Namibia’s Growth at Home strategy reinforces the importance of accelerating economic growth, reducing income inequality and increasing employment.
According to the Minister of Finance, Calle Schlettwein, the strategy seeks to accomplish the cabinet-approved Industrial Policy, which was ratified by parliament in 2012.
“It is a strategy adopted by government for implementing Namibia’s first Industrial Policy and for attaining the strategic objectives for manufacturing as outlined in NDP4 (National Development Plan 4),” said Schlettwein.
Speaking at a post-budget dinner organized by the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Walvis Bay,
Schlettwein said three strategic intervention areas serve as a holistic frame for the industrial policy.
The first consists of interventions to support value addition, upgrading and economic diversification through a needs-oriented and comprehensive approach to industrial development and structural transformation of the Namibian economy towards more productive economic activities.
“The concrete reforms include the extension of the Industrial Upgrading and Modernisation Programme (IUMP) and the realignment of incentive schemes and financing instruments for promoting industrial development and value addition projects,” noted the finance minister.
Secondly, interventions are planned to promote market access at home and abroad to stimulate the development of local industries, and create conditions that will boost Namibian exports on international markets.
These efforts include making use of the current trade agreements, particularly the Free Trade Area with the Southern African Development Community and the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union.
“Given the size of the domestic market, strengthening the existing – and launching new – relationships with trade partners and investors are of paramount importance. Increasing the competitiveness and capacity of Namibian firms through improved variety and quality of local products and enhanced productivity and efficiency are also amongst our top priorities. As part of these objectives, certain industries with high growth and employment creation potential at early stages of development may be supported through infant industry protection measures on a temporary and performance-based case-by-case basis,” explained Schlettwein.
The third strategic intervention strategy is aimed at promoting a favourable investment and business climate. These reforms cover industrial infrastructure, the review of the Small and Medium Enterprise Policy, legislative amendments to the Foreign Investment Act and the Export Processing Zones Act, the re-design of registration processes for businesses and intellectual property rights, and the establishment of a regular public-private dialogue platform.
“Significant strides have been made in materialising these interventions by the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development through the Special Industrialization Programme and the impending establishment of the Namibia Industrial Development Agency (NIDA), to mention but a few,” said Schlettwein.
Commenting on domestic and foreign investment, Schlettwein said the government welcomes foreign investment as it has helped build Namibia’s economy and will continue to enhance the well-being of Namibians by supporting economic growth and prosperity.
“Foreign investment brings many benefits. It supports existing jobs and creates new jobs, it encourages innovation, it introduces new technologies and skills, it brings access to overseas markets and it promotes competition amongst our industries,” he noted.
However, Schlettwein said there is evidence that foreign investment can have both positive and negative effects, and added that a major objective of the development policy is to maximise the positive aspects whilst minimising the negative effects to ensure significant benefits.
“Experience shows that for foreign investment to play a positive role, the government must have the right and powers to regulate the terms of their entry and operations. This is exactly the philosophy that we will adopt with the reform of the Foreign Investment Act into a more flexible approach by reviewing both domestic and foreign investment proposals against the national interest case-by-case,” said Schlettwein.
He added that government prefers a flexible approach rather than hard and fast rules.
“As envisaged in the new Namibia Investment Bill, our Namibia Investment Centre (NIC) will work with an applicant to ensure the national interest is protected. But if we ultimately determine that a proposal is contrary to the national interest, we will not approve it,” Schlettwein warned.
He said the new Namibia Investment Bill also makes provision for certain economic activities that are reserved for the government and the Namibian private sector but emphasized that the Bill is flexible in that the minister may issue regulations to prioritise specific industries and the terms of conditions to which industries must comply.