There is no doubt that many are happy to see 2018 end. Businesses, households and government have all struggled financially over the past 12 months and can only hope that 2019 won’t be worse.
While we wish everyone a happy holiday, we caution all to take steps to prepare for a stark 2019.
The International Monetary Fund and our own local financial analysts have given their diagnosis on the patient (i.e., the Namibian economy) and declared that we are still in the ICU with no sure cure in sight.
In fact, more pain is due down the line if we are committed to decreasing the national debt, re-charging the economy, and re-building national spirits.
At the same time, we all need to pray that international prices and demand for our commodities sky-rocket, oil prices fall and the Rand to US dollar exchange rate declines. Facing these realities, we should indeed celebrate the holidays, while preparing for a brutal New Year.
In this upcoming election year, with the ruling party not even willing to discuss the blatantly evident reality that there IS disunity and frustration in its ranks, the odds that anything draconian will be done to salvage the economy are low.
We could only shake our heads in shame as we watched SWAPO Secretary-General, Sophia Shaningwa, (with the backing of the SWAPO leadership) thrashing about like a bull in a china shop telling local and regional councils who would be their leaders and who would not.
Has anyone not told the SG that top down dictatorial edicts are for 1970 and not for 2018? The subsequent defiance and expectedly negative blow-back from some of those regional and municipal party leaders concerned is indicative of a rank-and-file that wants to be consulted, included and respected not dominated and slapped down.
Many actions taken in 2018 show that key decision-makers are disconnected from the people they lead. What makes things worse, is that regardless of how bad things get in 2019, most of those who go to the polls in the New Year, will vote SWAPO again.
This guaranteed victory is not just because of an uninformed electorate, tribal affinities, the selfishness of those benefitting from the status quo or those who are nostalgic about the Independence Struggle. There are other considerations that will be the cause of the inevitable SWAPO win at the polls in 2019.
What are the options for those who believe this country needs more capable, energetic and effective leaders? People fall back into their comfort zones and feel, ‘better the devil you know…’ close their eyes and cast their votes.
This criticism is also levelled at those who vote for tribal parties or have an emotional axe to grind with the ruling party to the extent that they form useless splinter parties that can do nothing to help the country in this dire financial time.
The opposition is weak, divided, and underfunded. If they are not dragging their representatives into court, resigning and joining other parties or fighting their own leaders, they are screaming only about what is wrong in Namibia.
Of that group, only the well-spoken McHenry Venaani on behalf of the PDM has attempted to articulate new programmes and ideas that could be implemented to make changes.
While we predict a SWAPO win in 2019, the margin of that victory could be the lowest in history. This may be the harbinger for future change. With the stalwart ‘names’ of liberation era leaders thinning, greying and retiring, we worry that a new generation of capable, experienced, competent leaders will have been held back too long to be able to step and clean up the social, financial and political mess left behind.
Just as the country must get its act together to heal the economy, households must do so too.
The holiday season must be the time to rest and push some of the worries aside. Families must reunite, re-energise and re-establish bonds. Social ills of alcoholism, drug abuse, poor school performance and domestic abuse on all levels, take root in family and community discord. The holidays can be a time to heal those wounds.
Following the advice of financial managers around the country, we also urge people to spend money this holiday season with common sense. Now is not the time to run up credit card bills that you may not have the money to settle later on.
A significant percentage of those out there now planning a nice Christmas won’t have jobs (or the same job) in 2019 and might run into trouble paying bills. Be smart: toast 2019 with beer instead of champagne.
Have a safe holiday and don’t drive like a demon on the roads as you head home. Those driving luxury cars with high speed capacities purchased on credit can easily be buried in them. ARRIVE ALIVE must be the mantra.
We close 2019 with these words of criticism and caution, but also with words of optimism.
The country that ended apartheid and colonialism, is the same country with the spirit, power and commitment to end poverty, hopelessness and financial fear. The rough 2019 will come, but if we are realistic and dedicated to a strong Namibia, we can do what is necessary to help weather the storm.