By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK THE Namibia Development Trust (NDT) says the majority of Namibians still find themselves in the shackles of poverty despite the fact that they have been independent for more than a decade. For the greater majority of Namibians, the trust says, indicators of hope are diminishing because of challenges such as HIV/AIDS, gross inequalities, high unemployment rate and lack of access to land, among others. NDT director, Ronny Dempers told an annual sharing meeting (ASM) of the Forum For the Future this week that Namibia needs to work on its policies, leadership and the participation of its citizenry to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as well as some level of development. Dempers said Namibia needs good leadership at all levels for it to register progress. He wondered whether the leadership that the country is promoting at the moment, is one that is enabling and empowering. “Does it create an enabling environment for other leaders to emerge and perform?” he wondered. The meeting was called for the different discussion forums to share experiences, plans and strategies. The ASM represents 40 discussion forums countrywide. For Namibia to address the development challenges, said Dempers, appropriate brands of leaders are needed because “everything rises and falls on leadership”. Although Namibia is known to have good policies, little do these translate into actions that offer relief to problems on the ground. The Poverty Bulletin of September notes that although development policies and programmes were put in place and have achieved some positive results, many challenges still remain. The bulletin says the huge income disparities between language groups, unemployment and lack of skills among others need to be addressed to achieve the MDGs. These policies, according to Dempers would have to be formulated in a way that enables the poorest of the poor to gain access to the mainstream economic development. “To uplift the poorest of the poor, the policies should go beyond calling ourselves formerly disadvantaged,” he said. Dempers cited resettlement programmes to which everyone including ministers, directors and permanent secretaries qualify to be resettled, which should be changed to give priority to Namibians who need land to make a living to be resettled. Another way through which Namibia can be developed, said Dempers, is by having active citizens who demand accountability. “We need active civil society, which is able to rise above politics and place the country’s interests first,” he said. At the moment, Namibia is faced with problems such as inequalities, unemployment and a decline in development aid, which the meeting discussed at the Monday meeting. The employment rate stands at 34 percent, the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate at 19.7 percent, while 38 percent of Namibian households are poor. Although civil society sees the MDGs as minimum conditions essential for human development to address challenges, Dempers said the goals were by no means sufficient to eradicate poverty. Namibia has achieved considerable progress regarding enrolment figures in achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and reducing infant mortality. Due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Namibia has seen a decline in life expectancy as well as fertility rates, together with a rise in numbers of orphans and vulnerable children.
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