The 2019 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Report indicates that the world is becoming increasingly urbanized. Since 2007, more than half the world’s population has been living in cities, and that share is projected to rise to 60 per cent by 2030.
Cities and metropolitan areas are powerhouse of economic growth-contributing about 60 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product GDP. However, they also account for about 70 per cent of global carbon emissions and over 60 per cent of resource use. Rapid urbanization is resulting in a growing number of slum dwellers, inadequate and overburdened infrastructure and services (such as waste collection and water and sanitation systems, roads and transport), worsening air pollution and unplanned urban sprawl.
To respond to those challenges, over 150 countries have developed national urban plans, with almost half of them in the implementation phase. Ensuring that those plans are well executed will help cities grow in a more sustainable and inclusive manner. According to the report, rapid urbanization and population growth rate are outpacing the construction of adequate and affordable housing. The proportion of the urban population living in slums worldwide, declined by 20 per cent between 2000 and 2014 (from 28 per cent to 23 per cent).
That positive trend recently reversed course, and the proportion grew to 23.5 per cent in 2018. The absolute number of people living in slums or informal settlements grew to over 1 billion, with 80 per cent attributed to three regions: Eastern and South-Eastern Asia (370 million), Sub-Saharan Africa (238 million) and Central and Southern Asia (227 million). An estimated 3 billion people will require adequate and affordable housing by 2030.
The reports indicated that the growing number of slum dwellers is the result of both urbanization and population growth that are outpacing the construction of new affordable homes. Adequate housing is a human right, and the absence of it negatively affects urban equity and inclusion, health and safety, and livelihood opportunities. It further noted that renewed policy attention and increased investments are needed to ensure affordable and adequate housing by 2030.
Further, the report highlighted that access to public transport is increasing, but faster progress is needed in developing countries. Public transport is an essential service for urban residents and a catalyst for economic growth and social inclusion. Moreover, with ever-increasing numbers of people moving to urban areas, the use of public transport is helping to mitigate air pollution and climate change.
According to 2018 data from 227 cities, in 78 countries, 53 per cent of urban residents had convenient access to public transport (defined as residing within 500 metres walking distance of a bus stop or a low-capacity transport system or within 1000 metres of a railway and ferry terminal). In most regions, the number of people using public transport rose by nearly 20 per cent between 2001 and 2014. Sub-Saharan Africa lagged behind, with only 18 per cent of its residents having convenient access to public transport.
In some regions with low access, informal transport modes are widely available and, in many cases, provide reliable transport. Stronger efforts are needed to ensure that sustainable transport is available for all, particularly to vulnerable populations such as women, children, seniors and persons with disabilities.
Municipal waste, as communicated on the report, is mounting, highlighting the growing need for investment in urban infrastructure. Globally, over 2 billion people were without waste collection services, and 3 billion people lacked access to controlled waste disposal facilities, according to data collected between 2010 and 2018. The problem will only worsen as urbanization increases, income levels rise and economies become consumer-oriented. The total amount of waste generated globally is expected to double from nearly 2 billion metric tons in 2016 to about 4 billion metric tons by 2050.
The proportion of municipal solid waste collected regularly increased from 76 per cent between 2001 and 2011 to 81 per cent between 2010 and 2018. But that does not mean that it was disposed of properly. Many municipal solid waste facilities in low- and middle-income countries are open dumpsites, which contribute to air, waste, land and soil pollution, including by plastic waste, as well as emissions of greenhouse gases such as methane. Investment in waste management infrastructure is urgently needed to improve the handling of solid waste across much of the world.
In many cities, the reported said air pollution has become an unavoidable health hazard. It noted that nine out of ten urban residents in 2016 were breathing polluted air- that is, air that did not meet the World Health organization WHO air quality guidelines for annual mean levels of fine particulate matter of 10 micrograms or less per cubic metre. More than half of those people were exposed to air pollution levels at least 2, 5 times above the guideline value. Air quality worsened between 2010 and 2016 for more than 50 per cent of the world’s population. Central and Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa are the two regions that saw the largest increases in particulate and mater concentrations.
In low- and middle-income countries, the air quality of 97 per cent of cities with more than 100 thousand inhabitants did not meet the air quality guidelines in 2016, compared to 49 per cent in high-income countries. Ambient air pollution from traffic, industry, power generation, waste burning and residential fuel combustion, combined with household air pollution, poses a major threat to both human health and efforts to curb climate change. More than 90 per cent of air pollution related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, mainly in Asia and Africa.
In that report, it was shared that open public spaces make cities more inclusive, but many residents are not within easy walking distance of them. A connective matrix of streets and public spaces forms the skeleton of the city upon which everything else rests. Where public space is inadequate, poorly designed or privatised, the city becomes increasingly segregated. Investment in networks of streets and open public spaces improved productivity, livelihoods and access to markets, jobs and public services, especially in countries where over half of the urban workforce is informal.
Based on 2018 data from 220 cities, in 77 countries, few cities have been able to implement a system of open public spaces that covers entire urban areas- that is, within easy reach of all residents. Findings show that the average share of the population within 400 metres walking distance of an open public space is around 31 per cent, with a huge variations among cities (from a low of 5 per cent to a high of 90 per cent). A low percentage does not necessarily mean that an inadequate share of land is open public space, but rather that the distribution of such spaces across the city is uneven.
Meanwhile, the report indicated that inequality within and among countries is a persistent cause of concern, despite progress in some areas. It shared that income inequality continues to rise in many parts of the world, even as the poorest 40 per cent of the population in most countries experience income growth. Greater focus is needed to reduce income and other inequalities, including those related to labour market access and trade. Specifically, additional efforts are needed to further increase zero-tariff access for exports from poorer countries, and to provide technical assistance to LDCs and small island developing states seeking to benefit from preferential trade status.
Data show mixed progress on the sharing of prosperity within countries. To gauge whether the poorest people in a country are participating in economic progress, the report said, it is useful to compare the growth of household income, or consumption of the poorest 40 per cent with that of the population as a whole. That provides one indication of whether overall prosperity is being shared with the bottom 40 per cent of the income ladder in a country.
In 92 countries with comparable data over the period 2011 to 2016, the results were mixed. In 69 countries, the poorest 40 per cent saw their income grow, but with large variations among countries. In 50 of those 69 countries, income growth in the poorest 40 per cent of the population was faster than the national average. Notably, however, the bottom 40 per cent still received less than 25 per cent of overall income. In many countries, an increasing share of income goes to the top 1 per cent.
Data measuring household income for that analysis were limited. Only 13 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa had data on income growth for the most recent period. That points to the on-going need for improved data collection and statistical capacity-building, especially in the poorest countries. The report underlined that rich and poor countries alike can benefit from policies promoting equality and inclusivity. It shared that an important development of objective for many countries is easing inequality and addressing social inclusion.
One indicator of relative poverty and inequality is the share of people living below 50 per cent of the median income level. An analysis of data from 10 high- and low income countries showed that the median country had 14 per cent of the population with income levels below that threshold. The most unequal country had 26 per cent below that threshold, and the most equal country had 3 per cent. But both rich and poor countries have high and low levels of inequality. Income inequality is not strongly correlated with either poverty of affluence, suggesting that policies promoting equality and inclusivity have universal relevance.
Countries with a high proportion of non-performing loans need to attend to the health of their banking systems; this is according to the report. It stressed that the stability of a country’s financial system is key to efficiently allocating resources, managing risks, and ensuring that macroeconomic objectives that benefit all are met. One measure of financial stability is the share of non-performing loans in relation to total loans to depositors in a banking system.
An analysis of 138 countries from 2010 to 2017 showed that, in half of the countries, non-performing loans made up less than 5 per cent of total loans. In 207, more than one quarter of the countries showed a higher percentage of non-performing loans, 10 per cent or more, and four countries showed a proportion higher than 30 per cent. A high proportion of non-performing loans usually affects profitability and undermines the broader business environment, which can have consequences for economic growth, unemployment and other factors affecting inequality.
Globally, the share of national output used to remunerate workers is declining; this has been shared by the report. The share of national income that goes to labour is one indication of whether economic growth will translate into higher incomes for workers over time. Increased national income can lead to improved living standards, but that depends on its contribution across aspects of production, including labour, capital and land.
The report noted that globally, the share of national income going to labour has shown a downward trend since 2004. That means that the share of national output used to remunerate workers has declined. The decrease was temporarily reversed during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009 due to a sudden contraction in GDP. Central and Southern Asia and Europe and Northern America were the main drivers of the declining global labour share.
Between 2004 and 2017, the adjusted labour share of GDP decreased by more than 5 percentage points in Central and Southern Asia, from 51.2 per cent to 45.8 per cent, and close to 2 percentage points in Europe and Northern America, from 59.6 per cent to 57.6. Conversely, in Latin America and the Caribbean, the labour income share increased from 48.4 to 50.5 per cent during the same period.
It was further communicated that lower-income countries continue to benefit from preferential trade status. Duty-free access continued to increase for exports from LDCs, small island developing states and developing regions at large. LDCs saw that the biggest benefits: coverage of duty-free treatment increased by 5.5 percentage points between 2016 and 2017, reaching 65.6 per cent of exports. About 51 per cent of exports from developing regions have now become eligible for duty-free treatment.
At the sector level, improvements in the treatment of LCDs were primarily due to growing duty-free access for agricultural and industrial products. However, such access for LDCs and other developing countries is not automatic at customs checkpoints. Exporters need to comply with rules-of-origin certification processes to benefit from preferential treatment. Those procedures the report said can be costly and time-consuming for small and medium sized enterprises, lowering their incentive to apply for preferential treatment.
In conclusion, the report stressed that policies to facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration are widespread, but far from universal. It underlined that the majority of countries have policies that facilitate the orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people. Yet significant differences can be found across the six policy domains of this indicator.
For each domain, more than half of the 105 countries with available data have a comprehensive set of policy measures, meaning that they reported having migration policy measures for 80 per cent or more of the subcategories of each domain. Migrant rights and socioeconomic well-being are the areas demonstrating the largest policy gaps, with over 40 per cent of countries lacking a comprehensive set of measures in those domains. Policies to promote cooperation and partnerships and to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration are the most widespread, with more than three quarters of countries reporting a wide range of such measures.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.