Much has been made of the depth of public disillusionment with current economic situation that citizens of this country find themselves in, thanks largely to Covid-19 pandemic.
Of late, a week after another – and thanks to Social Media, we are reminded of the high level of economic inequality in our country as workers stage protests after another despite the fact that the Covid-19 regulations prohibit industrial strike during the State of Emergency.
Even before Covid-19 commentaries have been made on Botswana’s troublesome problems – Joblessness, Landlessness and Lack of access to business finance.
Thanks to Covid – 19, now many Batswana and outsiders alike are aware of the nature of the inequality in our society today.
Part of the reason why the level of inequality keeps growing is due to absence of affordable housing to the poor and middle class of this country. The high property prices in this country especially housing is part of the reason why a large number of our people remain impoverished. A large number of middle-class people in Botswana today spend more than half of their disposable incomes on housing rental, the money which they could be using to invest elsewhere. Despite the efforts by the past administration to build the less privileged houses though the Presidential Housing Appeal – now National Housing Appeal, a sizeable number of Batswana in both rural and urban areas remain un-housed. This contributes immensely to the growing income inequality in this country. The problem is made worse by shortage of land in the capital Gaborone and surrounding villages. The solution for this shortage is to build up. While in urban areas the problem could be shortage of land, there have never been a sound reason why rural folks are still struggling to get a small piece of land in their own land.
If there is anything that the government of the day should be more concerned about, and swiftly act on – it is the allocation of land to its people. In fact, the urgent need for land by citizens is now beyond residential use only. Many Batswana, more especially the young people need land to make a living out of it.
Like the poor who at some point found themselves waiting to acquire a house through the National Housing appeal, the job seekers and the middle-income earners await to be allocated a piece of land to do business, mainly farming.
Our post Covid-19 Economic Recovery Plan as shared as a draft by the government enclave recently doesn’t speak much about prioritising land servicing and allocation the indigenous citizens. This is unfortunate and cruel. There is no how we can speak about food self sufficiency when the people of the land do not own the land that’s being used to cultivate that food. Unless we want the people of this country to rent land both at home and where they seek to do business such as farming.
Our Economic Recovery Plan is incomplete if it is silent on the money that should be allocated to servicing land both for agriculture purposes and residence.
The Plan beautifully state the need for improved domestic food production to achieve a higher degree of self-sufficiency in selected products.
“Despite historical problems in developing agricultural production (slow growth in output, weak productivity, limited effectiveness of government support programmes), it is felt that the country nevertheless has potential for agricultural sector growth”, reads part of the plan.
It doesn’t end there; it also states that raising the productivity of agriculture is essential and potentially a source of “quick wins”, including enhancing domestic self-sufficiency, improving the balance of payments, job creation, innovation and the adoption of new technology. What the plan doesn’t suggest though is where a 20-year-old or 35-year-old Motswana without land, but passionate about agriculture fit. From where I stand, it would take political will to ensure that indigenous Batswana in the low-income bracket are helped to secure the much-needed land to be part of the key players in food production and supply chain that the Economic Recovery Plan passionately talks about.
Action is not required from Government only. Private land developers should also come on board and suggest creative solutions that would ensure that no Motswana is left behind this time around.
Our inequality levels dictate that we open a new chapter of citizen-building. This chapter should involve providing the less privileged people of this country with the required skills to make use of land allocated to them to accumulate wealth.
I say this because when it comes to the issue relating to land allocation or redistribution, we have been very successful to talk about it over the past years, but acting has been nothing but disappointment to the natives of this county.
It is hard to tell whether it’s by mistake or design that our government fails to understand that apart from labour and capital, land is another most important factor in production and creation of wealth.
The #Bottomline is that efficient allocation of land for residential, agricultural, industrial and commercial use is vital to realising our development goals. That is why we call for the Economic Recovery Plan to prioritise land servicing and allocation to “the people of the land