Botswana’s social protection policies and practices came under scrutiny at a breakfast seminar co-organised and hosted by Business Botswana and International Labour Organisation (ILO) on Friday. While the Commissioner of Labour Keabonye Selebatso boasted that government provides a wide range of services for families and children which are aimed at reducing poverty as well as providing a social safety net for individuals, vulnerable groups (youth and women) and families, her views attracted missed reactions from other attendants. “I can confidently say Botswana is one of the few countries in Africa that fully funds the social protection programmes out of own resources, and dedicate a significant part of its GDP to this endeavor,” said Selebatso. She cited Ipelegeng, Youth Schemes (Government Voluntary Scheme, Youth Development Fund, Young Framers Fund, etc) Government House Appeal and Old age pension as some of these social protection programmes. Despite Selebatso’s positive appraisals of the government social protection programmes, local economist Dr Keith Jefferies warned that a lot of consideration should be put in ensuring that social protection schemes do not hinder or replace employment creation.
According to Jefferies, many social protection schemes in Botswana were badly designed, outdated and mostly targeted the poor. “Ipelegeng for example is one such social protection scheme. People in rural areas for examples do not want to engage in farming and would rather work for Ipelegeng where they sit down under trees all day doing practically nothing,” said Jefferies. When asked to explain and define Ipelegeng, the commissioner of Labour was at pains to give a coherent answer, choosing to say government was currently in the process of restructuring and formulating a clear social protection policy. For his part Business Botswana President Lekwalo Mosienyane said Botswana needed a comprehensive social security policy and programmes for private sector workers to reduce dependence on employer based provision. “As a global trend, employers in Botswana are progressively taking active part in the development of social protection by preparing to better understand, influence and build their business case for social protection,” he said. According to Mosienyane, it is imperative for the private sector to comprehend and appreciate that social protection packages allow them to attract quality, motivated and committed employees. He added that Botswana is not immune to global financial-economic crisis and globalisation effects as reflected in the rising levels of poverty, inequality and inflationary pressures hence this presented a compelling case for workers to demand attractive social protection packages.