WINDHOEK, Jan. 22 — In March 2020, the country’s first COVID-19 case was recorded, and by March, the country had been placed under a strict community quarantine, restricting mobility and commercial activity. While these actions delayed the spread of COVID-19, they had serious negative consequences for family incomes, jobs, education, food security, and businesses.
A state of emergency was declared by the Namibian Head of the State on 17 March 2020. The COVID-19 has tested our governance systems, which are already stressed by climate change, economic slowdown, and growing inequality. The measures taken to address COVID-19 impacts have had a significant impact on drought-vulnerable communities in several ways. In addition to causing direct economic losses during the closure, the extended lockdowns pose the socioeconomic risk of irreversible closure of businesses, with attendant ripple effects. Tourism-intensive economies have experienced increased unemployment resulting from the decline in tourism demand. Commercial establishments have observed mandatory closures during the lockdown period. Limited availability of public transportation services has caused mobility and accessibility problems for consumers and workers alike. COVID-19 has devastated much of the economy, especially in communities hit hard by drought.
Namibia has built a high-middle-income economy. The statistic provided by World Bank shocked the nation, which indicates that1,6 million of people in Namibia are living in poverty. The reasons and possible solutions for these concerns are widely debated by politicians and the general public, but these discussions are often based on emotions and not on actual evidence. As confirmed by various studies, Namibia has one of the highest degrees of income inequality in the world. The key determinant of living standards and the impact on the poorest is what happens in the labor market. A slow and uneven jobs recovery raises the specter of increasing inequality in labor markets. A large share of children in poorer families had almost no access to learning opportunities during school closures in Namibia, leading to disparities in learning that could further reduce intergenerational mobility. To prevent these, dis-equalizing trends from taking hold, policy interventions must target vulnerable households, children, and disadvantaged workers. Namibia must also promote economic growth that supports a robust recovery in jobs and earnings.
Namibia is prone to droughts, veld fires, and disease outbreaks which place disproportionately heavy burdens on women as food producers and caretakers. Development in Namibia is guided by the Vision 2030 Initiative, the Fifth National Development Plan (NDP5), and the Harambee Prosperity Plan. Finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi reaffirmed during the 39th Covid-19 national briefing that economic recovery lies in Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) II. A nationwide lockdown restricted the movement of people and closed borders, businesses, and public service. These actions then led to widespread unemployment and job losses. The informal sector of the economy was particularly affected. The majority of women are concentrated in this sector and the restrictions sharply diminished their purchasing power and access to food. Informal economic activities in urban centers, including a growing number of women street vendors, have suffered the most.
Going forward, governments will require further evidence on the economic impact of the crisis and the effectiveness of government policies in protecting vulnerable populations. Furthermore, structural policy reforms will be required to raise Namibia’s growth. Given the role of the informal sector, in the economy, the government should begin to take more than a simple look at the informal sector with a view of enacting policies that will synergize the informal and formal sectors in order to unleash the vast potentials of the Namibian economy since activities in both sectors of the economy are not mutually exclusive. An urgent need to make real progress in social policies, especially those aimed at protecting the poorest and unskilled groups. This is because the current speed of technological change increasingly demands skilled workers who are more capable to adjust to the new technologies. Thus, making progress in the macro, micro, and institutional fronts to accelerate growth and reap the benefits from the ongoing globalization trend is not enough; this must be accompanied by adequate social policies better opportunities to acquire human capital to assure that the poor are not left behind. Not making progress in improving income distribution could undermine public support for the reform process, jeopardizing its continuance through time and risking social unrest and major setbacks or worse, reversals.
In conclusion, an urgent need for specific measures to address the economic shocks in Namibia. Provide social protection to strengthen the livelihoods and purchasing power of the most vulnerable. For effective response planning, more data is required beyond the localized, selective COVID-19 and needs to include qualitative contextualized information beyond basic demographic, economic, and health data, including spatial and social data, and citizen-generated knowledge. There is a need for inclusive response, focused on social and economic interventions, as well as public health control measures. Continuous awareness-raising, improved free and accessible health services, income support, and a return to or alternative education need to be addressed to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
– by Josef Kefas Sheehama