Laudable though the consolidation efforts that the current administration has set in place are, the one aspect that appears to have not been considered is the effect it will have on operations of key government agencies, including and especially, State-owned Enterprises (SoEs).
The shortcomings in terms of operations for state-owned enterprises such as Air Namibia, which is expected for whatever reason to be profitable despite being a minnow in the global market, are renowned the world-over. The shortcomings in this regard were so palpable that they warranted the establishment of a Ministry, headed by Leon Jooste, to report to since the loose ties between these organizations and the government were perennially used to justify their subpar operational structures and results.
The Harambee Prosperity Plan, the blueprint of the current administration’s journey towards prosperity, is a document that advocates for limited expenditure with the view of using the savings from this process of consolidation to fund key projects such as the power plants, the construction of which has been earmarked for the not-too-distant future. At face-value, these all appear to be progressive measures that will, at worst, hasten the pace of development in key focus areas. The conundrum that arises however, is; if state-owned enterprises were ineffectual during a time before the tightening of the belt by government, are they then expected to perform better or worse? Taking into account that they too will be required to curtail expenditure if the process of consolidation is one that will be used across the board. If the expectation is for organizations like the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) to perform better than they have in the previous years with limited funds at their disposal, does this then suggest that SoEs have been both over-funded and underperforming? Conversely, if the expectation from the current administration is that these entities needn’t worry about being profitability, does this not create a situation where all the savings government will be making through the consolidation process going towards keeping SoEs above water? Is this reasonable? These are the questions that remain unanswered.
The proverbial case of having your cake and eating it too that appears to have beset the current administration has a simple called prioritization. It appears as though there is a general need to have everything done all once and unfortunate reality is that, if there is a genuine need to enhance the operations of these organizations, then there appears little room for much else. To contextualize this to household setting, it is impractical to want your family to stop spending but at the same time, expect them to have the best of everything. There is an apparent need for choice. Either you save or you have the best of everything, but not both. This appears to be the approach that should advise the way forward in terms of transforming the operations of state-owned enterprises. It’s a case of these organizations either having to be profitable and thus self-sustaining or having a service delivery focus.