Adding its voice of concern to those of other industry and private-sector players, Team Namibia has called the latest National Equitable Economic Empowerment Bill (NEEEB) into question as an appropriate economic strategy, particularly given the current economic crisis the country faces, and thus called for a proper economic impact assessment of the proposed legislation. Team Namibia believes the document, which was first introduced in 2017, revised in 2019 and again in 2021, includes concepts which would stop money coming into the country which would result in fewer jobs.
Despite strides made since national reconciliation began 30 years ago, inequality remains entrenched in Namibian society. Team Namibia chairperson, Pieter van Niekerk, said: “Economic empowerment is not a new concept in Namibia, and most residents and business people support it, because when we have prosperity for all, there is a lesser burden on the state for social safety nets, more skilled workers in the labour pool, greater local support of local goods and services, and lower crime rates. However, in its current form, NEEEB goes against any concept of unity and, in the view of economic experts, prosperity.”
Some preliminary analyses have been done by organisations on the ‘final draft’ of NEEEB, questioning its constitutionality and describing the document as “vague and draconian”.
According to the Economic Policy Research Association (EPRA), the document or bill if it is to be passed, “expressly and deliberately divides Namibians along racial lines [and] its purported beneficiaries include any and all Namibians previously disadvantaged, irrespective of past, current or future economic status.”
EPRA says the current framework puts the most disadvantaged Namibians at risk, because it “sets the stage for substantive abuse of power, corruption, nepotism and mismanagement. It actively discourages foreign and domestic investment [and] encourages capital outflows…”
In 2019, a high-level panel of economic experts, appointed by President Geingob to develop a strategy for national economic recovery, delivered a voluminous final report which stated: “Creating policy certainty and removing bottlenecks will result in an improved economic and investment climate, which is paramount for job creation.”
The panel further explained: “The key to sustainable and inclusive growth in Namibia will entail increasing the participation and employment of more people into the private sector and in particular, in more complex industries that have the potential to sustain higher wages.” However, this explanation fails to acknowledge that when security of ownership is threatened, fewer new investments are made, private sector disinvests over time and employment opportunities are further reduced.
Said Van Niekerk: “In a free market system, markets are best suited to allocate scarce resources and allow supply and demand to set prices. The role of government is to uphold the rule of law, maintain the value of the currency and protect property rights. Job creation cannot be achieved if the protection of private property is not entrenched in government policy. Under One Namibia, One Nation, NEEEB will do more harm than good. There are better alternatives to address the root causes of the socio-economic marginalisation of those who are most vulnerable and affected by poverty and unemployment, and we can find them if we work together.”