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3. POVERTY POINTERS
 

3.1 Botswana Poverty Reduction Tender

The Botswana Government has awarded a tender to the Gaborone office of the UNDP to formulate a National Poverty Reduction Strategy for the country. The UNDP team is expected to submit its report within the first quarter of next year. As a middle income country, Botswana falls outside the PRSP initiative of the IMF and the World Bank. The background to the tender lies in the results of a number of commissioned reports which have noted that despite Botswana's impressive record of sustained economic growth, the national poverty rate has only declined from 59% of the population in 1985 to 47% in 1994.

Specific terms of reference for the project include:

  • Producing a national strategy in line with the development goals, aspirations and objectives of the Botswana government's Vision 2016 policy document;
  • Critically reviewing the design, implementation, management and evaluation of existing intersectoral policies and programmes;
  • Critically reviewing current poverty-related sectoral polices, strategies and programmes and to suggest ways of re-focussing and harmonising them for increased efficiency and effectiveness;
  • Investigate causes of poverty and to recommend effective reduction strategies for individual and household self- sustenance;
  • Assessing the institutional arrangement, capacity and overall effectiveness of existing institutional structures at both the national, district, sub-district and community levels and to recommend improvements.

An interesting aspect of the tender is the decision by the Botswana government to establish a wide-ranging reference group to oversee the project. Members of the reference group include members drawn from various civil society age ncies, the national umbrella agencies, Bocongo and Bocobonet.

Linking up: The SARPN www contains the full terms of reference for the tender. It can be accessed at: http://www.sarpn.org.za/CountryPovertyPapers/Botswana/nprs2001/index.php. The UNDP co-ordinator of the project is Sennye Obuseng. He can be contacted at sennye.obuseng@undp.org.

3.2 Parliaments and poverty reduction strategies

Poverty reduction strategies in Africa needed to give far more attention to the role of parliamentarians to ensure they were not marginalised in the formulation and implementation of PRSPs. This point was made in a declaration by African parliamentarians who participated in the recent Dakar Forum for Poverty Reduction in Africa. To illustrate their perceived marginalisation the group noted that parliamentarians constituted only seven of the 300 delega tes. An earlier PRSP conference was attended by only three parliamentarians.

The declaration noted that African parliaments had to perform the traditional function of a watchdog on the executive but that parliaments “were increasingly an agent of change”. PRSPs were meant to be a participatory process and “therefore should not exclude the representatives of the poor themselves”.

Specific proposals made in the declaration were:

  • That governments and the donor community should ensure that MPs were a part of the process leading to the development and implementation of PRSPs;
  • That MPs participate at international, regional and local forums on poverty reduction strategies;
  • That, where necessary, courses be held to upgrade the skills levels of parliamentarians to enable them to engage effectively in the process of designing PRSPs;
  • That regional parliamentary forums needed to engage with poverty reduction; if they did not they would be “irrelevant to the cause of the poor”.

Linking up: The text of the declaration can be accessed at: http://www.worldbank.org/wbi/attackingpoverty/activities/parldeclaration.pdf

3.3 Other points from the DAKAR forum

One of the central issues under discussion was the capacity of government institutions and personnel to tackle national challenges in response to the plight of the poor. Accountability for government actions was tied to this. Discussion revealed that some positive steps were being taken to reduce the general outcry against poor governance. Among them were the recent inclusion of the poor in the process of policy design, the flow of information to the rural poor, a more positive and pro-active interaction between parliaments and civil society, the decentralisation of government to local levels and other outreach programmes as having a positive impact on accountability. Delegates agreed that if these actions were to be maintained, it would be necessary to cultivate tendencies like freedom of expression, an independent judiciary and a wellequipped free press.

Delegates agreed that to make sustained and serious inroads against poverty, it was necessary to formulate monetary, fiscal and structural policies aimed at maximising per capita labour productivity by the poor. To achieve this government budgets should target capacity building for the poor by providing them with skills in areas such as education, health, capital, infrastructure, management skills and other necessary tools to increase their capacity to meet both local and global market demands. Prioritisation of government expenditure on these should be based on a clear understanding of the impact and efficiency of the particular choices made, given the capacity of the available supporting institutions and the wishes of the poor themselves.

The importance of analysing empirical situations, monitoring the relevance of existing policies and following up on programmes was highlighted. Governments needed to be properly informed about the situation on the ground; this implied the need to use appropriate measuring techniques and equipment to gather the relevant information. Co-ordination of information input to government was necessary to create a systematic approach in addressing common experiences and also to facilitate the assessment of policy outcomes. The role of the poor themselves in this process was not clear because of the disparity in perception between the local and the national levels.

National ownership and broad endorsement of poverty reduction strategies necessitated a shift in donor practices to the empowerment of governments that had earned consensus on national priorities. Delegates agreed that the focus of donors ought to be on the outcomes of policies and programmes rather than on conditionalities and ex ante promises. It was important for countries to be able to develop their own solutions and strategies to implement policies that were deemed essential to the reduction of poverty. Governments also needed to be able to predict the commitments of donors in financing medium term plans, but they also had to show their own commitment in achieving set out objectives with a clear mechanism for domestic accountability.

Delegates also agreed that poverty was at the heart of conflict situations and action was needed to reduce their potential.

Linking up: For more information on the conference summary and papers: http://www.worldbank.org/wbi/attackingpoverty/index.html

3.4 Different Poverties, Different Policies

The Development Studies Association of the University of Manchester held a three day international conference from the 10th – 12th September 2001 with the title “Different Poverties, Different Policies”. Over 100 papers were presented; many had a direct relevance to Southern African themes. The papers dealt with a variety of issues affecting poverty, including trade, economic growth, management of natural resources, land reform and relations with donor countries and organisations.

Panel titles included Development Management, Core Issues on Chronic Poverty, Policies on the Measurement of Poverty and Poverty Reduction, Labour and Migration, Remote Rural Spatial Poverty Traps, Social Exclusion and Demilitarisation.

Linking up: These papers should be of interest to a wide group of persons and institutions active in Southern Africa. The papers may be accessed at: http://www.bham.ac.uk/DSA/conf01papers.htm

 

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