At a time that the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change has evidently caused a lot of panic in the government, the World Bank has made to Botswana’s political leaders a proposal that is not functionally different from “Stop donating blankets in an election year.”
Having studied the country’s social protection programmes very closely, the Bank came to the conclusion that Ipelegeng, the labour-intensive public works programme, could be “strengthened” by reducing the wage rate by one-third.
“The current Ipelegeng wage rate ÔÇö P580 a person, including the food component ÔÇö is above the minimum wage, diminishing its self-targeting potential by increasing the demand for the programme from better-off individuals,” the Bank says in a report that assessed Botswana’s poverty.
It proposes a P190 reduction which would allow extending the duration of the programme and serve more beneficiaries, all under the same budget.
“A monthly wage rate of P390ÔÇöin line with the minimum wage for agricultural workÔÇöwould allow the programme to raise the employment time frame from 8.7 to 12 months and increase the number of beneficiaries 10 percent. Alternatively, lowering the wage rate but keeping the duration at 8.7 months could expand coverage to 81 800 places under the same budget. Both options would improve the program’s targeting; [that is], would ensure that applicants are among the poor,” the Bank says.
Made permanent in 2008, Ipelegeng replaced a long series of drought relief “food-for-work” programmes dating back to independence in 1966. Cabinet decides the overall number of work slots for each monthly cycle and through the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, the programme then allocates this monthly number to constituencies based on their share of Botswana’s total population.
While it was originally designed to be self-targeted, excess demand necessitated recruitment that is now being done by the Village/Ward Development Committee. Workers need to reapply every month and are engaged if there are work slots available. If there are not enough slots, those who did not work the previous month have priority. With excess demand in most areas, a lottery is used to select beneficiaries. At the time of the World Bank study, the programme’s pay was P480 for six hours of work for 20 or 22 days, depending on the length of the month. In addition, starting in 2012/13, a meal is now supplied to the workers at a daily cost of P5. The pay has now been raised to P540 and the meal (fat cakes and a cup of powdered soft drink commonly known as “funa”) has since been upgraded to a P7 plate of starch (mealie meal or samp) and protein in the form of meat and vegetables.
The Bank says that the number of work slots in the programme should be related to the incidence of poverty and food insecurity in each constituency, rather than the current formula that uses the share of the population.
“This rigid allocation formula often leads to excess supply in Gaborone and excess demand in most other places. To increase effectiveness, the program’s sizeÔÇöand, implicitly, its budgetÔÇöneeds to be based on the total number of poor adults needing work, and its regional distribution needs to be determined on the basis of the regional distribution of absolute poverty,” the Bank proposes.