By Martin Mwinga
IN the decades to come, due to insufficient retirement savings we will witness thousands of Namibians, including politicians slipping into poverty and poor health due to financial worries.
Politicians just like any other individuals need financial literacy, because they are increasingly asked to make financial decisions that have important consequences on the whole population and the country at large. Politicians are also role models to many people and seeing them in a debt crisis, struggling financially and ending up sleeping in informal settlements is a bad example for many young people who aspire to become politicians one day. A sample of few regions shows that most of the regional councillors do not leave office due to old age, but are mainly forced out by the same party that put them in the position. The majority of these councillors, although still young, die very early after losing office. Although they receive a pension payout after exiting office, that income is not enough to sustain them for a long time and to make matters worse, the majority will have no qualifications or skills to make them eligible for employment in other sectors. In addition to those who lose office while they are still young, there is a category of career politicians who have been in parliament since independence and after retirement due to old age or other reasons, the majority of them find that their pension payout is insufficient to sustain them for the remainder of their life. Below are some tips to prepare you for retirement.
Upgrade your qualifications
The majority of politicians in Namibia are high school graduates (they have Grade 12), while some might possess tertiary qualifications. Within the five years of assuming political office, make sure you complete a qualification that will position you to secure a job in case you fail to make it in politics again. With the shortage of teachers in Namibia, you could study part-time and in five years you could receive a qualification in teaching that will guarantee you a job and income after your retirement. I think we can learn a lot from our leaders, such as Pendukeni Ithana who finished a law degree, while serving as Member of Parliament and deputy minister. Our current minister of finance was my classmate and obtained her master’s degree in financial economics with the University of London, while at the same time serving as a Member of Parliament and Director-General of the National Planning Commission (NPC). If ministers can accommodate studies in their busy schedule, I am quite sure this should be possible with many regional councillors and parliamentarians.
Become a Consultant or Advisor
In your political career (regional councillor, governor, parliamentarian or minister) you have probably worked on several projects and assignments and you have developed some skills that could be of value to local and international organizations. Use your contacts and the relationship you have established to your own advantage. For example you could work as a consultant for a company, parliament, an NGO or a financial institution that wants to have a good working relationship with government.
Start a Business
Politicians whether regional councillors or parliamentarians are in a privileged position as there are many doors open to them compared to ordinary citizens. Because the future is not guaranteed and the fact that you may not be re-elected after five years in office, it is important to start a small business in your first year of office, something that you are passionate about. This could be food distribution, a small farming operation, or an import-export business. Your current position and your regular monthly income will enable you to secure a loan from a banking institution to start such a business.
Beware the changing political landscape
My advice to politicians especially those who entered politics after independence, is that the political landscape in Namibia is changing and changing very fast. Even if you don’t want to retire, events will overtake you and you will be forced out of office. Whether you like it or not competition is now intense for political office and I will advise all those holding political office to put in a retirement plan from day one of entering political office so that in five years when you go into new elections you are financially secure. For those who have accumulated enough retirement packages over the past 23 years, make sure you invest wisely and do not forget the voters, the needy and the poor.
Martin Mwinga works for First Capital Treasury Solutions and can be reached at email@example.com