Kenyan lawyer PLO Lumumba – speaking in Windhoek on Wednesday on the invitation of New Era Publication Corporation – quipped that Namibia, given the natural resources under her belly and her lean population, should have 100 percent employment. While he believes that quality leadership is key to achieving this, Lumumba also considered the fact that the country is battling the legacy of colonialism whose indelible mark would not have been erased in 27 years of independence. It is a difficult question to ponder, yet an exciting one to explore. It is often argued that achieving optimal employment might only be expected to occur in war time when civilian populations are needed to work flat out to support the war effort. But even in the absence of war in Namibia, Lumumba asserts that achieving that feat should be possible. The definitions of 100 percent employment vary. But it is said that Japan had optimal employment throughout most of the 1980s as official statistics showed a ratio greater than one of jobs to job seekers. The reasons for that included a strong and growing economy, a protected market and strict immigration limits. Growing the economy and protecting markets have been some of the Namibian government’s most difficult assignments to date. Growth of the economy is stunted by a myriad of factors – which might include inadequate political will. The fact that Namibia has no substantial stakes in the largest mining activities in the country, with the exception of diamonds, is telling. Government has three percent in Rössing, the biggest uranium mine in the country that has been extracting that mineral since 1976. That’s 41 years of mineral exploitation without active involvement of the host country. The amount of money that would have trickled into the coffers of the state as a substantial co-owner of that company, on top of royalties and taxes, would have changed the economic face of the country for eternity. Other mines in the same industry too are foreign owned. The ‘strategic minerals policy’ mooted some years ago and which sought to reserve specific mineral resources for the state through Epangelo Mining, is gathering dust somewhere in the corridors of power. We are opposed to state monopoly but not to state capitalism under which government controls production and the use of capital. The latter model, if pursued without fail, would have helped us re-invest revenues from our natural resources back into the economy. And when the economy is growing like a healthy baby, it stimulates jobs on an industrial scale. Also, we haven’t enacted laws to jealously and genuinely protect markets for locals to fully participate in the economy. New Era reports today about Chinese nationals operating retail businesses in Havana, arguably the poorest slum settlement in Windhoek. Retail, not wholesale. Namibians who are trying to enter that segment of business have no chance of succeeding as they are elbowed to the edge of collapse by their more muscular and experienced competitors. Asking for a 100 percent unemployment is perhaps overzealous. America, the largest economy in the world, has 4.3 percent unemployment. So to ask Namibia to have zero unemployment is like asking Jesus to dine with the devil. It will never happen. But President Hage Geingob has provided clarity of thought on his equally ambitious poverty eradication drive. He believes in setting the bar high so that even failure to hit the target would still be regarded as success. If you set an employment target at 90 percent, who among your citizens would accept to be part of the unemployed 10 percent? Reserving percentage for failure is wrong. Let’s therefore plan to employ everyone and reach the highest rate possible, even if not 100 percent.
New Era Reporter
2017-09-08 10:10:41 2 years ago