Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Culture of debt is here to stay!

The economic prosperity and growth of the 1980s in Botswana not only led to increased business confidence and optimism but ushered in debt as a habit and culture tassel for corporates and individuals.

As a result of the mushrooming of unsettled debts to unmanageable dizzy heights, the social malice has found permanent residence on our shores as an indelible habit and culture, says Monte Kote, a University of Botswana Psychology lecturer.

“At present, just like in Botswana, debt is an increasing social problem in most of the developed world countries.”

Addressing a Debt Management forum hosted by Premier Wealth Botswana at UB last week, the widely researched and travelled Kote said: “Research has clearly exposed age, attitude, gender and, to some extent, religious inclination as key factors associated with the accumulation of debt. For instance, debtors tend to be older members of the population than the upcoming young. From this crop of debtors, the emergence of a more pro-debt attitude and the propensity of having several kinds of financial indebtedness, are some of the exacerbating factors.”

“Alongside the increase of commercial bank loans in the wake of bereavements, weddings or other human catastrophic incidences have seen the emergence of micro-lenders posing as the proverbial ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ for those without sureties. Empirical research appears to support that a majority of debtors worry less about the level of their bank accounts and believe the fallacy is to have more credit cards.

“The proliferation of the stereotype in our society that males should spend their hard earned cash on female counterparts to underscore higher testosterone levels gives succor to the vice. Men make it; women spent it as the latter are ministers of finance. Whether by design or coincidence, in Botswana, the majority of ethnic groups are proud to be associated with the chauvinistic malpractice an in vogue virtue, indulged in once too often.

“A high level of indebtedness has been observed among UB students in their second or third years of study. Again, the solution to the prodigal tendency lies in having more credit cards.

“Among the Christian religious community it appears to some extent that the locus of (debt) control centres more on being atheist or agnostic than being protestant and having more pro-debt attitude.”

According to Kote, some best practices of avoiding the habit of immersion in debt can include developing financial prudence of never asking for money. The practice of “I want, I get”, “My money is mine and my spouse’s is ours”, “Take a lot, give a bit”, “I know someone attitude”, “Relief will come someday” and “I need to live a bit too” broaden the way to financial doom! Although anathema to a majority, a debt consolidation cycle done transparently is one way out of the financial dilemma.

Culture contributes to indebtedness in that financial planning appears a waste of time, given the below the poverty datum line salaries paid to the workforce across the board.

“This gives vent to paranoia such as, how do you plan for a funeral or illness when you don’t know when they are coming? Financial literacy should come before getting the finances, now it’s too late, draws the nail into the coffin of hopelessness.”

Just like ailments affecting people, high levels of debt come with physical and psychological symptoms. The most common physical symptoms are insomnia, loss of appetite and high blood pressure in the absence of remedial solutions. In hot pursuit are libido, alcohol and substance abuse, chain smoking and skin conditions. A cause for alarm is the capacity to weaken the immune system.

Psychologically, debtors become emotional and stigmatized in their approach, with contagion on the cognitive and social functions. Everything is to their detriment, blaming commercial banks, punitive government policies and migrant workers.

Also averse are gender related conflicts by males such as burying heads in sand, childlike regressions, impacts on various roles of mother, partner, lover, shopper, gatekeeper or colleague. There is sometimes an aura of guilt at not being aware of the crisis earlier on.

Kote said the way forward in helping improve the mental condition of clients suffering from DEBT lies in putting incumbents in control.


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