WINDHOEK – Government is putting the final touches to bold interventions to inject life back into the country’s limping economy, President Hage Geingob told New Era yesterday.
After strong growth averaging 5.6 percent between 2010 and 2016, driven by high public spending, construction of new mines, and favourable commodity prices, the economy has entered a recession.
Real GDP growth contracted by 0.9 percent in 2017 and an estimated 0.1 percent in 2018,
due to domestic and external factors, including a sharp reduction in public spending – necessitated by falling revenues and weak growth in trading partner economies and subdued household demand.
President Geingob, speaking exclusively to New Era at State House yesterday, said Cabinet has mandated the Ministry of Finance to reserve a budget for a stimulus package that would be announced soon.
The country’s youth would be placed at the centre of stimulant activities with the aim to create jobs for this segment of the population, the President said.
“As a first step I’ll soon announce the restructured Presidential Economic Advisory Council. The new structure has been reduced to mostly senior economists on whose advice we would rely insofar as designing these stimulant packages is concerned,” he said.
“We are looking at agriculture and innovation as some of the sectors that growth would be targeted at. The youth will be government’s new focal point because growth cannot be achieved without youth employment,” he said.
In this regard, government is expected to announce a ‘work economic summit’, to be held soon with investors in the private sector.
Unemployment in Namibia currently stands at 34 percent. It stood at 28 percent in 2014.
The President said his administration ‘inherited’ massive deficits – a situation that hugely contributed a significant part to the current state of the economy. As such, the current situation has ‘hurt’ his ambitions as outlined in the Harambee Prosperity Plan, whose five pillars are in jeopardy of fully achieving without adequate resources. “I was so hurt when this beautiful plan started getting hit by the current economic situation,” he remarked.
Asked what government was doing internally to rectify the current economic situation that saw jobs being lost across many sectors and a stifled growth, Geingob said: “One thing we need to rectify is the wage bill. It is simply not affordable.”
He said any wage cut would be applied across the board, including Cabinet.
“The current Cabinet is too big and there’s reason for it. President Sam Nujoma, being a founding father and a liberation hero, has natural authority. President Pohamba was a bit relaxed. But with me, I am dealing with my peers – where anybody could have taken over as President. The pressure on me to have a bigger Cabinet is bigger because all these people are my peers who want to be accommodated. It could have been worse if I didn’t do that [appoint them].”
“But that is no more affordable. So one way to cut costs is to reduce the Cabinet wage bill.”
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s Independence Day celebrations, the country’s 29th, President Geingob disagreed with those asserting that there was nothing to celebrate.
“The freedom we have is not appreciated. All countries have problems. Yes we have poor people but there are also success stories. In the past, the towns of Omuthiya, Outapi, Eenhana and others did not exist but now they do.”
“People travelling from Gobabis to the northern parts of the country no longer have to go through Windhoek. They can drive straight to Grootfontein because of the new road connecting the two towns.”
“Outsiders appreciate our country but our own people do not. We definitely have reason to celebrate independence,” he said.
In the full interview appearing in New Era’s Friday edition, Geingob chronicles his four-year presidential journey so far, unpacks the country’s public debt situation, leading the ruling party Swapo and what he terms his ‘quiet diplomacy’ at the helm of Sadc as chairperson.