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Opinion: Towards creating sustainable jobs for all Namibians

2021-06-28  Staff Reporter

Opinion: Towards creating sustainable jobs for all Namibians
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The right to a decent job that enables one to take care of oneself and the family speaks to the essence of human dignity as anchored in Article 8 of the Constitution of our Republic. 

A person who cannot take care of him/herself and depends on handouts from benevolent members of society to eke out a miserable life with no dreams or hope for a better future is not a free person, and may feel robbed of his human dignity. The sad reality is that notwithstanding the significant progress we have made in many areas of our development over the last 30 years, too many Namibians remain unemployed. 

It is estimated that close to 50% of the active labour force was without a job in 2006. It is even more worrisome that close to 70% of the unemployed people are young people. Many of them have given up hope of ever finding a job, and might have lost their zeal for life in general. 

Today, we do not need to dwell on the factors driving high unemployment, or where we could have gone wrong. What is required of us at this moment is to acknowledge that we have a problem that needs fixing urgently. 

However, let us also guard against using our acknowledgement as a tool to vilify and demonise each other. Instead, let us use it as a tool to inspire us to find amicable and lasting solutions to the problem at hand, and be clear in our message. 

The message that says that if we do not change our strategies and continue to do things in the same manner as before, we will not be able to meaningfully reduce the unemployment rate in the near to medium term, and also need to be clear that the unemployment problem cannot be resolved overnight. 

We can, however, bring down the level of unemployment significantly over the near to medium term if we do certain things differently, in the way of scaling up resources with a view to pursuit employment creation. Let us also agree that whilst addressing acute high unemployment in the short to medium term, we should not forget about longer- term reforms necessary for sustained employment creation, high growth and economic competitiveness.

Moreover, we must make deliberate efforts that are supported by all role players, including government, private enterprises, organised labour and civil society, because the government alone cannot solve the unemployment problem.

When the question is asked whether we are likely to achieve V2030, the usual assumption is that the government is either failing or has failed altogether. 

The government has certain responsibilities and obligations to fulfil; but so do all of us. Let us start to view the achievement of V2030 as our collective responsibility, and not that of the government alone. 

As a government, our role should still be that of creating a conducive environment where private businesses find it profitable to invest in the local economy, and thereby create more employment opportunities.  

In this role, we as Namibians are required to make more financial resources available to invest in the necessary economic infrastructure, and to continuously embrace reforms that will make it easier for our firms to do business and become globally competitive. 

Private sector businesses should recognise that while profit is their overall motive when investing, they also have an obligation to ensure that we build a society based on equal opportunity and the fair sharing of economic benefits. In other words, the emphasis must move away from profitability alone to issues that are equally important for sustainability.

This will require that businesses consider investing in ventures that might not have the potential for the highest return on investment, but have the potential to unlock faster economic growth and human development. 

Organised labour must recognise that while they have the duty to protect workers from exploitation, they should not forget that they too have a responsibility to make it possible for more employment opportunities to be created. 

This will require that labour be prepared to make the necessary compromises required to create more jobs. The research shows that the areas with the highest employment creation and growth potential include agriculture, tourism, and transport and logistics. 

Likewise, we should also consider sanitation and the provision of low-cost housing as these also have the potential to absorb huge quantities of unskilled labour, while at the same time contributing to additional GDP growth and other social objectives as envisaged under our common vision. 

Moreover, research also shows that through targeted government intervention in these sectors, the long-run equilibrium growth rate of the economy will increase by some 3 percentage points, from an average of 4% to 7%, as envisaged under V2030. In tandem with this, it is estimated that the unemployment rate would decline to about 12% in an interventionist scenario by 2030. 

Manufacturing should not be neglected, but efforts to develop manufacturing should be tied to the economic sectors with higher growth potential. The implementation of the Green Schemes should continue to be promoted during the next 10 years, as it will go a long way to reduce Namibia’s dependency in the imports of essential foodstuff and enhance food security. 

To end, the Namibian government needs a strong monitoring mechanism to ensure that our plans get fully implemented. As the institution tasked with development planning and monitoring and evaluation, the National Planning Commission commits to developing the necessary tools to ensuring the effective and efficient implementation of development plans.

 


2021-06-28  Staff Reporter

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