Newly nominated Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Gloria Somolekae, has called for the establishment of a coordinating agency to specifically deal with poverty alleviation in Botswana.
She says that in the same way that government managed to tackle HIV/AIDS through the National Aids Coordinating Agency (NACA), government should consider setting up a similar institution specifically for poverty eradication.
Commenting on minster Kenneth Matambo’s budget speech, Somolekae described poverty as a problem that needs to be addressed urgently.
“Poverty remains the biggest assault on the dignity of our people,” she said, adding that the country has demonstrated vision with its programmes that endeavor to assist in poverty eradication.
Somolekae hailed Ipelegeng and government’s decision to buy watermelons and other Agricultural produce for government schools, as promising programmes with potential to empower locals as well as assist significantly in the fight against poverty.
She said she is, however, concerned that government was not reaching out to the poor. She attributed this to a lack of clear institutional framework specifically to assist the poor.
Stressing the need for a coordinating agency, Somolekae said that government programmes seeking to aid the poor were scattered in different ministries and thus proving to be inaccessible.
She said that there is need to bring all these programmes under one body as a strategy to make government effective.
“We need a coordinating agency, it will ensure that we reach target group and will be commissioning projects as and when the need arises,” she said.
She said that with a coordinating agency, it will also be able to assess the projects made. She said that government will also be able to get maximum returns from its efforts in fighting poverty.
She urged the private sector to assist in poverty eradication by taking their time to mentor small business.
Somolekae said it was not enough for those in private business to build house and make donations to the needy, adding that the private sector needs to play a much bigger role in the fight against poverty.
However, South East South MP, Odirile Motlhale, was not altogether impressed that Somolekae indorsed Ipelegeng and backyard gardens.
Mothale told parliament that there is an urgent need for government to create sustainable jobs if it is serious about eradicating poverty.
He said that by awarding all the big construction projects to Chinese companies, government is basically eradicating poverty in China.
“We are eradicating poverty in other countries,” he stated. He said that he found it surprising that government was preaching poverty eradication through Ipelegeng and backyard gardens when Chinese contractors were making money with lucrative tenders.
Mothale also expressed concern about public officer’s salaries, which he said ought to be adjusted to cushion them against the rising cost of living.
The same sentiments were also expressed by Tswapong North legislator, Prince Maele, who stated that government had a history of paying public officers low wages.
He said that irrespective of the fact that negotiations were ongoing between government and the Unions representing public officers, the issue surrounding public officer’s salaries needs to be addressed.
Maele said that the low wages could impact on employee’s performance. He stated that while he did not support a suggestion that a moratorium be placed of Chinese companies as a way of empowering local companies, Chinese companies should employ Batswana as part of their skilled manpower instead of hiring them as labourers.
He said that from his observation most of the Chinese companies employed locals as labourers.