Time to measure ourselves: Alweendo

As the curtains draw on NDP 3, to pave way for NDP 4, we decided to evaluate all the NDPs that have been in existence before. And to do this, we spoke to the NPC Director General, Tom Alweendo.

It is our mandate to get hard cold answers on whether the NDPs are meeting their mandated obligations or not. If they are, we should pat our backs and go for more but if not, we need to diagnose the problems and chart the way forward. We want to move away from being a nation rich in policies but poor in implementations.

Analysis of the previous NDPs, more particularly NDP 3, reveals that a number of targets were missed. The planners of NDP 4 are aware of the pitfalls and are now ready to do things differently this time around and we can only hope for the best.

As a nation, it would be embarrassing if Vision 2030 failed to mature into fruition and the warning signals are all over. We need to stand up and put shoulder to wheel if Namibia is to have its place in the sun.

The NDPs are a five-year plan aimed at addressing the Vision 2030 goals in five-year chunks. Conventional wisdom dictates that it is impossible to work on all the goals in one go. Breaking down the V2030 into five-year plans is a deliberate and strategic intent of creating incremental steps towards reaching the goals.

The previous NDPs had three major goals, which were fostering economic growth, reducing unemployment to 5% and ensuring equitable distribution of income.

“Looking back at those three, we are far from where we want to be. That’s because we initially targeted to grow the economy by 7% but on average, we have only grown by about 4%, which is way below our target,” says Alweendo adding that people should not worry about unemployment figures but should rather adopt strategies that address the problems. “Inequality still exists in Namibia and our inequality rate is the highest in the world. Despite efforts to push it down, we are still way off the point that we set for ourselves,” he notes.

On a positive note, he asserts that a lot of investments have been ploughed in the education and health sectors, not to forget that Namibia’s life expectancy has been raised.

He further warns that if we do not increase our speed of operations, we may never achieve V2030.

According to Alweendo, NDP 4 will have a different obligation by limiting its focus on economic growth, employment creation and poverty reduction. This approach sets the major difference of NDP IV from the previous NDPs.

The previous NDPS failed to deliver, because planners often set too many unrealistic goals tantamount to putting the cart before the horses, hence the unwanted results, yet the issue of resources to meet these goals was not taken into consideration.

To address the 42% of the country’s population that still lives under the poverty line in terms of benchmarks set, Alweendo is of the opinion that there is a need to improve on income equality, which in return, would address poverty indirectly.

“I think it would be better for us to start realising that we are not doing something in line with what we are supposed to do. We have to admit that we are not happy with our plans and that way, we will come up with solutions,” he lamented.

According to him, the Government is compounding problems by failing to admit failure.

“We need to say we are not happy with the unemployment; we are not happy with the poverty levels and we are not happy with the income inequality. Denying these things restricts our ability to deal with and improve on them,” warns Alweendo.

Policy implementation in Namibia is hampered and the director general says,
“I think the major issue is failing to fulfill the set goals. If we set goals and we do not work towards achieving them, then we do not help ourselves,” he points out.

The NPC boss dismisses claims that none performance should be attributed to lack of capacity, arguing that as compared to other countries in the region, Namibia is doing quite well.

For the record, Namibia is only behind South Africa, Mauritius and Botswana in terms of competitiveness and according to the NPC director, all the country needs to do is stick to the V2030 goals and strategies to achieve them.

He adds: “We have to start changing our ways and there is nothing foolish than doing the same thing over and over again knowing it won’t work. We need to do things differently.”

On Tipeeg, Alweendo says that despite the alarm bells rung by IMF, he believes that all is still within the country’s reach and as compared to other countries, Namibia’s deficits are still manageable despite the calls to manage the macro-economic frame work much better.

“Since the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) has catered for most of these deficits, we are safe,” he assures.

In his opinion, it is better to have a deficit planned for than being found off-guard.

On the gap between the lowest and the highest paid, Alweendo explains there are a number of options, which can be explored to bridge the gap. One is to tax the guy who earns the highest amount of money and distribute to the guy who earns the lowest.

The other option is to use that tax money to build social amenities and, “I think our tax structure is actually like that even though there are other models in other countries..”

Playing with the tax threshold to have the poor not paying taxes would be another option, Alweendo notes. With the tax threshold improved for the poor, we would be on the right track.

The best way to address income inequality, in Alweendo’s opinion, is to create long-term and sustainable strategies that boost the economic growth of the country, which would include creating long-term jobs through an industry. This, he notes, would be better than relying on taxes, as taxes may not be sustainable.

Considering the ongoing sovereign debt issues in Europe, Alweendo says Namibia, though vulnerable, should not panic. “The debt to GDP ratio is still below 20% although it can get to 30%. However, it is imperative to work with a background of what is going on somewhere else,” he states.

While at the Bank of Namibia, the unacceptable high levels of unemployment kept Alweendo awake and now that he is in Government, he is kept even more awake as he now has to come up with solutions to the problem, unlike when he was only a Government advisor. PF