President Hage Geingob took a commendable decision this week by placing on ice all foreign trips by ministers, deputy ministers and other political office bearers. The move, the Presidency said, was taken in the best interest of reining in public expenditure. This is not the first time the President has imposed a ban on foreign travelling. In April 2015, weeks into his presidency, the Head of State imposed a ban on foreign trips for all top government officials including ministers, saying this would give them the opportunity to focus on solving national issues. The only official allowed to travel abroad at the time was International Relations Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, but even she needed to properly justify any trip she undertook. At the time, President Geingob said instead of travelling, ministers, some of whom were new to the trade, were to spend time familiarising themselves with the needs of the nation’s most impoverished citizens. The motivation of the current ban is compelling. Government’s fiscal consolidation efforts and the curtailing of non-essential expenditure is vital now more than ever. The country’s financial situation – as is with many neighbouring countries – has not greatly improved since the devastating effects of the global economic meltdown. For a country whose undiversified economy continues to rely heavily on commodities, we could be in for a long wait before normalisation. It is government’s recognition of this reality that in part prompted the decision to cut foreign trips. Geingob has already been shown the way in this regard by travelling last week to the AU Summit in Ethiopia by a scheduled commercial flight. New Era revealed this week that the President went to Cape Town last December for vacation, using another scheduled commercial flight. BBC Africa on Wednesday invented a version of their own to claim that the presidential falcon was grounded because there was no money to fuel it up. It is rather sad that when African leaders do something positive to help their economies, as was the case here, they are ridiculed – just like if they did the opposite. While we commend this latest development, we’re not entirely satisfied that it only targets ministers, deputy ministers and political office bearers. A real difference in saving costs would be realised once this ban is extended to other spheres of government. Civil servants perhaps eat the biggest chunk of the S&T cake and we need an intervention on that. This year already, we have seen senior government officials travelling to regions purportedly for familiarisation. It’s laughable that officials who are not new in their high-ranking posts embark on such trips as though they were new in their job and therefore needed to touch base with the regions in order to understand their mandates better. Whoever embarks on such trips is working against the exact ideals of saving costs and shunning meaningless trips whose true but disguised purpose is to make undeserved money for personal gratification. Also, we believe that confining this ban to the month of February alone would make no significant difference as it would if applied over a sustained longer period. Overall, we welcome and fully support this bold directive.
2018-02-02 10:48:45 7 months ago