Botswana is in an ideal position to beneficially utilise the new, broader and detailed global development agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as a springboard to elude the middle-income trap.
These are the views of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) administrator, Helen Clark who says this would also allow the country to leap into the next phase of social and economic development.
Set to be achieved by 2030, SDGs will kick in next year to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were viewed by many as only targeting the developing countries due to their poverty reduction centred theme.
According to Clark, who was in Gaborone this week on a four day visit, Botswana has managed to achieve most of the MDGs but a plethora of challenges that are central to the country’s social and economic upliftment still remained unresolved.
Clark, who is a former New Zealand prime minister, said the SDGs are a new, universal set of goals, targets and indicators, that UN member states will use to frame their agendas and political policies over the next 15 years.
While the MDGs, in theory, applied to all countries, in reality, they were considered targets for poor countries to achieve, with finance from wealthy states. Every country will be expected to work towards achieving the SDGs.
Botswana achieved most, but just a handful of the targets under MDGs. Clark said this triumph together with emerging economic challenges should motivate the country to embrace the SDGs, which are “tailor made to tackle not just fundamental social problems such as poverty and infant mortality, but also sophisticated challenges such as urbanisation and infrastructure gap and energy shortages.”
Cape Verde is the only sub-Saharan African country to have successfully achieved all of the targeted MDGs.
In an interview, Clark noted that under the SDGs, which will be adopted at a UN conference in September this year, the goals have been increased from eight to 17 to include issues around economic development and human rights.
The new agenda also goes far beyond the MDGs by incorporating goals for inclusive and sustainable growth, energy, and infrastructure.
It is in these wider development targets, that Clark believes that Botswana, as an upper middle income country facing the middle income trap, can gainfully use the newly introduced goals to counter some of its biggest challenges such as unemployment, energy and water shortages and climate change induced drought.
“With Botswana facing current challenges such a drought, energy and water shortages, inequality, unemployment including the need to avoid the middle income trap, implementation and achievement of the new global development agenda would go a along way in uplifting the lives of Batswana. These are the are focal points addressed by the SDGs,” she stated.
According to Clark, the new SDGs would require $3.3 trillion-$4.5 trillion a year to implement until 2030 and public finance as well as aid would be central to support the implementation of the SDGs.
Other experts on sustainable development financing have estimated the cost of providing a social safety net to eradicate extreme poverty at about $66 billion a year, while annual investments in improving infrastructure (water, agriculture, transport, power) could be up to a total of $7 trillion globally.
Referring to on-going water and electricity shortages, the looming drought and the country’s infrastructure gap, Clark asserted that due to its healthy sovereign credit rating, Botswana could use its bankability to mobilise investment resources. “Botswana being an upper MIC is not eligible for development aid, so a lot of the funds would have to be raised domestically. But with the credit rating so impeccable, raising funds should be much easier than other countries. “Apart from the traditional multilateral funding institutions such as IMF, AFDB and World Bank, we have seen an increase in similar organisation in recent years, such as the Chinese sponsored Asian infrastructure and development bank, the BRICS Bank And the Russia’s Eurasian Development Bank. All these institutions will be a game changer in development finance,” she said.
For Clark, the SDGs are not just another set of goals laid out by bureaucrats in UN’s New York headquarters, but are achievable targets whose priorities have been shared by more than more than 7.5 million people through the UN-sponsored My World survey.
“As expected, jobs, education, and health emerged as the top priorities, but honest and responsive governance came in fourth. In countries classified as having ‘low human development’ in UNDP’s Human Development Index, having honest and responsive governance was ranked as the number two priority by their citizens participating in the survey,” she said.
There has also been a UN Global Consultation on localising the post-2015 agenda, which engaged 5,000 people from 80 countries. The outcome was a set of concrete recommendations for localising the agenda, including by setting “reliable targets and indicators, which respond to local context, needs, and concerns.” The UNDP operates in more than 170 countries and territories, helping to achieve the eradication of poverty, and the reduction of inequality and exclusion in communities.