Political analyst Frederico Links has rubbished as a bad idea the call for the nationalisation of Namibian natural resources. He says that doing this will cause even more damage because state service delivery failure is a primary contributor to the hardship Namibians are already experiencing.
The political commentator, who is also a research associate at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) – a left-wing think tank – made these remarks in an interview with this publication, as calls for the nationalisation of the country’s natural resources are gaining momentum. All of this comes in the wake of a fishing quota scandal which has rocked the nation.
At the forefront, the call is Timothy Angala, a former leader of the Namibia National Students Organisation (NANSO), backed by the former chairperson of the National Youth Council of Namibia (NYC), Mandela Kapere.
Angala maintained that while capitalism should be allowed to thrive in other sectors of the economy, the country’s natural resources must be owned and managed by the government because they belong to the State and must never benefit certain individuals at the detriment of the masses.
“The awarding of fishing quotas to individuals must end. Fishing quotas must be shared amongst the 14 regions as a supplement to their developmental budgets,” Angala said.
He added that all the economic activities based on our natural resources must be audited and a decision must be taken in the interest of Namibia and its people.
“We cannot have our people suffering because of individual greed. No Namibian is supposed to be poor. We are just 2.5 million (sic),” he stressed.
In support of the above, Kapere stressed that while these sentiments might be socialist, the perception that both socialist and capitalist systems cannot be successfully blended is false. Kapere argued that it is possible to manage these entities commercially with a capitalist stance, but still ensure that the benefits are spread in such a way that they can benefit all.
“In that way, the biggest chunk of the profits can be diverted to the treasury and pumped into regional councils or other social development initiatives,” Kapere said.
Kapere has it that he harbours no qualms with people amassing wealth, but has an issue with people doing so corruptly and to the detriment of others.
“Those who got rich from our country’s mineral resources show no willingness to contribute to the welfare of others or the country’s industrialisation,” Kapere stressed.
Not a good idea
Links begged to differ with the above observations. He is struggling to comprehend the idea that government which is already struggling or failing to deliver adequately across a range of services, will somehow deliver after nationalising the natural resource sectors. According to him the results of nationalisation in other parts of the world are not positive.
“Similarly, we've already seen how 'Namibianisation' or indigenisation in public procurement has led to overpricing, financial inefficiency and corruption, through the emergence of tenderpreneurs and middlemen. This will worsen through nationalisation because then, politicians will directly control access to natural resources,” Links stressed.
According to Links, what needs to be done is contained in the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) framework. The UNCAC assessment of 2015 urges member States to; strengthen law enforcement capabilities and depoliticise law enforcement (no political appointees). It further urges them to introduce comprehensive access to information as well as conflict of interest and assets declaration regulatory frameworks that apply to all decision-making positions in government. Moreover, the Auditor General should have law enforcement powers.
“The point is that various offices and agencies are not functioning as they should and this has been known for a long time but has not been addressed. On top of that, the practise of cadre deployment is undermining accountability in the state sector, so this needs to be done away with and professional civil service needs to be brought about,” Links stressed.
He believes that a lot of people do not have an understanding of the modern economy and are proposing bad ideas to address issues or confront the prevailing economic conditions.
“It is partly because we have people in positions that are unqualified to make economic decisions, that we are in the state that we are in and cannot seem to come up with any good ideas about turning things around,” he maintained.