By Iipumbu Sakaria
OUR country achieved independence exactly 25 years ago. This article serves to share my views on how I think the Government of the Republic of Namibia performed over this period. I will give some highlights on the areas that I think Government has done well and also outline the challenges faced by Government as I see it. I will then conclude by providing my views on how I would address those challenges.
In my view, the most significant milestone achieved over the past 25 years is on the political front. The peace, stability and tranquillity prevailing in the country is something that needs to be recognized, celebrated and appreciated. There is no doubt that today Namibia is known to be one of the most peaceful countries in the world and it is not an exaggeration to say that even most foreigners feel comfortable in Namibia. It is this peace and stability that provides a platform for the people to enjoy their rights and privileges.
Another success, in my view, is how our economy has been managed since independence. Economic growth over the past 25 years has averaged around 4.5 percent and public finances are considered well managed. The debt ratio is one of the lowest in Africa, and in the world, and the budget balance hardly spirals out of fiscal policy in a manner that could raise too much concern. Namibia is also known to be one of the countries that did not have to rely on too much borrowing or ‘rescue missions’ from either the World Bank or the IMF. Not many developing countries have such a record and praise must be given where it is due.
On the social front it is fair to conclude that the Government has managed to bring people together. Citizens are free to engage each other, socialise with whoever they want to and also live a rather decent life. The basic needs of our citizens have, to a large extent, been receiving attention and the infrastructure needed to develop the country has been put in place.
On the challenges that the Government faces I would like to concentrate on three. These are food and shelter; employment creation and income inequality in the country. The first, food and shelter are necessities that humans cannot do without. When it comes to food in the country I believe that much more needs to be done. Food in our country is rather unnecessarily expensive and the majority of our people therefore only manage to live on the basics. If we want to improve the health of our nation it is important to ensure that our people have the required access to food. Remember, a hungry nation is an angry and unstable nation.
Shelter is another basic need that humanity cannot do without. Land and housing prices are honestly way too expensive and even well paid people struggle to afford them. The fact that the increases in our housing prices are comparable to the highest of the world is beyond comprehension. We are the second least densely populated country in the world and it is difficult to convince people that we do not have the space/land to accommodate ourselves. After 25 years of independence a new generation has grown up. This generation has reached the stage where they need to get married, provide shelter to their families and feed them. If a generation will not be able to do that they naturally look around and start asking questions as to why they cannot do that in their own country. We should take note that if a human being’s basic needs are not met they, logically, lose their humanity and engage all possible means and ways to cater for these needs. Often these take the forms of unorthodox methods that have the ability to disturb the tranquillity of a nation as well.
Employment creation and the income inequality is another challenge that has not been well-handled and managed. It is true that our economy is very small and most often does not have the capacity to absorb all those who leave school either through graduation, passing or failure. Too many of our people end up on the streets after they either fail or do not manage to pass their academics with flying colours. These young people often tend to become frustrated and many end up wasting their youthful lives in unproductive activities. Such a situation is a ticking time bomb.
The income inequality in our country is also out of order. Despite our peace and stability, we are known to be among the top three of the most unequal societies in the world. What this means is that we have a few people, not more than 10 percent, who are so wealthy that their living standards are comparable to those of the highest in the world. On the other hand, the majority of our people live miserable lives. Their incomes and living standards, as compared to the others and what is available in the country, is rather shocking. In my view, such a society cannot coexist peacefully for long because these contradictions will catch up with the nation sooner than later.
We are surely on track but much more needs to be done if we want to maintain the peace, stability and tranquillity in our country. This is so because by 2030 those that were born at independence will be 40 years old. Their basic needs must be covered.
*Iipumbu Sakaria is employed. However, these views are written in his personal capacity and do not reflect the views of his employer.