Namibia Should Welcome Foreign Skills – Experts

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK SADC countries should adopt flexible migration policies to achieve the level of economic growth of some of the world’s biggest economies, an economist has said. “Flexible migration laws have made the United Kingdom and the USA what they are today,” said Economic Adviser to PricewaterhouseCoopers, Dr Roelof Botha, at a budget review last week. Dr Botha said Ireland, for instance, is today the third richest country because it opened its borders to skilled personnel. “They did not have teachers, engineers and they did not think that people were taking away their jobs,” he said. In his presentation, Botha cited skills shortages, particular in the areas of engineering, project management and a variety of technical areas, as one of the specific constraints to economic growth. He said the development of other economies through the use of experts was worth emulating by SADC countries. “It is a lesson for SADC to open up its borders,” he added. In the same vein, the Namibian Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority (Namfisa) Chief Executive Officer, Rainer Ritter, said Namibia should have an open hand when it comes to highly qualified personnel. “We must not be shy to say if you are highly qualified, come to Namibia,” Ritter added. In addition to this, Namibia will also need a higher population growth rate in order to achieve a high economic growth rate. “Namibia’s drawback is its small population,” he said. Statistics of 2005/6 indicate that Namibia’s population growth rate stands at 0.73 percent compared to 0.9 per cent as of 2000. Dr Roelof said growth was now concentrated where the numbers are, citing China as an example, which is one of the biggest emerging economies. Although Namibia is the fourth richest country in SADC, it needs a bigger population for the economy to grow a bit faster. Economists predict that China’s economy will be bigger than that of America in 17 years to come. While China is projected to grow bigger than the USA, India is projected to grow bigger than China in the next 15 years because of population growth. India, Russia, Mexico, Brazil and Turkey, are some of the world’s emerging economies, which have lower per capita income compared to Namibia. “If population declines, supply of labour also declines and so does the demand for products. The population growth rate is a boom for a developing country such as Namibia,” he added. As a country that is well positioned with the right policies and a healthy population, the economic advisor said he was convinced that Namibia would be able to raise its per capita in a few years.