Opposition politicians and commentators have largely welcomed the decision by President Hage Geingob to downsize the number of ministries from 26 to 19. Geingob has merged at least five ministries, while he has also elevated the Namibia Investment Promotion Development Board into the Presidency.
The ministry of safety and security was merged with home affairs, while land reform will also be part of the agriculture and water ministry. Geingob also moved the forestry component from agriculture to environment and tourism. The ministry of defence will now include the department of veteran affairs.
National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo) secretary general Josef Kauandenge said the trimming of the government structure by Geingob was a good move and a step into the right direction. He, however, opined Geingob should have done away with the vice president and deputy prime minister positions.
“The biggest question is who he will appoint; it won’t help if he is to appoint old people. We want to see him appointing new blood, women of substance, people that can meaningfully contribute to the development of the country,” said National Assembly-bound Kauandenge.
He advised the president to broaden the scope, including considering capable members of the opposition parties in his Cabinet. Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) president Mike Kavekotora yesterday hailed Geingob’s move in reducing ministries from 26 to 19, saying money will now be channelled through to improve service delivery.
He, however, expressed that the ministries of basic and higher education should have been combined. “My concern is the type of ministers Geingob will put in position to fulfil this obligation. I hope the president will, this time around, focus on putting the right people in the right places,” he said. “And when I say the right people, it doesn’t mean those with PhDs. The fact that one has got a PhD doesn’t mean you are capable.”
Landless People’s Movement (LPM) deputy leader and chief strategist Henny Seibeb said at least Geingob heeded calls by LPM publicly and in its manifesto to trim the executive.
“Although the public sector wage bill will remain the same and balloon progressively, it is good that certain ministries were cut. He could’ve still trimmed down to ten. Moving of Namibia Investment Centre is highly suspect, as presidency could be seen as micro-managing, who gets funding and which business projects are prioritised for funding,” he said.
“Such closeness could be used for victimisation against those perceived to be anti-establishment. Likewise, finance and National Economic Planning Commission could’ve been grouped,” he added.
Still early days
Political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah said the reduction of government ministries is a step in the right direction but it is too early to make anything out of it for now.
“One key ingredient missing is the calibres of those who will occupy the positions. Knowing that information will give an idea whether the Cabinet will make a ‘kill in terms of service delivery,” he said.
Another commentator, Graham Hopwood, said “unnecessary” positions were still created in the new government structure. “I don’t think this is a serious restructuring or downsizing of Cabinet. As in the past, unnecessary positions are created – why do we need a minister for parliamentary affairs, who is supposed to communicate with another unnecessary tier of government – the appointed regional governors? With two ministers now within the presidency, it does not seem like much of a reduction in Cabinet size. I presume we will still have a National Planning Commission director general on top of these positions, as well as an attorney general appointed from outside parliament,” he said.
He was, however, upbeat about the placing of the investment board within the Presidency, saying the Namibia Investment Centre has been a very lacklustre organisation.
“It may have been better to transfer the whole Ministry of Trade and Industry to the Presidency, as all its work should be geared to attracting investment. Some of the mergers make sense. The incorporation of safety and security within Home Affairs and Immigration takes us back to the situation of more than ten years ago and [it] is a logical decision. Also, the merging of lands and agriculture makes sense because it puts the issue of agricultural productivity together with land reform.
“Forestry has now found its natural home at the ministry of environment. The poverty eradication ministry has been a failure and its functions should have been reincorporated into the Ministry of Health and Social Services. I think gender equality should be a stand-alone ministry, as the issues it has to tackle, like gender-based violence, are so urgent. The ministry of information could have been made into a department operating within the Prime Minister’s office.”
2020-03-18 07:24:14 | 14 days ago