Last week Friday morning saw Botswana’s private sector kingpins deliberate for the first time on the subject of social protection, an engagement which had been made possible by the partnership between Business Botswana (BB) and International Labor Organisation (ILO).
By providing the first platform to garner understanding on what constitutes social protection, BB Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr Racious Moatshe said it would motivate and assist the private sector to take an active role in introducing it in the local environment which in return could encourage productivity and spur economic growth.
The engagement included presentations from Luis Frota, ILO Social Security specialist in southern and eastern Africa and Professor Alex van den Heever, chairperson in the field of Social Security at Wits School of Governance in South Africa.
In explaining the concept of social protection Van den Heever described it as a scheme that distributes risk in society caused by things regarded as unavoidable and unpredictable with the danger of causing harm to everyone. Falling into poverty as may be caused by weak economic conditions, getting old which is rather inevitable, becoming unemployed are some of the examples he gave of the risk contingencies.
Social security pooling, which is what he referred to as the management of such risk contingencies, he said, is done in two different forms. One is the horizontal pooling which distributes risk between people who today need protection and those who don’t, giving the example of a smaller family supporting a larger family. Two is in the form of income in that a higher income group supports a low income group.
Perhaps of importance from Van den Heever’s presentation was that out of the different groups being individuals, immediate families, employers and industries, society is better placed to manage risk pooling.
At an individual level the challenge is that a systematic disadvantage in income equals the same disadvantage of protection. This means that an individual earning a low income will have low savings in which case in the event of a loss of a job survival will be limited to the amount that the individual had accumulated.
At an employer level, the problems become difficult to solve because of the different protection that respective companies provide in which case smaller company employers carry heavier burden than larger companies.
Van den Heever said regarding Sub Saharan Africa that it is characterised by informal social protection and bringing the discussion closer to home, Botswana was said to have low levels of adequate social protection.
This is despite such programs as the public works program Ipegeleng, nutrition programmes for infants and pregnant and lactating women, school feeding for primary and secondary school children, old age pension and cash and in-kind assistance for destitute.
These programmes have in fact commanded a large share of the country’s revenue as seen from annual national budgets. Moreover, according to a 2013 report by BIDPA that had been done in partnership with World Bank on social protection assessment, it said: “Botswana is one of the few countries in Africa that fully funds the social protection programmes out of own resources, and dedicate a large part of its GDP to this endeavor.”
BIDPA had suggested improvement to the social protection programmes which included tightening the safety net to eliminate fragmentation and curtailing over-generous benefits; developing administrative tools and systems that underpin an efficient and effective service delivery across all social protection programmes and strengthening institutional arrangements and coordination mechanisms.
A rather specific issue to social protection in Botswana, as was said by Frota, is the poor protection within the private sector primarily caused by inadequate income.
He advised that ILO could assist on how employers could take the lead in social protection