The political economy of inequality : poverty, drought and aid programmes in Botswana, c. 1982 - 1988

Lyons, S 1990, The political economy of inequality : poverty, drought and aid programmes in Botswana, c. 1982 - 1988 , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

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Botswana's pattern of economic growth during its first two decades of Independence has been hailed by many economists as representing a model for successful development in Sub-Saharan Africa. From the 1970s the development of the diamond industry provided the main impetus to this economic growth, and allowed the government to make rapid improvements in the provision of rural health care, primary education, and water supplies. However, despite these improvements to the rural infrastructure little has been achieved in stimulating or even maintaining rural incomes and levels of employment. The nutritional status and economic well-being of a substantial proportion of the rural population remains precarious, especially during periods of drought. This thesis argues that the present structure of economic development serves to preserve and intensify these existing patterns of inequality rather than allay them. The first two sections of the thesis are concerned with the political economy of the country, and the nature and spatial distribution of rural poverty. I argue that the key to an understanding of this rural poverty lies in the changing socio-economic role of livestock over the last fifty years, and the emergence of new class structures based on the ownership of cattle. A growing exclusivity in the control of water sources and grazing, encouraged during the colonial period amongst the tribal elite, led to a growing inequality in income and assets and the breakdown of traditional redistributive mechanisms in the rural economy. It was this privileged and educated tribal elite, now largely divested of its tribal and kinship obligations, that gained political power on Independence, and which now forms collectively the largest group of livestock owners in the country. With access to lucrative overseas markets, what had emerged as a growing contradiction between the private ownership of herds and the continued communal tenure of grazing land, is now being resolved by sweeping changes to the structure of land tenure. Whereas water borehole syndicates in the past had had (theoretically at least) an open membership and did. not preclude the grazing of smaller herds, the new land tenure policies now promise an exclusive control over water and grazing on fenced ranches. The existence of these ranches now threaten the very subsistence base of many marginal groups. An assessment of the government's commitment to tackling the problems of rural poverty can, be derived from a study of its own welfare programmes. The third section of the thesis is concerned with the nature and effectiveness of the food aid and labour based relief programmes over the period 1982-88. Whilst these programmes have averted widespread starvation, they have done little to protect or restore the productive assets of the poor. Rather they have served to mask the structural nature of rural poverty and inequality and left the process of privatisation of the commons to continue unchallen g ed. In some cases they have also failed to achieve the more modest objective of alleviating malnutrition: an analysis of relief food distribution for the period reveals serious shortfalls to those marginal groups most at risk. The final chapter summarises the main findings of the thesis and concludes that the fundamental issue of unequal access to productive assets such as cattle, grazing and water remains unresolved, reflecting the low priority afforded by the political elite to the plight of the poor. Without seeking to be prescriptive, it argues for a radical departure from the present pattern of economic development to one based upon a more equal access to productive assets.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Contributors: Simmons, C (Supervisor)
Schools: Schools > Salford Business School
Depositing User: USIR Admin
Date Deposited: 07 Sep 2021 14:10
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2022 14:46

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