Poverty Falling In Botswana -Statistics Botswana

John Churu

Statistics Botswana has released the much anticipated preliminary results of the Botswana Multi Topic Household Survey (BMTHS) during a media conference held on Thursday.  The conference was well attended by interested sectors that included The World Bank, UNDP, and the Government of Botswana represented by the Office of the President, BIDPA, Economists, journalists and members of the public.
The survey was conducted over a lengthy period from November 2015 to October 2016. According to the Statistician General, Anna Majelantle, the primary objective of the survey was to provide a comprehensive set of indicators for labour market and poverty. “The survey shows that the proportion of people living below the poverty datum line has dropped by three percentage points from 19.3 to 16.3 percent during the period (2009/2010 to 2015/2016). The proportion of those living extreme poverty (below $1.90 a day) has also reduced from 6.4 to 5.8 percent,” she said.
Majelantle added that at district and sub district level, Ngamiland West had the highest poverty incidences in 2009/10 while Kweneng West was the most affected in 2015 and 2016. “The Gini Coefficient has increased from 0.495 to 0.522 at national level, at stratum level, the rural areas and urban areas recorded increases from o.438 to 0.474 and 0.510 to 0.518 respectively.
However, the gender disparity in poverty levels which was observed over the previous surveys still persists. According to the survey, the data presented showed that more female headed households which is about 55% are affected by poverty compared to those headed by males at 45%. Interestingly for the survey, the largest share off consumption expenditure was allocated to transport (23.9%) followed by housing costs (17.8%) and the food (12.8%).
Majelantle said the eradication of extreme poverty continues to be a priority area both for the country and the international level. “You will recall that the Sustainable Development Goals emphasizes having ‘No poverty’ and ‘having decent work and economic growth.”
The adoption of Sustainable development goals, Vision 2036, national development Plan 11 and the Africa Agenda 2063, have put poverty eradication as the first priority and introduced added demands for data monitoring purposes the Statistician General said.
A sizeable number of Stakeholders took part in one way or the other in facilitating the survey. These included the World Bank which provided the necessary technical support through its partnership agreement with the government of Botswana. The bank assisted in areas of systems and questionnaire development and training. The WB is also working with the Statistics Botswana to start a programme to conduct employment and poverty surveys on a quarterly basis which would serve the need of stakeholders accredited to Statistics Botswana. On the other hand, The Office of the President supported the survey by providing initial financial support for conducting the survey.
The Botswana Multi Topic Household survey was a year-long survey. The reason for conducting this survey over a long period, said Statistics Botswana, was among others, to ensure accurate estimation of indicators that are highly affected by seasonality such as poverty and employment measures. “This was a national sample survey covering a total of 7 188 households from cities and towns, urban villages as well as rural areas. Households were visited over 2 weeks a period and in addition to general interviews covering the household demographics, education health, labour and agriculture among others, households were required to keep a 14 day diary of data on food consumption, as well as food and non-food purchases.” The survey had over 98% response rate. From sample of 599 blocks 598 were completed during the data collection, representing 99.8% completion rate. Against 7 188 households expected to be completed by the end of the survey, 7 060 of them were enumerated, representing 98.2 percent.”
The number crunching entity received a rare accolade from participants from all walks of life after the announcement. This comes after Statistics Botswana received a backlash after SB was accused last year of having “cooked some employment figures” by the media. SB has over the years collected information relating to poverty. In 1974/5, a Rural Income Distribution Survey (RIDS) was conducted. This was followed by the 1985/86 Household Incomes and expenditure Survey (HIES), the 1992/93 HIES, the 2002/3 HIES, the 2009/10 Botswana Core Welfare Indicators Survey (BCWIS) and the 2015/16 BMTHS. “While the organisation has reduced the period between these surveys, there are intentions of conducting poverty as well as   economic activity related surveys on a more regular basis annually, said the Acting Deputy Statistician General Malebogo Prisca Kerekeng.
Although the survey results received a somewhat clean bill of health this time, still some questions lingered amongst the participating stakeholders. The World Bank representative for example, weighed in saying the said 30% of the people above the poverty datum line were really not out of the woods yet. “Yes the figures show that there are some 30% who are above the poverty line but they are still highly vulnerable, they are not well off. They also need assistance from government and other international organisations,” he pointed out.  A ministry of Health and Wellness representative said it was worrisome to note that “people were spending a lot of money on alcohol and tobacco.” While the Office of the President admitted that contrary to the office’s expectations, “It was not easy as we had thought to eradicate poverty in the country,” with a BIDPA Associate researcher Lillian Mookodi cementing the fact that higher inequality and poverty eradication do not go well together.”
While Statistics Botswana continued to pacify the gathering that a new set of data will be availed following the conclusion of the analysis, the parent ministry of Finance and Development Planning was somehow irked by the delay saying “We are equally concerned that they say the analysis is ongoing, how long will they take with the analysis because we need to use the completed information for planning purposes.” The same sentiments were echoed by the Secretary General of the NGO body in the country saying, “Our organisations rely heavily on the figures that we get from the Statistics Botswana to solicit for funding from outside organisations as well the government.”