10 Sep 2003

Despite strong growth economic inequality persists

Botswana has experienced remarkable growth in recent years, however, there is an urgent need to ensure that socioeconomic development is broad-based, says a new report. The report, "Botswana: Future Prospects and the Need for Broad-based Development" by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), based in Pretoria, South Africa, notes that while the country stands out as having experienced "remarkable and consistent growth ... it is the only country of 21 in the world that recorded a drop in the Human Development Index (HDI)" between 1990 to 2001". Paradoxically, it simultaneously experienced rapid economic growth during that period.

"When diamonds were discovered in 1967, there were less than 5 km of tarred roads and only three secondary schools in Botswana. Since then the economy has grown at more than seven percent a year, allowing the country to move from its ranking as one of the poorest in the world to a position as a middle-income country," the report noted. Despite this sterling economic performance, the ISS notes that "a closer look at Botswana's 'success story' reveals a number of disturbing trends".

Growth had not translated into a "significant degree of socioeconomic transformation - the benefits of economic growth and development success being enjoyed by some much more than most". An overdependence on diamonds, "high unemployment levels and unacceptably high levels of poverty and inequality, both in terms of assets (primarily cattle) and income, are persistent problems". "The challenge for Botswana is to identify policy instruments that ensure both growth and address the distributional issues that will bring benefits to the larger segments of the poor population, if it is to achieve the goals of poverty reduction and improvements in human development set out in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)," the report concluded. (IRIN)


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