WINDHOEK – Respected but controversial local economist Martin Mwinga last Friday suggested that before policymakers tackle the scourge of unemployment, they should define the type of unemployment that Namibia faces because there is no roadmap for fighting unemployment in the country.
Mwinga told a public lecture on unemployment held at the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN) that Namibia is fighting unemployment more in the formal sector, and that in the absence of an employment roadmap, institutions are doing their all to curb unemployment, but in isolation.
“We are getting it wrong,” he said, adding that there is a need for a single institution to deal with unemployment that currently stands at over 50 percent, according to official estimates.
He further said that certain programmes like the government’s Targeted Intervention Programme for Employment and Economic Growth (TIPEEG) lack production support, especially for people in rural areas.
He said people in rural areas do not need big projects and large equipment to fight unemployment, but rather a support system.
“What they did in China is that they went to the people and saw what they are producing and provided them with support to produce more,” said the economist.
He also said that to fight unemployment effectively and efficiently there is a need to introduce a merger programme of Namibian state-owned enterprises (SOEs) with strong balance sheets to buy equity/shares in home grown enterprises, enter into strategic partnerships and acquire home-grown businesses with potential to make profit and create jobs.
“Many Namibian SOEs sit with excess cash reserves packed in money market funds for many years and this idle cash could be channeled to productive use by investing in local enterprises. The M&A package will not only inject the required capital in the business but will also help with technical and management support for them to produce more,” he said.
Mwinga still claims that the official figure of 51 percent unemployment in Namibia is inaccurate, and as such does not deserve to be “in the public domain”.
“It’s because of that statistic that Namibia is rated among the most miserable countries in the world,” he said.
He further said that the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare’s Labour Survey statistics have a lot of “noise and inconsistencies”. Of particular concern, he said, is that they ignore the International Labour Organistaion’s (ILO) standards in their survey.
One such indicator, according to Mwinga, which was overlooked is subsistence agriculture, which he says is the second-highest source of income in Namibia after salaries and wages.
He added that agriculture output did very well, of which the most came from subsistence farming – therefore, it does not make sense to rate people involved in subsistence agriculture as unemployed.
Given that background, Mwinga said that unemployment could be 28,2 percent or even less, but some people do not want to hear that “probably because of TIPEEG money available for tenders”.
Mwinga was speaking at the a public lecture on unemployment at the Polytechnic of Namibia last week, which almost turned sour as people debated Mwinga’s findings and recommendations.