LAST Thursday President Hifikepunye Pohamba launched the country’s Fourth National Development Plan (NDP4) at a ceremony in Windhoek.
One could not miss the all-important three pillars of the programme, meaning the three foremost issues of priority that the programme will focus on, namely, a sustainable economic growth, the creation of employment opportunities and the reduction of inequality in the distribution of economic benefits.
It is axiomatic that economic growth is a sine qua non to alleviating many of our socio-economic ills like poverty, unemployment and other attendant problems like ill health, hunger and homelessness.
During the 2012/2012 budget debate one of the issues that came up in the National Assembly was an increase in the elderly peoples’ monthly allowance, currently at N$550 a month, to the expected N$600 a month.
While there has been consensus among members of both august houses, and society in general, that indeed the N$550 allowance that out senior citizens have been getting falls far short of what any human soul needs to make ends meet in these hard economic times, there seems no consensus among the honourables about how much and when the allowance should increase.
The easy position, if not excuse offered by some members in the National Assembly, is that our senior citizens should be patient and must wait until the economy grows. And perhaps in the meantime continue to drown in the myriad vicious socio-economic miseries that many of their likes are currently suffocating in.
While one appreciates the focus on the three main pillars enumerated, as they say the proof of the pudding is in the eating. NDP 4 is only the fourth of its kind.
There have been NDPs 1, 2 and 3 going back to 2005 to date. During this period there have been some milestones, notable among these political stability and a mature democracy. Granted one cannot deny the fact that indeed Namibia has since independence been enjoying some peace, quiet and tranquility and a latent democratic dispensation as opposed to a budding and vibrant one. But such, as most of our states people may concur, are not intrinsic in themselves but a pre-condition, as His Excellency well points out, to a sustainable economic development.
In this regard His Excellency readily points out to macro-economic stability with low and stable inflation. And to “many and laudable” social development, among others, the construction of health facilities, access to safe drinking water and “many more children in schools”. Yes, these are achievements one cannot ignore but are they actually the conscious intended results of NDPs 1, 2 and 3?
Because this is the crux of the matter. It is generally accepted in various developmental and economic circles that the implementation of our national development plans, and the monitoring and evaluation thereof, have not been on par if not altogether dismal.
That being the case, it is not clear, and may perhaps be only clear and sensible to those closely involved, as to what may have been achieved with the first three programmes, and to what extent the latest and current, NDP4, feeds on the experiences of the others, takes off from them and has synergies with the first three?
But one can take hope and solace in the fact that somehow there seems the realisation among our policy makers and implementers, that all may not have been sound and well with the implementation of NDPs 1,2 and 3.
Hence the rectification that somehow seems to have been built into NDP4. Not only in terms of casting the net narrow in terms of the achievable goals, but also in terms of monitoring and evaluation.
But the goals of a sustainable economic growth, the creation of employment opportunities and the reduction of inequality in the distribution of economic benefits, as have been set in NDP4, as noble as they are, and achievable as they may be, nevertheless the feasibility thereof is not an automatic factor but very much a factor of trial and error. And of wait and see to a certain degree.
It depends how long Namibians, especially those at the sharper end of the skewed and non-egalitarian socio-economic system, may be prepared to wait. And the seeming variance in the appreciation of the operations and achievements of the first three NDPs between His Excellency and the Director General of the National Planning Commission, does not imbue confidence in NDP4.
Neither the mixed feelings with which the programme seems to have been greeted by both experts and politicians. One cannot but also note the focus on fewer goals hoping that the three main goals shall not have other hidden goals that may multiply to the extent of being unworkable.
But more than anything, what we need in terms of NDP4 is serious dedication and sense of purpose, especially in terms of implementation, monitoring and evaluation. This presupposes that we have the necessary capacity in this regard!