When Botswana became independent in 1966, it was one of the poorest countries in the world. Since then, the country has transformed itself from rags to riches, and from a legacy of colonial neglect to practical sovereignty as a viable modern state. Botswana’s first attempt at poverty alleviation involved a strategy that focussed on aggregate income growth and not any specifically poor target group.
However, the development strategy implemented by the government that had initially focused primarily on economic growth to reduce general poverty was soon tempered by concern over the fact that the resulting economic growth increased the incomes and wealth of some citizens while leaving out the vast majority of the population. Poverty increasingly came to be associated with lack of access to the modern economy by certain vulnerable groups such as subsistence farmers, the non-waged, women, rural populations, and those living in remote and small settlements. This necessitated a policy shift towards development programmes that directly targeted the productive capacity of the vulnerable groups in order to raise their personal income and wealth. And as national wealth further improved, another major policy shift in policy resulted in embracing the notion of social protection and welfare. This particularly targeted those vulnerable groups deemed outside the reach of production related intervention programs. These included, for instance, orphans, the aged, the disabled and others lacking capability to graduate out of destitution.
This paper examines the role played by organized interest groups in the choice of development strategy/social policy, and the associated outcomes in the extent of poverty reduction. Specifically this paper is intended to provide answers to six key questions on the role of Botswana’s organized interest groups in economic and social policy development as well as poverty reduction. The questions are as follows:-
- What are the institutional arrangements that structure relations between the state and organized groups, including organized business, in pursuing development, social risk management and poverty reduction?
- Under what conditions have organized groups, acting separately and collectively, impacted development strategies and social policies?
- In what contexts are groups likely to accommodate or internalise goals of national development and macroeconomic stability in their policy preferences?
- To what extent have the interests of the unorganized poor been incorporated in the preferences of organized groups and in public policy?
- Have organized groups been able to construct effective links with political parties to influence the direction of social policy and poverty reduction strategies?
- And how have different groups coped with pressures for neo-liberal policy reform in advancing group welfare?