Geingob selling dreams – analysts

15 June 2018 Author  

Political analysts this week called out President Hage Geingob for selling dreams with his Harambee Prosperity Plan, arguing that there is no evidence that Namibia is moving towards prosperity. Political analysts this week called out President Hage Geingob for selling dreams with his Harambee Prosperity Plan, arguing that there is no evidence that Namibia is moving towards prosperity. 

In his public utterances before and after he was voted as the third President of the Republic, Geingob has emphasized that his administration will continue the glorious legacy of the SWAPO Party by taking Namibia towards an era of prosperity.
However, political analyst, Ndumbah Kamwanyah, said there is no evidence that Namibia is moving towards prosperity. 
“In fact the situation is regressing for the worse without us having a plan to rescue the economy. Look at the unemployment rate. Look at the poverty level. Look at income inequality. And look at the housing and urban land crisis. Those are not signs of a movement towards prosperity,” he said.
Kamwanyah said at this moment the Harambee Prosperity Plan is unattainable. 
“It has been arrested by the prevailing negative economic conditions and it also seems to be suffering from implementation deficit. It has degenerated to mere talk like its uncle Vision 2030. Soon it will fade from our memory,” he added.
Kamwanyah advised Geingob to talk less and do more. 
“He needs rigorous and constant monitoring and evaluation of the resources put into programs; the activities to implement programs, the output; outcomes and the impact of these programs.  If he does that, it will help him assess the progress his government is making.”
The academic also said that there is no clear rescue mission from the president to arrest the current economic downturn.
“I even doubt if we really have an idea why or what are the causes of our economic downturn.  Equally, there is also no concrete or sound mission to take us to prosperity. Talk is not a mission or is it a strategy. We cannot talk our way to prosperity,” he said.
John Steytler, Economic Advisor in the Office of the Presidency, said the current economic situation was a normal cycle because economies go up and down, citing 2009 when the Namibian economy also suffered as a result of the world economic crisis. 
“Growth dropped sharply, but later on the economy rebalanced and found its equilibrium and we had high growth for six years. We believe that the economy has started to recover. The Bank of Namibia also said this week that they see signs of recovery.” 
Steytler said Geingob’s economic plans are still on track. “I don’t think the plans of the president are under threat. The president’s key economic plan is still the Harambee Prosperity Plan and I think we can still deliver on key elements of the plan.”   
He added that when Geingob spoke about his prosperity plans, he qualified what he meant.
“He said prosperity does not mean opulence. It means we need to provide some of the basic needs of our people.”
These basic needs include eliminating hunger and poverty, provision of shelter, good quality education and the provision of quality heathcare. 
In terms of food security, Steytler said an Agriculture Modenisation and Seed Improvement Programme will be launched this year, which targets more food production. 
He said it was wrong to say the current economic situation under Geingob has been the worst since independence. He said at one time in the 90s, inflation was around 25 percent and in 2007, the country also suffered high food prices, which led to some food items being zero rated. 
In 1997, the Asian economic crisis also had a huge impact on Namibia. “For me I cannot say this is the worst we have seen,” Steytler said.
Academic and social commentator, Dr Henning Melber, said Geingob made a number of attractive statements and presented blue prints with a lot of promises, creating the impression that he has a much better grasp of socio-economic realities and ideas on how to improve the living conditions of the ordinary people.
He said contrary to Vision 2030, the Harambee Prosperity Plan seemed more realistic as it made big promises that nobody is to be left behind and that poverty will be eradicated within a very short period of time. 
“This was certainly wishful thinking in the plan, which otherwise spells-out some good targets and suggestions on how to achieve them,” Melber said. 
“Given the current situation it is impossible to see that anything meaningful will be achieved during Geingob’s first term in office.”
Melber, who is an Extraordinary Professor at the University of Pretoria and University of the Free State in South Africa, said the president needs to eat humble pie. 
“He should admit that due to the economic constraints the promises will remain unfulfilled and that the next steps will be much more modest.”
He also suggested that the president cut down expenses considered as unnecessary, slim down the higher levels of government and administration, reduce expenditure on what is perceived as luxurious self-privileging of the elites in power.
“He will not deliver on his promise and therefore has to adjust the narrative in order not to frustrate people even more.
“Government needs to follow very strict fiscal discipline, prevent any overspending by ministries and SOEs, reduce top level salaries and fringe benefits and adjust the privileges. Namibia cannot afford to continue feeding a parasitic bubble while people are in dire needs for basic services.”
Official opposition party leader, McHenry Venaani, said Geingob was correct to put out a vision that he wants to bring prosperity to Namibia.
He, however, believes that Namibia is not going to achieve prosperity during Geingob’s tenure.
“In his five years as the president of the country, Namibia is not going to be a prosperous nation. Prosperity would mean that Namibians would have shelter, but there is a backlog of shelter,  there is a shortage of sanitation, the unemployment rate is standing at 38 percent and the debt to GDP ratio is even higher than envisaged. The target was 35 percent, but it is over 42 percent at this point in time.
“Hage will not achieve prosperity in his first five years; the indicators are showing a very negative picture.” 
Venaani argued that poverty levels were not going down because the economy was not being stimulated.
“The country has not achieved any targets of food production, the amount of money we are giving to the defence budget tells a glaring story that our priority lies at defence instead of agricultural mobilization,” he said.
Venaani said the country needs an economic summit where all sectors involved in the economy are brought together to re-plan and re-engineer the economy.
“We need to hold a job summit within the economic summit to look at how we can rekindle jobs within the job market. There must be a blue print on agricultural modernization and industrialization that would accelerate food security through irrigation and so forth.
“These are areas that should be nurtured; we need to drill more underground water in Ohangwena and Otjozondjupa where we have underground water to do more plantations so that more people can have food sustainability. The Food Bank that we have created has been a flop in the sense that it is not self-sustaining.”

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