Tuesday, October 27, 2020

A tale of two economies: The widening gap between the rich and poor should be source of concern

The curtain is almost closing on the debate relating to the Mid-term review of the National Development Plan 11 (NDP 11) at Parliament. Parliament itself is about to go on recess. The question that come to mind is – how productive has this session been? Parliament, should or could be seen as board of directors if we were to compare our country to a corporate company. A place where key decisions relating to the direction that this country seeks to take are made.

A place where decision on how what the nation should allocate its resources are made. But as the winter session of Parliament comes to an end, could Batswana, being the main shareholders of this country be proud of the decisions taken by the board of directors? Given the fact that the focus point for the ongoing session has been NDP 11, and the fact that we are the third most unequal nation on earth, can we say our law makers used this session to try and close the gap that we see between the rich and the poor? We put forward these questions because we believe that our board of directors (Parliamentarians) should always make it a point that their debate and ultimate decisions should reflect the reality on the ground. The reality on the ground shows that our economy has been on a slow motion, the national budget has been on the negatives and most troubling – the gap between the Have-s and Have-not has been growing.

Historically, income inequality has always been extreme in Botswana. For the longest time we been classified as the third unequal nation on earth. However, the Covid-19 sponsored lockdowns sharpened the edges of inequality even further, especially because of the way ii was implemented. Majority of Batswana are earning their living in the informal trade sector. The reality on the ground is that this is one sector that has not directly benefitted from the government interventions relating to Covid 19. While nobody is safe from Covid 19, some classes of our society were fortunate enough to be more protected than others. This is because Botswana has over the decades joined the world in creating a reward structure that benefits an increasingly small and select elite while devaluing the majority. This is why lately there has been a talk on ‘people of the land’ or ‘black citizens empowerment’.

Our leaders should not take these issues lightly. They should use opportunities such as the NDP 11 midterm review to redirect the resources of this country towards areas that would uplift those at the far end of the economic ladder. Our leaders must be imaginative enough to allow the nation to see that there are benefits to success and adversity, to boom and bust alike. The real cause of our concern is the growing gap between the poor and the rich in this country. Inequality – the number one enemy not just for Botswana but the world at large is stark. The monster is multi-faceted and reinforcing because of our lack of tact towards fighting it. We seem to have left it to the nature to take its cause. But its not too late to do something about it. The NDP 11 midterm review has given our leaders an opportunity to close the ever-growing gap. They just need to be imaginative enough and cut on being too emotive.

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The Telegraph October 28

Digital edition of The Telegraph, October 28, 2020.