SADC member states will not achieve their goals of alleviating poverty if they do not put more effort and encourage deeper regional integration, former President, Sir Ketumile Masire said during the launch of a study on poverty in Gaborone recently.
He said SADC made a commitment to alleviate poverty and assist the disadvantaged in its communities through regional integration but this is yet to be achieved. According to Masire, collective regional effort to get communities out of poverty is vital. He said the region did well in liberation policies such as supporting South Africa out of the apartheid regime and the same effort was needed in addressing poverty.
Botswana emerged from devastating poverty at independence in 1966, to be a middle-income status, but eliminating effects of acute poverty remain a major challenge. Currently seven in 100 Batswana are considered extremely poor. Speaking at the event, the executive secretary of the Sothern African Development Community Council of Non Governmental Organisations, (SADC-CNGO), Boichoko Ditlhake said SADC countries are experiencing poverty despite abundance of wealth in most of them.
“Our leaders speak with mouths full of food while the people, are struggling in poverty,” he said during the launch a study entitled: SADC-We Need Values.
In its 30th year, the study evaluates progress made and challenges faced by member states in their individual and collective endeavor to promote common and shared values in the region.
In his state of the nation address recently, President Ian Khama indicated that a total of 195 607 people are currently registered for special needs assistance including destitute people, those living with disabilities and orphans.
During the current financial year, government has allocated P1.3 billion to meet the cost of these programmes. Government has allocated P580 million in 2013/2014 budget to Ipelegeng, a poverty alleviation programme that offers temporary employment to unskilled labourers.
However, the programme is not without criticism as some experts and opposition politicians have criticised it saying it is unsustainable, as one cannot live a dignified life on the allowances they get from the Ipelegeng programme.
Between 2002/03 and 2009/10 the number of Batswana living below the global benchmark of USD1 per day declined from 23.4 percent to 6.4 percent.
“During the same period average household disposable mean incomes across the nation increased by 119 percent from P2425 to P5304 while the average monthly household consumption expenditure increased by 60 percent,” the president explained.
So far about 15 000 beneficiaries have been enrolled in the poverty eradication programme. This year government spent P180 million as part of efforts to fight poverty by encouraging people to embark on backyard gardening.