Sunday, May 28, 2023

Botswana’s battle against inequality

Government continues to invest heavily in social safety net programs, and has done so over an extended period of time. There exists various programmes that serve the underprivileged population; including Ipelegeng, a public works program that provides temporary jobs to the poor able bodied population.

Experts posit that the significant investment in Ipelegeng proves government’s dedication to helping the disadvantaged population out of the dire poverty.


A report by Botswana Institute of Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) and the World Bank discloses that 2.6 percent of the population (55, 000) in Botswana was absorbed into Ipelegeng at a cost of P409 million in 2012/13. The share of Ipelegeng on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was estimated at 0.3 percent out of a total of 1.7 percent of GDP for all social assistance programs (example old age pension and destitute relief). Between 2009/10 and 2011/12, P797 million was spent on the public works program. 


Apart from social programs like Ipelegeng, Botswana has revised its labour laws in a bid to discourage exploitation of workers. Earlier in July 2015, government approved a six percent upward adjustment of the minimum wage across the board. At the minimum wage rate of P5.15, a construction worker who works eight hours a day for 22 days (176 hours) earns P906.40 per month. This represents an increase of P114.40 from the P792 earned in 2014 at a minimum wage rate of P4.50. Prior to this adjustment, Botswana increased the minimum wage rate by eight percent across the board and 10 percent for the Agriculture sector in June 2014.

The adjustments followed a wage cap which was lifted in 2012, which government implemented to minimize the effects of the 2008/09 economic downturn on businesses. However, according to a BIDPA working paper, the cap worked against workers and their families as it did not provide a decent standard of living. In addition, a report titled Decisions for Life estimated that the minimum wage was about 20 percent of the 2008 average wage in the formal sector. However even though government adjusted the minimum wage upwards, it did so when the deterioration of the living standard of low income workers had been exacerbated by the wage cap. Workers and their families are struggling to play catch up to livelihoods as they are unable to adequately support their needs.


Meanwhile, Botswana remains one of the few countries in the world that offer public and free education, thereby ensuring that every individual gains access to knowledge and expertise that will help to unlock economic opportunities and place individuals in a better position to acquire and control ownership of resources.


Free Education for All


To date, the Botswana Government has soundly and noticeably allocated the largest share of its recurrent budget to education, and this trend was observed over many years. In the 2015/16 national budget, government proposed a share of P10.31 billion which makes 28 percent of the recurrent budget. “This demonstrates government’s commitment to increase education funding with a view of supporting human capital development,” said the Minister of Finance. The bulk of this share went towards student bursaries for post secondary education at P2.25 billion. Health accounts for the second largest share of the budget at P5.67 billion which makes 15.5 percent of the total budget. This figure represented an increase of 8.7 percent over the current financial year’s budget.   


Government’s bulky financial commitment towards education and health is in line with Oxfam’s measurement of the effort done to tackle income inequality. 


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