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BIDPA recommends Poverty Ministry

For the government to eradicate extreme poverty and alleviate inter-generational poverty, an independent structure or agency, precisely a ministry focusing on these vices should be formed as a matter of urgency, Botswana Institution for Development and Policy Analysis (BIDPA) has recommended.

The recommendation for a ministry focusing on poverty follows an eight-month consultation period by various stakeholders. The process, which ended in February, included over 63 villages, beneficiaries, village leaderships, civil organisations and implementing partners who all had a converging view on this. “Most of them told us in separate meetings that for us to fight poverty fiercely, we should create an agency or ministry,” Poverty Eradication, National Coordinator, Montshioa Montshioa told WeekendPost.

The research think-tank BIDPA has also carried its own study and reached the same conclusion. “It is in this regard that a new Ministry of Social Development was recommended by a report by BIDPA titled, ‘A Social Development Policy for Botswana: Phase II; Framework and Strategy’. The National Poverty Eradication Policy adopts this and recommends the establishment of a new Ministry,” noted the final draft of the Poverty Eradication.

The new Ministry will be responsible for policy formulation and development of programmes that are remedial, preventive, curative and development oriented to enable beneficiaries to be productive. This will allow people to participate meaningfully in the economic development of the country, says the policy document this publication is in possession of. The ministry, according to BIDPA, will be focused on management of all social protection and social security initiatives, management of all programmes that address child and inter-generational poverty.

“It will also be responsible for management of empowerment programmes for the poor, development and monitoring of all policies and programmes geared towards improvement of the lives of the poor and other vulnerable groups. Not only those but coordination of all initiatives that address poverty and vulnerability in the country,” the report indicated.

It is conceded by various captains in the ecosystem, that although all the government programmes are generally still relevant, their implementation is in disjunction owing to lack of coordination. Based on this, the ideal recommendation by the policy is the establishment of a new Ministry of Social Development, to lead and coordinate the implementation of all poverty eradication initiatives in the country.

“It has emerged that there was no policy but programmes and this made it difficult for us to work to maximum. There were challenges in profiling, monitoring and evaluating the beneficiaries. Our programmes are also scattered under various ministries and council but it should be consolidated under one roof hence the decision to have this structure,” Montshioa explained in an interview this week.

On average the National Coordinator Montshioa, reveals that they spent an average of P185 million on annual basis. This means the government of Botswana has in the past eight years splashed a whooping P1.2 billion in 52 packages aimed at emancipating the locals from an ugly face of poverty. Professor Keitseope Nthomang of University of Botswana (UB), who is also head of Social Work Department is however of the view that there should be research based evidence before ministry could be formulated.

“There is no research evidence which will give us an idea on how to correct this. The knee-jerk and piece meal approach will not take us anywhere. We should firstly carry a research and see how we should tackle this poverty because it shows that the money is there but then the programmes are disastrous,” he said. He however agreed that it is expected that this kind of structure will link many uncoordinated government efforts geared towards addressing poverty eradication. This includes monitoring and evaluation to ensure that stakeholders execute strategy efficiently and effectively.

Perhaps this is what the Minister of Presidential Affairs Governance and Public Administration Nonofo Molefhi was alluding to this week when he said: “All these poverty eradication programmes have not yielded the results we envisaged, so we should look at how best we can intervene productively to ensure that we win.”

Since its inception Poverty Eradication Coordinating Unit (PECU) says poverty incidence has decreased from 19.3 percent to 16.3 percent, while that of people leaving under extreme poverty has reduced from 6.4 percent to 5.8 percent (116,000),” said Montshioa.

According to Montshioa more then 33 000 projects have been funded with more than 26 000 (79.3 percent) operational. Of those operation eight percent of the businesses are successful and beneficiaries are ready to graduate.

Seeing this, the government has also drawn an exit strategy to ensure sustainability of the projects and avoid regression back to the poverty and venture into business institutions. By far 2094 beneficiaries have graduated from the Programme. It is however noted that the programme is not without challenges as 1462 (4 percent) businesses failed due to various reasons.

GOVT SWITCHES TO MULTI-DIMMENSIONAL POVERTY APPROACH

 Currently, extreme poverty in Botswana according to a study by Statistics Botswana, sits at 5.8 percent which equals to 116,000 people. This has coerced the government to chant a new path of fighting this evil-multi-dimensional poverty approach. BIDPA’s Dr Phirinyane Molefe said at the launch of this approach, “the universal stick approach and poverty datum line have been overtaken by events hence the need for a new strategy.”

This approach is what Professor Nthomang is calling for. “You cannot deal with poverty without focusing on other issues affecting people. These other issues like unemployment and lack of amenities are what stuck most people in poverty,” he observed.
The multidimensional approach which is part of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) agenda 2030 of ‘leaving no one behind’, will look at a number of perimeters that determine poverty levels. Health, Education, Standard of living, clean water, employment and sanitation among others.

 “But we have been trimmed only to income and consumptive level, but with this approach you will learn that one can be poor because there is no school or clinic in their area and all other factors cited. This also is fertile ground to the recurring cycle of an inter-generational poverty but now we will profile each individual as per their need.

That is when we will dove-tail all our efforts with other implementing partners to ensure that targeting was fine and then we can monitor and evaluate accordingly,” said Montshioa. OP in conjunction with UNDP was last week locked in a week long workshop training various stakeholders on tools to use and look into when measuring the poverty levels of Botswana. The training was facilitated by Oxford researchers.

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Jackdish Shah loses interest in BDP

17th May 2022
Jackdish

As the preparations for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) congress are about to kick off, reports on the ground suggest that the party’s Deputy Treasurer Jackdish Shah will not defend the position in August as he contemplates relocation.

According to sources, the businessman who joined the BDP Central Committee in 2015 at the 36th Congress held in Mmadinare is ready to leave the party’s politburo. It is said he long made up his mind not to defend the position last year. A prominent businessman, Shah, when he won the position to assist Satar Dada in 2015 was expected to improve the party’s financial vibrancy. By then the party was under the leadership of Ian Khama.

According to close sources, Shah long decided not to contest because he has fallen out of favour with the party leadership. It is said he took the decision after some prominent businessmen who are BDP members and part of football syndicate decided to push him out and they used their proximity to President Mokgweetsi Masisi to badmouth him hence the decision.

“The fight at the Botswana Football Association (BFA) and Botswana Football League (BFL) has left him alone in the desert and some faces there used their close access to the President to isolate him,” said a source. Media reports say, Shah does not see eye to eye with BFA President MacLean Letshwiti who is also Masisi’s buddy hence the decision.

BFL Chairman Nicholas Zackhem is said to be not in good terms with Shah, who at one point Chaired the then Botswana Premier League (BPL). “He is seriously considering quitting because of what is unfolding at the team (Township Rollers) which is slowly not making financial gains and might be relegated and he wants to sell while it is still worth the investment,” said a highly placed source.

Shah is a renowned businessman who runs internet providing company Zebra net, H &G, game farm in Kasane, cattle farm in Ghanzi region and lot of properties in Gaborone. He also has two hotels in USA, his advisors have given him thumbs up on the possible decision of relocating provided he does not sell some of the investments that are doing well.

Asked about whether he will be contesting Shah could not confirm nor deny the reports. It is said for now it is too early as a public decision will have to be taken after the national council meeting and prior to the national congress. “As a BDP Central Committee member he cannot make that announcement now,” a BDP source said.

BDP is expected to assemble for the National Council during the July holidays while the National Congress is billed for August. It is then that the party will elect a new CC members. The last time BDP held elective congress was at Kang in 2019. The party is yet to issue writ.

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Govt ignores own agreements to improve public service

17th May 2022
Govt

The government has failed to implement some commitments and agreements that it had entered into with unions to improve conditions of public servants.

Three years after the government and public made commitments aimed at improving conditions of work and services it has emerged that the government has ignored and failed to implement all commitments on conditions of service emanating from the 2019 round of negotiations.

In its position paper that saw public service salaries being increased by 5%, the government the government has also signalled its intention to renege on some of the commitments it had made.
“Government aspires to look into all outstanding issues contained in the Labour Agreement signed between the Employer and recognised Trade Union on the 27th August 2019 and that it be reviewed, revised and delinked by both Parties with a view to agree on those whose implementation that can be realistically executed during the financial years 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25 respectively,” the government said.

Furthermore, in addition to reviewing, revising and de-linking of the outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement alluded to above and taking on a progressive proposal, government desires to review revise, develop and implement human resource policies as listed below during the financial year 2022/23,2023/24,2024/25

They include selection and appointment policy, learning and development policy, transfer guidelines, conditions of service, permanent and pensionable, temporary and part time, Foreign Service, expatriate and disciplinary procedures.

In their proposal paper, the unions which had proposed an 11 percent salary increase but eventually settled for 5% percent indicated that the government has not, and without explanation, acted on some of the key commitments from the 2019/2020 and 2021/22 round of negotiations.  The essential elements of these commitments include among others the remuneration Policy for the Public Service.

The paper states that a Remuneration Policy will be developed to inform decision making on remuneration in the Public Service. It is envisaged that consultations between the government and relevant key stakeholders on the policy was to start on 1st September 2019, and the development of the policy should be concluded by 30th June 2020.

The public sector unions said the Remuneration Policy is yet to be developed. The Cooperating Unions suggested that the process should commence without delay and that it should be as participatory as it was originally conceived. Another agreement relate to Medical Aid Contribution for employees on salary Grades A and B.

The employer contribution towards medical aid for employees on salary Grades A and B will be increased from 50% to 80% for the Standard Option of the Botswana Public
“Officers’ Medical Aid Scheme effective 1st October 2019; the cooperating unions insist that, in fulfilling this commitment, there should be no discrimination between those on the high benefit and those on the medium benefit plan,” the unions proposal paper says.

Another agreement involves the standardisation of gratuities across the Public Service. “Gratuities for all employees on fixed term contracts of 12 months but not exceeding 5 years, including former Industrial class employees be standardized at 30% across the Public Service in order to remove the existing inequalities and secure long-term financial security for Public Service Employees at lower grades with immediate effect,” the paper states.

The other agreement signed by the public sector unions and the government was the development of fan-shaped Salary Structure. The paper says the Public Service will adopt a best practice fan-shaped and overlapping structure, with modification to suit the Botswana context. The Parties (government and unions) to this agreement will jointly agree on the ranges of salary grades to allow for employees’ progression without a promotion to the available position on the next management level.

“The fan-shaped structure is envisaged to be in place by 1st June 2020, to enable factoring into the budgetary cycle for the financial year 2021/22,” the unions’ proposal paper states. It says the following steps are critical, capacity building of key stakeholders (September – December 2019), commission remuneration market survey (3 months from September to November 2019), design of the fan-shaped structure (2 to 3 months from January to March2020) and consultations with all key stakeholders (March to April 2020).

The unions and government had also signed an agreement on performance management and development: A rigorous performance management and reward system based on a 5-point rating system will be adopted as an integral part of the operationalization of the new Remuneration System.

Performance Management and Development (PMD) will be used to reward workers based on performance. The review of the Performance Management System was to be undertaken in order to close the gaps identified by PEMANDU and other previous reports on PMS between 1st September 2019 and 30th June 2020 as follows; internal process to update and revise the current Performance Management System by January 2020.

A job evaluation exercise in the Public Service will also be undertaken to among others establish internal equity, and will also cover the grading of all supervisory positions within the Public Service.
Another agreement included overtime Management. The Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) was to facilitate the conclusion of consultations on management of overtime, including consideration of the Overtime Management Task Team’s report on the same by 30th November 2019.

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Health Expert rejects ‘death rates’ links to low population growth

17th May 2022
Health-Expert

A public health expert, Dr Edward Maganu who is also the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health has said that unlike many who are expressing shock at the population census growth decline results, he is not, because the 2022 results represents his expectations.

He rushed to dismiss the position by Statistics Botswana in which thy partly attributes the low growth rates to mortality rates for the past ten years. “I don’t think there is any undercounting. I also don’t think death rates have much to do with it since the excessive deaths from HIV/AIDS have been controlled by ARVs and our life expectancy isn’t lower than it was in the 1990s,” he said in an interview with this publication post the release of the results.

Preliminary results released by Statistics Botswana this week indicated that Botswana’s population is now estimated to be 2,346,179 – a figure that the state owned data agency expressed worry over saying it’s below their projected growth. The general decline in the population growth rate is attributed to ‘fertility’ and ‘mortality’ rates that the country registered on the past ten years since the last census in 2011.

Maganu explained that with an enlightened or educated society and the country’s total fertility rate, there was no way the country’s population census was going to match the previous growth rates.
“The results of the census make sense and is exactly what I expected. Our Total Fertility Rate ( the average number of children born to a woman) is now around 2.

This is what happens as society develops and educates its women. The enlightened women don’t want to bear many children, they want to work and earn a living, have free time, and give their few children good care. So, there is no under- counting. Census procedures are standard so that results are comparable between countries.

That is why the UN is involved through UNFPA, the UN Agency responsible for population matters,” said Maganu who is also the former adviser to the World Health Organisation. Maganu ruled out undercounting concerns, “I see a lot of Batswana are worried about the census results. Above is what I have always stated.”

Given the disadvantages that accompany low population for countries, some have suggested that perhaps a time has come for the government to consider population growth policies or incentives, suggestions Maganu deems ineffective.

“It has never worked anywhere. The number of children born to a woman are a very private decision of the woman and the husband in an enlightened society. And as I indicated, the more the women of a society get educated, the higher the tendency to have fewer children. All developed countries have a problem of zero population growth or even negative growth.

The replacement level is regarded as 2 children per woman; once the fertility level falls below that, then the population stops growing. That’s why developed countries are depending so much on immigration,” he said.

According to him, a lot of developing countries that are educating their women are heading there, including ourselves-Botswana. “Countries that have had a policy of encouraging women to have more children have failed dismally. A good example is some countries of Eastern Europe (Romania is a good example) that wanted to grow their populations by rewarding women who had more children. It didn’t work. The number of children is a very private matter,” said Maganu

For those who may be worried about the impact of problems associated with low growth rate, Maganu said: “The challenge is to develop society so that it can take care of its dependency ratio, the children and the aged. In developed countries the ratio of people over 60 years is now more than 20%, ours is still less than 10%.”

The preliminary results show that Mogoditshane with (88,098) is now the biggest village in the country with Maun coming second (85,293) and Molepolole at third position with 74,719. Population growth is associated with many economic advantages because more people leads to greater human capital, higher economic growth, economies of scale, the efficiency of higher population density and the improved demographic structure of society, among many others.

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