GABORONE, January 28, 2014 - The World Bank hosted the launch of the Social Protection Assessment report that was prepared jointly with Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) and in close collaboration with the Government of Botswana. The 2013 assessment concentrated on social assistance programs and aimed to provide information to contribute to Botswana’s future social protection and labor strategy and policies to achieve the goals of Vision 2016.
The event attracted more than 60 stakeholders, including senior representatives from the Office of the President, Ministries of Local Government and Rural Development, Ministry of Education and Skills Development, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labor and Home Affairs, Statistics Botswana, development partners, NGOs and academia. The launch served as an excellent platform to share the assessment findings and reflect on possible ways to further strengthen and modernize the social protection system for the benefit of Botswana citizens.
“Botswana social indicators compare well with upper-middle-income countries, but notwithstanding rapid economic growth and high per capita income, there are still several development problems common to low-income economies,” Dr. Tebogo B. Seleka, Executive Director of BIDPA said when presenting the main findings of the assessment. Dr. Seleka pointed out the challenges such as poverty, malnutrition among children, high youth unemployment, noting that overcoming these difficulties is important for Botswana to achieve the Vision 2016 goal of eradicating absolute poverty. Botswana has put in place a complex social protection system and dedicates a large part of its national income to finance several social protection programs. The programs currently in place need better alignment to improve their efficiency and capacity to reach the neediest.
“Economic growth is paramount for generating development outcomes but growth alone does not always trickle down fast enough to those situated at the bottom of the income distribution,” said Cornelia Tesliuc, World Bank senior social protection specialist. Tesliuc laid out options for using social protection instruments to eradicate absolute poverty on very short term and in a budget neutral way, and setting the foundations for breaking the vicious circle of intergenerational transmission of poverty.
The options proposed to strengthen the social protection system include policy level reforms, program level recommendations, and interventions at administration level. At the policy level, introducing a Family Support Grant is argued to be a more efficient way to address absolute poverty by the way of offering a family benefit to all the families in absolute poverty, as identified through a targeting system based on a proxy-means test. Programs level reforms would allow addressing existing shortcomings associated with coverage, targeting, effectiveness, generosity, and wrong incentives of certain programs. Modernizing administration includes such initiatives as establishment of a management information system (MIS), unified registry of the beneficiaries monitoring and evaluation system, and introduction of mainstream financial instruments for actual delivery of benefits. The combination of the above will allow for a better weaving of the Social Safety Nets to ensure that the goal of lifting 16% of population (84,000 households) from absolute poverty by 2016 is achieved. In addition, linking social safety net benefits to behavior changes could enhance their impact on medium to long-term. Providing money to poor families contingent on them making investments in human capital such as keeping their children in school or taking them to health centers on regular basis for growth monitoring and immunization can break the intergenerational transmission of poverty and reduce inequality.
The dissemination workshop inspired a constructive debate on the policy and programming options to increase the role of the sector in eradicating absolute poverty and building human capital. A panel of experts from University of Botswana, Office of the President, and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development discussed how Social Protection in Botswana could have a significant role in poverty reduction, what types of interventions are cost effective, how to better cover those deserving, how generous benefits should be, why is it so hard to move from in-kind to cash, and how to ensure the financial sustainability of the sector.
“While there is general consensus that social protection programmes contribute immensely to addressing the poverty and vulnerability, there are concerns about notable weaknesses in their design, implementation, coordination and monitoring, and fiscal sustainability; therefore this assessment is very important; and came at the right time as Botswana is implementing Poverty Eradication initiatives to reach the Vision 2016 goal of Poverty Eradication”, concluded Anna Majelantle, the Statistician General of Statistics Botswana when giving vote of thanks.