Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Botswana failing in its care of the elderly

There is need to review the country’s social welfare system.

In fact the system needs a total overhaul.

The money paid to the elderly as old age allowance, which is currently just over P400 is by all accounts too little.

The opposition, in their response to the budget speech by minister of finance has proposed P600.

Our view is that under the circumstances, even that f8gure proposed by opposition cannot do much to the lives of elderly people.

The biggest problem is that in coming with this intervention, our government held that the allowance was an addition either to pension or to the assistance that old people might already be receiving from their families, especially the children.

We hold that such argument, while it was true at the time that the allowance was introduced, today it no longer holds.

In the past as a country and indeed as a people we could count on our traditional social structures to take care of the elderly.

Those structures fundamentally included relatives. The children were always able to take care of their parents.

For many families and households, today that is no longer possible.

The country has lost too many of its young people ÔÇô either to disease or to accidents.

As a result too many young people have simply predeceased their parents, mainly to HIV/AIDS, but also as say above, to road accidents.

Even when they are alive, young people are unemployed or underemployed, unable as a result to take care of themselves, let alone their elderly parents.

The budget speech as delivered by minister of finance needs to be reviewed.

It does not offer much hope to the elderly.

In 2008, President Ian Khama delivered a powerful speech promising dignity for all.

Almost ten years on, for the elderly those promises now look like they had been nothing more than yet another political theatre.

The recent budget has not helped matters for those who looked up to it for new measures of enhanced dignity for the elderly, especially the poor.

The elderly are chafing under the burden of a social system that has become dysfunctional and an economic system that is increasingly individualistic.

The young, for their part are chafing under an economic climate mass unemployment, made all the worse by a Government that is not ashamed to publicly say it has no responsibility towards those that are unemployed.

Not only is unemployment high, economic growth has been almost stagnant.

Even for the young and physically fit, the air is full of palpable uncertainty.

What more of the old and frail, who are now in the sunset of their lives?

The social support systems that included the extended family have become so neutered as to be dysfunctional so much so that it would be irresponsible to point at them as a fallback for the elderly.

Our view is that the elderly deserve better.

There is need for fundamental review with aim to reform current social welfare structure.

The current setup was designed for a different era with different circumstances in mind.

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