• July 9th, 2020

Jobs back to centre of agenda… as panel recommends free land allocation in informal settlements

The creation of a national employment task force, a national internship programme, the allocation of free land in urban areas, the adequate leveraging of public assets and the appointment of a government-owned holding company to run affairs of commercial parastatals are but some of the recommendations made by President Hage Geingob’s High-Level Panel on the Namibian Economy (HLPE). 

The panel, which was inaugurated for a year in March 2019, made these and other recommendations to Geingob in their final report, released yesterday at State House.

The report addresses key policy actions and sectoral strategies needed to revive the ailing domestic economy, ensure economic stability and create enabling policies that support sustained economic growth during the next 18 to 36 months. 

The 22-member panel is chaired by Johannes !Gawaxab and includes three international experts. 
“There needs to be some deliberations around some of these recommendations and it is up to the appointing authority to accept or not accept these recommendations,” said !Gawaxab yesterday. 

To reduce Namibia’s staggeringly high unemployment, the panel recommends the creation of a national task force to spearhead the fourth industrial revolution and to create platforms for innovation and product development. This, the HLPE expects to increase employment growth which has become stagnant in recent years. 

According to the 2018 Namibia Labour Force Survey, only about 15% of Namibians between the ages 25 to 34 are employed while youth employment (15 to 19 years old) was even more dismal at a mere 2.2%. 
The panel therefore recommends the allocation of funds to boost research and innovation and proposes a national internship programme in collaboration with the private sector to enhance on-the-job skills. 
The national unemployment rate currently stands at 33.4%, while nearly 46% of young people are without jobs. 

With housing remaining a huge challenge for Namibia, the HLPE has recommended the allocation of free land to all those in informal settlements in urban areas. 

According to the HLPE, the land allocation should not be made on the basis of affordability and market economics but as a measure of social justice aimed at mitigating the homelessness crisis to break the perpetual cycle of inequality. 

It is further recommended that the free land be made as a once-off offer to eliminate the risk of land grabbing and to prevent the land being sold for at least 10 years to avoid price speculation. 
Namibia has a housing backlog of more than 110 000 units.  

The panel further suggests the provision of water, electricity, sanitation, transport, schools and clinics to these informal areas as well as the reservation of space for offices, shops and light manufacturing to provide jobs in close proximity to these residences. 

Natural resources 
The HLPE recommends an open and transparent bidding process for the allocation of rights and licenses to access Namibia’s natural resources for fishing, mining and tourism concessions. 

“With a well-designed bidding process, resources are allocated efficiently to the parties that value them most and have the resources and know-how to best utilise these resources most optimally and efficiently whilst government secures revenue in the process. Alternatives to the open-bidding processes include administrative licensing, such as the one currently used in Namibia which lacks transparency, is bureaucratic,” reads the executive summary of the report. 

The HLPE also called for, as a matter of urgency, a moratorium on the allocation of fishing rights and quotas to new applicants for at least a year to investigate the use of an open bidding process. 
Through this recommendation, revenue estimated at N$1 billion per annum from the fishing sector alone, would accrue to the State.  

The panel also suggested another opportunity to increase revenue from tourism by allowing private operators to co-exist with Namibia Wildlife Resorts in key parks to enable the country to capitalise on growth in this sector. 

Public sector reform
On the public sector reform, the panel recommended that Cabinet approve in principle a transformation plan for the 22 commercial public enterprises. “A key guiding principle that should be adopted is that government should desist from providing services directly through State-owned enterprises that the public sector can deliver or is delivering more efficiently and competitively,” read the report.
The panel also proposed that the Ministry of Public Enterprises be phased out over the next three to five years to be replaced by a holding company run independently by a government-appointed board. This holding company would own all shares in public enterprises on behalf of government. 

“I would like to add, on behalf of the appointing authority, that indeed we are committed fully to implement the recommendations of the high-level panel and that of course Cabinet will deliberate and we will come up with a plan to prioritise which recommendations must be implemented by which entity,” said presidential advisor on constitutional affairs and private sector interface, Inge Zaamwani-Kamwi. 

However, she noted the panel’s recommendations are part of a broader macro-economic environment and that there are other initiatives also taking place within both government and the private sector. 
“Collectively, with all the efforts being driven by various stakeholders, we hope that we will be able to move the needle somewhat in terms of reviving our economy,” she said.   

Edgar Brandt
2020-03-12 07:25:28 | 3 months ago

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