packages in the poverty eradication program to augment backyard gardens. These include catering, tent hire, kiosk, saloon, textile, bakery and others.
A study conducted by the World Bank and Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) released in March 2014, has found that although Botswana has many social protection programmes, some of them are rather small relative to the target group they try to cover or to the number of poor people, which limits their effectiveness. The report said weaknesses in Botswana's social protection programmes can be corrected over the next few years and by 2016 the country could emerge with a modern, effective and efficient social protection system capable of eliminating absolute poverty, researchers at the World Bank suggest. 

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While some beneficiaries have praised the Ipelegeng programme others complain that the duration (three months) is too short to make any meaningful difference in their lives.
Ntsholetsang Mere (51) was dismissed from the public service during the 2011 strike. After trying on several occasions without success, she was recently enrolled for Ipelegeng programme in Mogoditshane because she could not secure any formal employment. "It is a struggle. For one to secure enrolment you have to be up before sunrise to join the queue for your name to be included. The money is too little but it’s better than staying home doing nothing," she said.

Mere works part time doing menial jobs for a fee around the village to augment the P409 monthly wage she will be earning in the next three months before the next Ipelegeng cohort takes over. For Rapula Kewakae of Molepolole, who has never had formal employment before, Ipelegeng has given him an opportunity to earn a 'salary'. However he also wishes that he could stay enrolled for a longer time to improve his life. The two are part of the 55 000 workers in the Ipelegeng public works programme throughout the country. Unbeknown to them, the World Bank experts have recommended that to improve the targeting and effectiveness of Ipelegeng government should consider reducing the wage rate while increasing the coverage and duration of the programme. To strengthen the social protection system in Botswana, the report suggests the use of analytical framework of the recently adopted Social Protection Strategy of the World Bank (2012-2022). Based on an in-depth assessment of the social protection programmes the researchers recommend three strategic directions and associated policy measures that would strengthen the social protection system over the next three to seven years.

Currently the Ipelegeng programme suffers from poor regional allocation of its funds across regions and areas and is not self -targeted because it offers a higher wage rate than the prevailing market rate for low-skilled workers. Because the wage rate is high, the programme has become attractive for non-poor beneficiaries, who are taking the place for the poor in the programme. The high demand for Ipelegeng has forced the administrators to ration the excess demand through a lottery system, thus reducing the targeting of the programme further. "To improve its targeting, the programme needs to offer lower wages for an extended period of time. For example, reducing the wage rate by one third to P390/ month in line with the minimum wage for agriculture would allow extending the duration and the number of beneficiaries served by a combined 50% under the same budget; and the targeting of the program would improve. To increase its effectiveness, the size of the programme and its budget need to be determined based on the total number of poor working-able adults. It regional distribution needs to be based on the regional distribution of absolute poverty through a poverty map," reads the report.

To reach all families living in absolute poverty, the report recommends designing, piloting and rolling out a family support grant (FSG) program by 2016. To cover families in absolute poverty that are not reached by existing programs, many countries have put in place a last resort, poverty targeted program. The proposed FSG is such a program, targeted using a proxy-means test toward the poorest and offering a benefit of P85 per capita per month which is slightly more than the average consumption gap of the poor. This is equivalent to P340 per month for an average family of four.

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Botswana has maintained one of the world's highest economic growth rates since independence in 1966. Economic growth between 1966 and 2008 was 8.7 percent. Through fiscal discipline and sound management, Botswana has transformed itself from one of the poorest countries in the world with per capita GDP of US$ 70 at independence to an upper-middle-income country with a per capita GDP of US$ 8,533 in 2011. The growth rate has reduced extreme poverty- the share of population living below one dollar a day-from 23.4 per cent to 6.4 per cent in 2009/10. Botswana's heavy reliance on a single export (diamonds) was a critical factor in the eight per cent decline in real GDP in 2009. The expected levelling off in diamond mining production within the next two decades may overshadow the country’s long-term economic prospects.

The World Bank researchers said despite its rapid growth and high per capita income level, the country is plagued by many development problems common in low income countries. Inequality is very high, with a per capita consumption Gini coefficient of 0.49 in 2009/10. Despite the relatively high average income per capita, high inequality explains why in 2009/10, 19.3 per cent of the population were poor, and 16 per cent of the population have consumption below the food component of the poverty datum line (absolute poverty). In monetary terms, absolute poverty line was P170 per capita per month and the total and a large share of adults work in low productivity-low wage jobs (e.g. in agriculture) or are unemployed. The unemployment rate is also very high at 17.8 per cent in 2009/10, though if discouraged workers are taken into account, the rate would be closer to 30 per cent.