Two leading public figures recently raised an important subject – the gradual blending of new blood and old blood in public life. Dr Libertina Amathila is emphatic that she would not stand for any of the key positions in the party during the coming Swapo Party congress even if she were nominated. She feels it is time for others to move in, especially young women, and help drive the country forward. ” We should create a culture of retiring gracefully and allow younger people to take over,” Amathila recently told this newspaper. Another figure, Pastor Hendrik Witbooi, last Friday proposed that young people be groomed into positions so that they are able to play a significant role in the political, economic, cultural and religious life of the country. He was speaking at the centenary commemorating the deaths of thousands of Namibians on Shark Island in 1904. Phasing in the young requires that the old guard give way through retirement. This, however, should not be done at the expense of effective service delivery. And yet, one of the noticeable trends lately is the seeming reluctance by some to retire from public office because of fear of the unknown out of the comfort zones of their jobs and, perhaps justifiably so, because in a country where there is no saving culture, it is difficult to imagine how one can make ends meet unless they have a regular income. Even after working for years, many people do not save enough money for their upkeep after retirement. The only saving to fall back on becomes the pension pay-out, the bulk of which is shared with the taxman anyway. There are also those who retire only to make a comeback after receiving their pension money. This phenomenon is common among teaching and nursing professionals as seemingly, it is easy for them to retire and make a comeback because of the job opportunities available in these sectors. This means that when it is time to go, these men and women would have nothing or little to retire on because they would have used up their savings of many years, hence they might not want to leave altogether. Those who retire need not only sufficient money but also their dignity. The country should not retire some of its daughters and sons who have served it so well to wallow in abject squalor and poverty. It is untenable to add heavily dependent retirees who cannot fend for themselves to the current army of unemployed. The authorities, especially lawmakers, need to carefully re-look this matter. The tax policy needs some review. Namibia has to protect the welfare of its retirees and ensure that they do not become an unnecessary burden on the coffers of the State once they are out of work. The lawmakers need to create incentives for people to retire easily or ‘gracefully’, to quote Dr Amathila, by taxing their pensions less so that they have money to invest in businesses and create opportunities for others in their hometowns and villages. The present tax regime does not entice people to retire early. It is inhibitive. It does not help free space for new entrants into the job market and others to rise above their positions because those who want to retire early fear losing a good chunk of their pension money through tax and would rather hang on if they can. They opt for delaying or deferring their departure as long as possible because there is nothing attracting them to leave early. If their savings were substantial and there was a bonus of tax incentives, perhaps people would go easily. Institutions such as the uniformed services are saddled with aging personnel in relatively lower ranks because those who are there would rather stay as there is nothing to attract them into retirement. This is not good for young members who might be eligible for promotion or for the effectiveness of these services which depends highly on the mobility of its youthful members. Those who plan to retire have to battle with their conscience about having to share a significant portion of their savings with the taxman and whether what is left would sustain them. It does not help anyone to free people as retirees with nothing or little. Potential retirees have to take the difficult decision to try and hang onto their jobs even when they need not look for other jobs when they should retire and rest or serve their communities in other capacities. It is in the country’s interest that young people are carefully blended into positions of power and learn the ropes of office at so early a stage in the life of our nation, and that requires thorough planning. Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail. We must never plan to fail!
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