• August 9th, 2020

A spectre is haunting Namibia

Namibia is fast becoming the land of the unhappy. 
To sense the troubling level of unhappiness in the country, one only has to read a few social media news reports and the accompanying comments on burning national issues. What or who is responsible for this unhappiness? How does this unhappiness manifest itself? What needs to be done to address this unhappiness? What are the implications if this unhappiness is not addressed? 

This article aims to find answers for these four hard questions. After 29 long years of independence, apartheid is no longer responsible for the majority of the political problems in the country. 
Traditionally, politics is the science of policy making on the behalf of all, or in simple language it is the duty of making decisions for everyone else. 

These decisions are then implemented by the bureaucracy (government employees). At the heart of these decisions is resource allocation (the distribution of public money). Everyone in the country believes that they are an expert on mining (e.g. phosphate this, uranium that). 

The same principle applies to all other sectors, from tourism to fishing, from education to health, from commerce to energy, everyone believes they know what is best for Namibia and most believe that those who are currently in charge are not doing their best or enough for the country. 

In current Namibian politics, apart from struggle credentials, are people actually ending up in parliament based on their intellectual and technical capabilities (meritocracy) or simply on the basis of vocal and musical rhetoric? 

Are most of those in political and bureaucratic leadership positions really able to interrogate critical issues to the core and prescribe useful solutions? The problem with decision-making is that everyone believes that they can make sound and reasonable decisions on strategic national matters.  This is the most fundamental problem with politics and public administration in Namibia today. This political and bureaucratic state of affairs has caused general unhappiness in the populace at large since it feels underrepresented in the political and bureaucratic spheres. Talking of the economy, government spending is one of the most important determinants of national income (GDP).  The other determinants of GDP are consumption spending, investment spending and net exports (the difference between export earnings and spending on imports). Over the last few years, Namibia adopted a policy of less government spending (contractionary fiscal policy).  Good economics is, however, bad politics and vice versa. While the government restricted its spending, mass-employer industries such as construction suffered. These cuts in government spending had a ripple effect throughout the economy in the sense that all types of economic activities became negatively affected and grinded to a sudden halt. Small businesses especially found it harder to cope in that they could no longer generate sufficient revenue to sustain operations. Salaried people, already burdened with taxes and what not, ran to the financial institutions for personal loans. The financial sharks continue to capitalize on the cash-hungry masses. The persistent drought only makes it worse.  Most crimes, financial or otherwise, including corruption, can all be attributed to the current economic situation. This economic state of affairs has caused general unhappiness in the populace at large since it feels that the current economic system is failing to provide a good livelihood. 

This unhappiness manifests itself in many forms. Randomly cursing and insulting perceived enemies has become the order of the day among Namibians. This indicates a people who harbour a very troubled conscious, stressed out and depressed. 

The people have turned to high levels of alcohol consumption and drug abuse in efforts to supposedly relieve the pain. Even church leaders are engaging in physical brawls. 

This run-of-the-mill trade union is threatening action over this and that fired-up movement is planning to march against that. Notwithstanding the political problems, the only viable solution to the current problems in Namibia is well-managed expansionary fiscal policy (more government spending).  Structural adjustments to macroeconomic variables need to take place. Even if it means that the people have to spend the day digging holes and filling them up again, the government must create jobs.  Naysayers will say that throwing more money at a problem will not solve the problem. That is true, but only to a certain extent. Money must be thrown at problems by people who actually know how to throw money at problems, and then this country will see different and better results. 

Admittedly, we cannot print more money as this will cause rapid inflation and create even more problems. However, a well-managed expansionary fiscal policy can be attained in three ways. The first is to start cutting personal and business taxes by small exponential amounts. This will increase the aggregate disposable incomes of people and the net profits of businesses after tax. 

This newfound wealth will suddenly stimulate economic activity through the multiplier effect. The logic is simple, wealthier people consume more and wealthier businesses invest more and the economy grows as a result. 

The second option is to increase government borrowing for strictly public infrastructural development (refurbished and new fully equipped schools, hospitals, etc. in the process creating jobs for stranded teachers and nurses as well as lessening the burden on the existing infrastructure and workforce). Invested borrowings are justified. In order to harvest plenty later, sacrifice the few for now. The third option is to remove barriers in public procurement. For all intents and purposes, the new procurement rules have good intentions, but at what cost? 
Without changes, voting dynamics will surely shift. When those organizations used to holding power today are suddenly out tomorrow, history has shown that developing nations tend to degenerate into chaos. 

* Abednego Katuushii Ekandjo writes in his private capacity.

Staff Reporter
2019-09-13 08:24:55 | 10 months ago

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