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Opinion - Five reasons NPC may not mainstream youth projects in development plans 

2021-11-23  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Five reasons NPC may not mainstream youth projects in development plans 
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Recently, Cabinet instructed the National Planning Commission (NPC) to mainstream youth projects and programmes in the country’s development plans. The directive is both thought-provoking. Also, the command raises many questions: What does the Cabinet order mean to the layperson? Does it suggest that NPC has not always mainstreamed youth activities since its establishment? Or does it mean that successive Cabinets together with NPC have for the past three decades excluded youth related issues? Or does it mean that although youth activities have always been mainstreamed in the country’s development plans, NPC absolutely depended on Cabinet instructions to implement such activities? This article reiterates five strong views expressed nearly two decades in Vision 2030 predicting why the government and NPC will never mainstream, among others, youth projects and programmes in Namibia’s development plans. 

First, NPC has inadequate capacity of adhering to some of the fundamental principles of planning and plan implementation. Planning implies the existence of a plan, which is developed by thinking. Vision 2030 argues that unless those assigned with the socio-economic planning of the country were endowed with skills and knowledge in the planning processes (analysing opportunities, establishing objectives, determining planning premises, identifying alternatives, evaluating available alternatives, selecting the most appropriate alternative, implementing the plan and reviewing the plan) the government will continue to experience serious bottlenecks in its development endeavours. The fundamental question is: Does the NPC have the imagination, farsightedness and deductive reasoning, the hallmarks of planning to mainstream youth projects and programmes across all departments to achieve less than 10% youth unemployment rate?

Second, there is poor coordination and co-operation among public institutions responsible for planning and plan implementation. In public administration, coordination and cooperation are two sides of the same coin, which are required to effectively carry out government activities. Thorough coordination is only possible in an atmosphere of teamwork, unanimity and uniformity of action. The NPC was established, among others, to coordinate Namibia’s desired development activities. 

Nearly two decades ago, Vision 2030 warned that Namibia’s public sector was poor at coordination and facilitating cooperation. Contemporary discourse suggests that coordination, for example, has three major aims: (a) to balance activities across individuals and all sectors involved to achieve the desired goals; (b) to synchronise activities as a way of removing gaps when implementing various activities; and (c) to integrate and fuse project and programme activities across various government departments. Both vertical and horizontal coordination are required to successfully mainstream and implement youth projects and programmes countrywide. Vision 2030 disagrees that Namibia has the capacity to coordinate massive projects and programmes, including those referred to in the Cabinet directive. 

Third, Namibia has a shortage of skilled personnel in critical areas of planning and project execution across the public sectors. From current evidence, we can assume that Vision 2030 did not suggest that the public sector does not have individuals with college or university qualifications. On the contrary, Vision 2030 sounded a warning that multi-sectoral coordination of youth development projects and programmes will need qualified individuals who understood the basic principles of development planning and implementation. Training in the basic principles of public sector development management and administration rests with Public administration and management practitioners. Once again, Vision 2030 was worried that hiring individuals outside their expertise to oversee the planning and implementation of youth projects and programmes will defeat the purpose of current and future Cabinet directives. 

Fourth, government departments are known for ignoring Cabinet decisions. At independence, the state created, among others, the departments of health services, education, defence, information services, justice and youth programming and execution. The sole purpose of these and other departments was to satisfy the various needs of the population. More than a decade later after independence, Vision 2030 observed that various government departments intentionally ignored to implement key decisions directed by successive Cabinets. Why? Because Cabinet (a) did not built-in accountability measures for non-implementation of its directives, and (b) ignored to integrate monitoring, evaluation and reporting (MER) processes in its directive. 

The larger question therefore is: Without an institutionalised MER framework, how will Cabinet verify whether youth projects and programmes were mainstreamed in development plans? Importantly, how will the Cabinet determine the outcomes of the efforts of the mainstreaming process across more than 15 government departments? Vision 2030 reminds Namibians that public work cannot be done merely with statements, conceptions and speculations – every piece of activity must potentially be provable.

Lastly, inadequate financial resources. As the adage goes ‘money makes the world rotate.’ Based on experience, Vision 2030 cautioned that no Cabinet instructions will be implemented, and their outcomes achieved without such directives accompanied by necessary funds. One of the most important annual events in Parliament is the discussion of the budget. The discussion always centres around the weighing of available income against the possible expenditure for the ensuing financial year. If mainstreaming means the inclusion of youth needs into the country’s developmental plans across various departments, money scarce as it is, should be attached to the mainstreaming framework. Short of an adequate budget, the NPC, Vision 2030 warns, will never effectively address the mainstreaming process of the envisaged youth projects and programmes into the country’s development plans. So, to believe that a Cabinet instruction will produce the desired outcomes, is an exaggerated ambition that may never happen. The NPC will need both an internal and a systems approach to be able to deliver on the Cabinet directive. NPC, are you up for the challenge?  

2021-11-23  Staff Reporter

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