Botswana poverty worries World Bank
Gaborone – Despite its middle class tag, Botswana continues to experience high levels of unemployment and poverty and this has not gone unnoticed by the World Bank. The World Bank’s Vice President for the Africa Region Obiageli Ezekwesili who visited the country recently expressed concern that despite the great success in national incomes over the years, “you still have a huge percentage of poor people in a high middle-income country.” She said the level of poverty and unemployment means a focus on broadening the economy’s base is key. This was possible through private sector participation in the economic space provided by the public sector. “Jobs that the public sector can create are maxed out. Where are they going to come from? Deeper reforms to assist Botswana embrace private capital are going to be key. These would lead to capital accumulation, which deepens the market for investment, and citizens could take the opportunities that private enterprise offers. Right now, it’s not obvious for citizens because the government is very dominant in the national economy,” said Ezekwesili. Ezekwesili also met President Ian Khama to discuss a number of issues chief among them Botswana’s development challenges emanating from the global financial and economic crises. “When I met President Ian Khama, he was very clear on the importance of economic infrastructure to lay the ground for economic growth,” she continued. “He spoke about energy, integrated transport, investment in water and agriculture.” Projects funded by World Bank and other Botswana’s Development partners included Morupule ‘B’ Generation and Transmission Project and the Botswana National HIV/AIDS Prevention Support (BNAPS) related Projects. She said the World Bank is committed to its partnership with Botswana and in supporting the country’s efforts to diversify the economy, improve service delivery, achieve energy security, and enhance competitiveness with a view to improving the lives of all Batswana citizens. “I look forward to continuing the close co-operation that exists between the Government of Botswana and the World Bank Group, and accelerating the fight against poverty by improving health, mobilizing ICT, and enhancing competitiveness, all for the common good,” Ezekwesili said. Another important project that benefited from the World Bank finance was that of Mobilising Information and Communications Technology for Development (ICT4D). In October 2009, the World Bank approved a US$136.4 million (about P900 million) loan for the Morupule ‘B’ Generation and Transmission Project to secure reliable supply of electricity and prepare a low-carbon growth strategy. The package included a Partial Credit Guarantee of US$242.7 million (about P1.5 billion) of commercial bank financing for the project.