Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Botswana’s structural economy distorted – UNDP

Plagued by a structural distortion of its economy which makes it difficult to absorb the vast numbers of unemployed youth, Botswana is now struggling to keep head above water, a Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) report has revealed.

The national report on the status of implementation of the sustainable development goals agenda in Botswana dated 5th November 2019 which was compiled by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) paints a gloomy picture of a country currently in the throes of its distorted economic development.

Describing Botswana’s structural economy as distorted, the report states that Botswana’s high unemployment rates are characterized with a mismatch of skill shortages and mismatch (especially entrepreneurial skills), poor attitudes towards work that contribute to low productivity, lack of an entrepreneurial culture and stringent rules for starting up a business.

The report states that the training dimension is supply-driven and not aligned to the industry needs, and hence the mismatches between skills demand and supply.

The Ministry of Finance and UNDP found that “Further, the excessive dependence on capital-intensive mining and the lack of direct integration of the non-formal segment into the formal sector creates uneven and distorted economic development.”

The two institutions also found that “This structural distortion of the economy makes it difficult for the economy to absorb the vast numbers of the unemployed and under-employed young people into the mainstream economy.”

The report says a gender analysis in the labor market indicates that women continue to form a large majority of the working poor, earning less and are more often affected by long-term unemployment than men. This is mainly attributed to by gender-based discrimination, women’s double roles of being a worker and a care taker for the society and persistent social norms ascribing gender roles and responsibilities for women, which are often slow to change, the report says.

“It should be noted that whilst Botswana has achieved sustained economic growth since independence, the high unemployment, inequity in access, declining education quality and inadequate skills development, and increasing maternal mortality rates are key bottlenecks that undermine progress towards achievement of sustainable development goals,” the report says.

 The country needs to prioritize interventions that will reform and reorient the economy towards job creation, ensure effective investment in education and skill development and address the maternal health issues, the report noted.

“This can be realized if the country takes advantage of the advantage of its open demographic window of opportunity to advance socioeconomic development in a sustainable manner,” the report further stated.

Despite the progress in increasing enrollment, the country is currently faced with the problem of educated unemployment of about 17%) due to the low quality and relevance of education and training, the report found.

“Furthermore, although the government has built numerous schools countrywide, the major challenge has been associated with poor implementation of strategies that provide a conducive environment for learning and teaching. The curriculum is not culturally, context sensitive and does not provide appropriate labor market skill sets for the 21st learner,” it says.

It also found that children are still crowded in small spaces with an intake of between 40-45 students per class, and in some schools, the infrastructure is dilapidated.

“Further, the poor socio-economic environment (high levels of poverty and unemployment) and low parental education in some rural communities do not enable the community members to provide opportunities to assist children in their learning and family stimulation behaviors,” the report says.

The report says teachers are not motivated due to the working conditions and the lack of support from communities which are not empowered.

“In transforming the education system, it is therefore important to invest in all the basic needs for learning, including diversifying the economy and equip the workforce with a variety of skill sets that meet employer needs,” the report observed.

The country should therefore, the report says, consider the 10+ Action Plan for employment creation with a focus on reducing youth unemployment, as recommended by the United Nations Development Programme.

It recommended that small businesses need to be supported as labor markets transform and entrepreneurial activity strengthens and access to finance should be made easier and conditions created to allow enterprises to flourish.

The report also recommended  that working conditions should be improved and facilitate SMEs (Small to Medium Enterprises) to move to the formal economy and incorporate macroeconomic policies that promote job creation and support demand and investment need to be prioritized, along with tax, infrastructure and sector-specific policies that enhance productivity.

The report also called on Botswana to ensure effective implementation of laws and policies for equal pay for equal work and equal remuneration for jobs of equal value for women and men in all sectors and empowering the youth to participate in the processes and decisions that affect their lives.

“Further, the opening of parliamentary committees to the public, releasing more parliamentary information, encouraging better outreach by legislators and implementing SDGs specific strategies to improve the position of vulnerable and marginalized groups will also ensure that no one is left behind,” the report says.

The country should therefore, the report pointed out,  institutionalize the parliamentary role of advancing all facets of this goal through parliament’s mandate to make laws, oversee the executive branch of government and represent people’s interests, as well more directly as one of the institutions specifically responsible for ensuring accountability and inclusion.

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