WINDHOEK, APRIL 23 – Although some Namibian media seems hopeless towards political failure, corruption, bloated public wage bills, ongoing job losses, food insecurity, poverty; and perhaps cautiously opportunistic towards corporate performance in 2019-2021; we still need companies, political and economic leaders, and civil society to help set the national growth agenda truthfully, and in practical terms. Looking at Namibia’s government debt to GDP at 45,1% in 2018, we are reminded that this ratio averaged 22,41% from 1993 to 2018. It is natural to deduct that much of the economic players’ disconnect (to unsustainable growth perks before crash) was entertained by the reality shaped through mainstream media. Not journalists, but every role-player fulfilling their due diligence to communicate, created the disconnect.
Still, Namibia is not untainted by international market shocks, nor neighboring countries’ socio-economic performance, -peace, and -political instability. Building confidence on the once side of consumer perception (behavior) and generating ‘savings into ignorance’ on the other, became a bad habit in retrospect. Many private companies only recently admitted (openly) that they’ve struggled, and nearly collapsed in relieve when finding resonance amongst peers in industry saying; “us too”. Government is of course, openly and utterly in debt. We’ve already spent next year’s income. Earlier this year The Namibian reported that there is no link between rising debt, and economic growth. Lending to pay interest is like courting a lady to date her sister; it’s not win-win, nor pretty.
Actions have the ability to gain or lose reputation in the journey towards fulfilling the vision of the country; and demands an authentic and congruent leadership communications approach. Not free of criticism.
For the ongoing economic transformation process to be successful, trusted, and supported, stakeholders must be informed, and engaged. At the budget analysis hosted by Firstrand recently, Honorable Calle said; “we [as] politicians must be responsive, aggressive, and shed assets that are not productive. We must be sure that if we [do this], we are smart in what we select. We must land successes instead of failures in the beginning, to build trust”. Kauna Ndilula (https://namedia-nam.us19.list-manage.com/track/click?u=9be38e10a68c9e2532b3f0ff6&id=1672e8c4ab&e=ab4c2f78e7) in the panel discussion mentioned that we need better dialogue between public and government to assess, and to leverage. A consultative process.
If there are better ways ‘to cope’ than by using foreign debt (from a risk perspective); then public and private must find a better approach together. The risk is always – exchange rates. As previously hinted, a big part of our foreign reserves consists of foreign debt. Now what? The panel discussed that improved production and exports seemed to be ‘an obvious’ route for Namibia, with Kauna mentioning; “We must unlock potential towards funding government tax income, and household incomes. If we identify and support the winning products in our market, and feed those into the export market whilst meeting local and international demands” – we would be on the right track. However, consider the tax incentives in Namibia; are we purposefully Honorableing high-potential businesses, growing it, scaling it, and exporting it? We huddle into a cuddle, and try to “keep mine” and you “keep yours”.
In discussion, Honourable Calle said that “we must not just become traders of foreign goods, and that we must keep in mind that the custom union protects the franchises. We are hamstrung by some of [the] agreements or arrangements that we are in [referred to car sales]”. I agree in practise, that it’s more ‘comfortable’ or ‘impressive’ to sell a Porche versus manufacturing our own, and to create a market need for that – but creating our own is what will allow Namibia to grow. In our ‘conservative’ market; do we really incentivise our entrepreneurs to take such leaps for self-manufacturing? We read about funding of SMEs, allocation of budgets for funding to SMEs, but…
Consider some case studies like for examples; Ally Angula (https://namedia-nam.us19.list-manage.com/track/click?u=9be38e10a68c9e2532b3f0ff6&id=bbc6ff64a7&e=ab4c2f78e7) ‘s clothing range that was set up in the Grove Mall some time ago, and basically could not find a way to survive. Honourable Calle touched on this when speaking about ‘creating employment’, and I think he hit the nail; “Our main concern…we have created too many inefficient monopolies. The economic opportunity is not in shedding assets, but in making economic opportunities available to the private sector”. A bit of a crisis/ late response, no?
So, I ask, have we actively been eroding competitiveness, and have leaders created this discourse at times with the aid of media?
Back to point, how do we leverage for assets? By unbundling monopolies. As Hon Calle clearly stated “we are constrained from all funds” (after having maxed out the previous two fiscal budget cycles with no ‘buffers left’), and now we need to first do what should have been done some time ago. It’s tight, we’re walking the labyrinth in groups and in the dark, and you’re not sure if you feel the group moving left or right, or even moving at all. At least we’re being honest about it. – Natasja Beyleveld
Managing Director NaMedia