EU’s Concerns

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Outgoing Envoy Spells Out Namibia’s Situation By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK The Namibian government’s ill-planning, sometimes wrong judgements and haphazard decision-making, which unnecessarily bedevils foreign investor confidence in the country, are a source of great concern to the European Union. So said outgoing EU ambassador to Namibia, Anto-nius Brueser, this week in a frank and openhearted interview with New Era. He was probed about the successes and failures of his office during his tenure in Namibia on behalf of the European Union. “My impression is that the Namibian government pre-empts too haphazardly and becomes too anxious and carries out development plans without proper planning and the necessary research needed for the implementation of its socio-economic projects. Tangible evidence to this effect is the unfortunate falling apart of the Ramatex project,” said Brueser. According to him, many potential overseas investors have complained to him in his official and personal capacities about the risks and uncertainty of investing in Namibia. “A number of these investors and potential investors are concerned about the tendency that they invest locally in business ventures, but six months later, these projects falter and they lose millions of dollars. It could be argued that investment is and can be a risky business but in Namibia, it has become too obvious. Something is wrong somewhere,” said Brueser, who is leaving the country on September 1 to take up an undecided post at the EU’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. “It is a rather sad state of affairs, which needs to be rectified as a matter of urgency if this country is to economically prosper. There is just no other way out, but for the Namibian government, and this I humbly request and suggest, to get its act together if the country is to draw much-needed investment,” he said. He also blamed intricate and complicated government delays in the implementation of projects in the country. “The government procedures and laid down rules are too lengthy, tedious, cumbersome and time consuming, unnecessarily blocking progress. One such incident that comes to mind was to secure E23 million for a feasibility study on road infrastructure development and construction in the country. I personally pushed myself hard to get the money on time. In the end, due to paperwork and other unnecessary red tape, the goal was not achieved. It could have worked had the ‘paperwork process’ been speeded up on the side of the Namibian government,” Brueser, who has been in the service of the EU for 29 years, said. He also expressed concern over the implementation of the government’s Education Reform Plan, ETSIP. “Everyone knows it’s a massive, meritorious project for the good of the whole country, but right now, I am still not convinced the way the Ministry of Education intends implementing the programme is in a pragmatic and sensible manner and way. This I say from the bottom of my heart because it remains a worrying thought. I still need to see the specifics of the plan,” said Brueser on behalf of the EU that has so far not financially committed itself to ETSIP. Brueser also cited the Namibian tourism industry as a source of concern in its workings and functions. “It is very clear that the tourism sector in Namibia holds a lot of potential, primarily the government has avoided the so-called mass tourism tendency, which has basically destroyed the environment in a country such as Kenya by an influx of backpackers. However, the tourism authorities need to adapt more swiftly to the constant changing tendencies in the international tourism market,” Brueser suggested. The EU ambassador praised the availability of the many natural tourism sights the country possesses. “These are assets that need to be exploited much more as tourism attractions. Namibians should be proud to offer such excellent natural sights to international tourists at competitive prices, to be constantly adjusted to world tourism demands. To me, there seems to be an irreversible improvement and growth in the local industry,” said the German-born ambassador, who also said that he had maintained excellent relations with the Namibian government at all levels. As an avid art and culture lover, Brueser has also during his tenure staged four important Namibian public art exhibitions at his embassy. “This I did unofficially because of my love for art and also to assist Namibian artists in their quest for economic survival. I have bought quite a number of works myself, creative products I will treasure for a long time wherever I find myself. Furthermore, I have no regrets having served the European Union in my capacity as ambassador to Namibia for the past four years,” said the ambassador, who will be replaced by Elizabeth Pape in October.