Protecting and fulfilling the rights of children require budgets, laws and social policies that promote equity.
Despite the pro-poor economic growth, Botswana is one of the most unequal countries in the world, with a Gini coefficient of 52.2 in 2015/16. Child poverty is also prevalent. According to the official statistics, children aged 0-14 years accounted for 43 percent of the total poor in 2015/16. Meanwhile, Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis (MODA) revealed that 63 per cent of the country’s children experience multidimensional poverty.
Botswana has about 30 overlapping social protection programmes, implemented by 10 different government departments. The overall provision of social protection is uncoordinated and is not well-targeted on poor and vulnerable households. Many of the poor do not benefit, while some beneficiaries receive more than one benefit. The disparate nature of social protection programmes also makes it difficult to get consolidated data on overall social protection programmes, including public expenditures. Procurement is particularly problematic, with system failures leading to gaps in supply of prescribed food and related provisions to school children and vulnerable groups.
Government spending on social services has historically been high (35-40 per cent of GDP), with over one-third of fiscal spending devoted to child-focused priority areas (health, primary and secondary education, and social assistance). The results, however, are not commensurate with the level of spending, resulting in poor value for money. There is a lack of high-quality information to make rational decisions. With a tightening of the fiscal envelope, a key challenge will be to maintain levels of priority spending while fiscal resources are under pressure, to ensure that past gains are not lost.
UNICEF is collaborating with the Government of Botswana to enhance national technical knowledge and expertise around multidimensional child poverty, including integrating child poverty measurement into national reporting processes, updating child poverty estimates and conducting capacity development activities.
UNICEF advocated for prioritising children’s needs and interests within the ongoing national discussions on social protection, jointly led by the Government and World Bank. UNICEF will engage with the Government to explore the introduction of a Universal Child Support Grant.
The Government was supported by UNICEF to undertake a value-for-money evaluation of the Vulnerable Group Feeding Programme, which is an integral part of the comprehensive evaluation of utilisation, access and effectiveness of the Programme. An authoritative Investment Case for Nutrition was developed to show how stunting can be reduced in an economically feasible manner.
Through a partnership with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MFED) UNICEF supported the development of solid evidence on the “fiscal space” that is available to the Government to undertake and expand priority expenditure on child-related services. A fiscal model was developed to demonstrate alternative fiscal space to finance child-related programmes.
UNICEF supported the Government to strengthen its internal capacity on realistic resource projections and sectoral prioritization for children. An interactive workshop capacitated 10 principal/senior finance officers from the MFED and other line ministries to do macroeconomic and fiscal projections for more effective spending for children.
In partnership with the MFED and line ministries, UNICEF is developing thematic budget briefs to identify public finance related challenges in education, health (including nutrition and HIV/AIDS) and social protection, as well as sensitize policymakers/policy advisors who have influence on the ministerial budgets about these issues.