Almost four months into 2017, the year set by government of Botswana as deadline to have eradicated abject poverty among over 400,000 identified citizens, officials tasked with the delivery of the mammoth task are still huffing and puffing.
Delivery or failure thereof seems to be the key word as the 2017 deadline is fast approaching.
It has been a statement of intent since 2012 for government to have eradicated absolute poverty by 2017. However to-date, numerous project backlogs remain, with some beneficiaries who were due to be assisted in 2012, still waiting for their chance.
This came to light recently in Maun when the assistant minister in the Office of the President, Philip Makgalemele, addressed public officers responsible for this service delivery at a workshop in the resort town.
On paper it was supposed to be a touch and go process. As part of their strategy to expedite the distribution of packages to poverty beneficiaries, government took a decision to assess, train and procure simultaneously, meaning that upon completion of training, beneficiaries are supposed to be issued with packages to commence production.
However the process has been tainted by delays with a lot of beneficiaries receiving training and then spending a long time, often years, without receiving the packages to start production.
Makgalemele complained about the rising backlog in the poverty eradication programme when addressing implementers of the programme in Maun.
In his opening remarks, Makgalemele noted that government has failed to meet the set deadline of March 30, 2016, set by cabinet to have cleared a backlog of recipients still awaiting their packages after training. Some trained as far back as 2012. Makgalemele said: ’’ It
Makgalemele however expressed hope that the workshop will bring interventions in dealing with the challenge of backlog. He challenged the participants to come up with innovative solutions to procurement delays to prevent backlog.
Makgalemele said government is committed towards improving the welfare of over 400,000 (19%) of people living below the poverty datum line in Botswana. He noted that 6.4 percent of the number lives in abject poverty which government has made a commitment to solve.
He said government has made a commitment to have eradicated abject poverty by December 2017 in Botswana.
He hinted that success towards this goal will depend on effective implementation of government policies and service delivery. He revealed that the workshop intended to touch base, re-evaluate progress, and come up with various solutions to the implementation of poverty eradication programmes.
Further Makgalemele said to expedite the assessment process, government hired temporary social welfare officers effective June 2016.
He said the decision was taken as officers are inundated with other responsibilities resulting in lapses in the programme. Moreover, Makgalemele challenged implementers of the programme to introduce more sustainable ones that will see most of the beneficiaries transforming into successful business people.
He opined that one avenue of achieving this is building a strong foundation for running some of the programmes though clusters, trusts and cooperatives.