Will 2030 Catch Us Sleeping?

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The year 2006 has dawned on us and the nation is once again poised to review their personal and collective resolutions for a somewhat better year. My question to you (the nation) and as a reader is what value do you want to add to the fabric of the Namibian society? How do you plan to execute key objectives for the betterment of this country in a self-less manner? I have a few unqualified, but highly debatable issues I want to raise with this letter. I am a staunch believer of dialogue in all its forms and I think it is time for national dialogue to ensue. May I also in the same breath thank the leadership of this country, whether they be in politics, industry, church and/or some small organization that is catering for some improvement in the quality of life for some forsaken child or granny, I salute you all. As I indicated before, I would like dialogue to be infused in the national fabric of our nation and I must be forgiven to start with government here, but hear me out and make your contribution to this great nation called Namibia. The body politic Political stability is definitely a catalyst for development. Our country exhibits elements of political maturity and we know that this is happening in a very fragile climate. It will suffice to mention the HH and the JN sagas. Despite these setbacks we are assured of a stable Namibian leadership, but such leadership must now show the public that voted them in that they are accountable to the nation and there is no better way of doing that than to audit and publicize the individual performance of our ministers to encourage performance. I am aware that governance needs to be transparent and such transparency must accommodate the monthly publication of ministerial departmental performance. I am thus advocating a scorecard for the government ministries which will allow for excellence in the execution of duties. The recent meeting of the honorable president with his permanent secretaries is a clear indication that this objective needs to be accomplished with the greatest of urgencies. Not only are we competing on international forums, but we need to showcase Namibian public service as the best in our zones of competition. We can no longer hide behind the hangover of the previous administration and blame the current state of affairs on the apartheid regime of yesteryear. Time is now for action! Our leadership will be harshly judged by history for having failed to leave a positive legacy behind. Our political aspirations should thus not be for power and status alone, but to ensure that the common good of mankind (and in particular, that of the nation) has been our guiding principle in our respective positions of power. The time has also come for political parties of all representation to work towards a consensus. We are a small nation and we should rather encourage constructive debate in a forum of cross-political party representation, both in parliament and the national assembly, rather than the current antagonistic style of politicking. Political dialogue should not mean political isolation for some of the parties, but rather engagement across party lines to foster a common goal for nation-building. I am no politician, but I can feel the effects of the current political dispensation. I have also no grudge against any political party, be it SWAPO or SWANU or whatever, all I want to see is that Namibia sets an example that we can work together as a people and such cooperation needs to start at the highest office of the nation and with those who represent their different constituencies. SWAPO is a great organization, but so is COD, and UDF, they simply represent the views which are not prevalent in other parties. We can thus not ignore their contribution to nation-building and hence my plea to all the political leadership of Namibia is to work towards a consensus. It might be easier said than done, but we can always attempt to make it work. No single individual in the whole universe can at all times be right, and neither can a single organization entertain the same ideal of being right at all times. We need broader participation and thus greater accountability for raising the socio-economic standards of this young democracy. Let us be brave in fostering a culture of political dialogue rather than political animosity. Business The business climate in Namibia is highly conducive for growth and expansion, but access to finance still haunts many a progressive project. I am concerned about the high importation of goods from our neighbouring South Africa and yet after 15 years of independence we seem no nearer the goal of reducing our reliance on the South African economy. I am not being critical of South African goods, but we need to realize that we cannot remain economically self-sustainable if we do not retain control of key economic production factors. The captains of industry need to organize themselves, not only for their vested business interest, but for national interest in order to have a Namibianised economy. The computer I am using to type this article has been procured from a local supplier who represents an external manufacturer. Whilst we have a vast land space, why can’t we make the nation attractive to Foreign Direct Investment opportunities? Why are we not growing at an accelerated pace? Could the problem be that we do not have visionaries in our industries or do we simply want to continue the reliance on foreign imports? I am sure that many Namibians out there have some idea of a great business that can have an impact on the nation. Agriculture The agricultural sector should in my view be vigorously developed to such an extent that we can have food security. Some may agree with the appropriation of white-owned farms. But if persons who are to be relocated on such farms are devoid of any technical expertise to utilize the land productively, it would seriously indict our leadership and its decision-making potential. If we want to induce change, then we need to consider a mechanism that can equate and balance all interests, and nothing can do that better than legislation. Let our ruling houses come up with appropriate legislation that creates a balance where there was imbalance, rather than use human judgment in appropriating land. I am sure the law stands in good stead for us all, and there is no doubt in my mind that it will serve a good purpose for national interests rather than sectional interest. The agricultural sector holds many opportunities for food security, but we need a process that will ensure sustainable development in that arena. As mentioned before, dialogue becomes the key stabilizing factor. I have no real solutions to the issue, but it is my firm belief that we have to consider a mix between nationalization and commercialization of farms. Nationalized farms should however be operated on strict business principles in the same manner that commercialized farms are. In both cases, I sincerely believe we can optimize production. This is not pandering to socialist and/or communist dogma. We simply have no choice in the implementation and/or experimentation with models that can help bring about food security. Business sense will dictate the terms of how we can accomplish this. I am aware that there are a multitude of organizations out there looking at possible solutions to this problem. Their departure point should however not be based on personal misguided interests. The collective intellect of these organizations should rather be utilized in a discussion forum to come up with a sound policy for the nation. I am sure our President is doing all he can about the problem and I hereby also invite increased public debate on the matter. We need not be reminded by incidents of our dairy farming that is now facing a terrible state of affairs due to a “dumping policy” by our neighbouring countries. Manufacturing The manufacturing sector of our country lacks dynamic industries which are locally owned. It is my plea to the government to raise the stakes here. I am at a loss to understand why we do not have a manufacturing capacity strong enough to make our goods competitive on the market. Are the local businesses simply refusing to challenge the status quo or is the investment climate of Namibia not suited to attracting even a manufacturer of say fridges? How difficult can the assembly of a fridge be? Government, once again and in cooperation with the local government authorities should encourage investment to Namibia. This should not just be talk, but we certainly should have a measurement of how many manufacturing plants have been set up in Namibia in any given month or year. As I said before, we have the land and we have the infrastructure, we need the technology to become a competitive economy. I have observed every year at the different exhibition shows held throughout Namibia, including the famous Windhoek Show, that 80% of exhibitions are not really Namibian. How can we claim to be showcasing our industries, when all we are doing is simply having a retail outlet exhibition? No wonder the small traders at these various shows are doing better than the big companies in that they have something new to show to the public every time. No matter its Chinese origin, it at least indicates something “new”. Our corporations are failing us and we need to wake up to the reality that Namibia can no longer remain a vast secondary retailing outlet for companies located elsewhere in the world. I appeal to all citizens to begin a process of manufacturing their own goods and services rather than rely on externally provided goods and services. We have the academic excellence and potential to begin manufacturing, however miniscule our own goods. Our investment centre should increase its scouting and support for manufacturing initiatives. I know we can make a difference in the lives of our own people and I am confident Namibia can become internationally competitive. Education Alarm bells have been ringing for years for this sector, and yet we fail to do something about improving it and/or overhauling the system. It is heartbreaking to say the least to see so many young children are being technically forced out of school and to join institutions of learning that are supposedly going to improve their chances of gaining better grades. Namcol must in my view be abolished as it serves no real national interest, but a self-gratification scheme. What type of a philosophy is it that permits the establishment, parallel to government schools, of institutions that absorb failures from government schools? How can we prepare our students for failure and try to blame their dismal performance on themselves. Something is wrong with that type of thinking. We are on the one hand pretending that we have a sound education system, and on the other we know that we have absorption centres for the weaknesses in our so-called ‘sound education system’. We have to build more schools instead of having “absorption centres”. What a dichotomous situation, and one that has been ‘ordained’ by our leadership. If this situation were to persist indefinitely, we would leave parents with little choice, but to seek private education institutions for their children. It is already happening. We only have to wait at school gates when children are being collected and you’d know why parents have enrolled their children with a certain institution. Our own ministers seem not to have faith in our education system, how then can you expect me to have some? Primary and pre-primary schooling has become a lucrative business in Namibia. The cost of training children at these institutions is phenomenal and vendors of such business know that they are selling to the emotions of parents and they can charge prime dollar for sometimes a very poor service. The government cannot tell me that they are unable to construct excellent learning centres for pre-and primary school children. The foundation of a sound education system needs to start there. Why can’t this nation afford such centres, but yet we fail to bring to book 30 and 100 millions that are lost through negligence and fraud? Make education a priority now and we will be one step closer to eradicating poverty. There is no need for schools to be seemingly full and there being no places for learners. Every suburb can have a primary and a secondary school for all I care. Briefly allow me to also voice my disappointment with the value we attach to our teachers. If we are indeed serious about educational reforms, we seriously need to consider the plight of our teaching corps. There’s no justifiable excuse from government why teachers can’t be rewarded adequately for their custodianship of an important development process called education. If the government continues to undervalue their own, who is ‘Joe Public’ to trust them and have his faith in them and give them his children. Can’t somebody see the vicious cycle we are creating? Parastatals (Government Enterprises) I really love it when we have a system that can work. We seriously need to consider our net contribution as individuals and as a nation. Those who are heading quasi-government (QUANGOS) institutions need to do so, on sound management and leadership principles. I will reserve my comments for this sector for now, but I am rather concerned that we do not have a measured objective for their performance. Allow me to conclude with some critical observations: 1. The hospitals in our country are fast becoming areas that will soon sprawl with some dangers of incurable diseases if we do not take care of hygienic standards in them – ironically we have our elite hygienic staff who are working there. What confidence do we want our people to have in these health centres? 2. I often wonder whether black Namibians would ever be given an opportunity in an Asian country to start a business or even be involved in construction in those nations without being squeezed out of the market by either legislation or competitive pressures. Our State House and other significant development projects are being done with imported expertise. How can this be boding well for the guy who went to VTC , had a trade test and now knows that his fate is with some Chinese or whatever foreign nationality? Is this where we want to be headed? 3. The City of Windhoek is doing a great job with their new city police. This initiative goes far beyond the service expectation of a city council. We need that type of spirit and business acumen if we want to make things work for better in Namibia. Lets us build a Namibia that is productive in 2006, because 2030 would soon dawn and we would be caught with our pants down. Armoka