How can Namibia achieve inclusive growth?

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Namibia has the potential to become an all-inclusive economy and has the unique opportunity to make that growth inclusive, provided there is willingness on the part of all sections of society to put in hard and disciplined work, together with serious, sustained and purposeful planning.

Restructure the civil service

If Namibia is to achieve an all-inclusive growth, there is a need to restructure the civil service. The paradox here is that enormous talent and skill leads to such poor results. Incentives and competition are part of the answer. Top civil servants need to be rewarded better, and more transparently, and they need to compete for their jobs, through more flexibility in entry (and exit) at higher levels of the civil service. Reducing numbers at the lower levels through attrition would reduce government’s feudal nature as a source of patronage jobs, and help to pay for performance. Renaming and addition of new ministries should not be the end, but a means to an end.

Decentralise effectively

In order to achieve an all-inclusive growth, the state government should give local governments the authority and resources to really make a difference to their constituents where they are supposed to do so. The centre should give the state government the same mandate.

In practical terms, this means streamlining the messy and wasteful inter-governmental transfer system, and giving lower level governments more effective tax powers.

Ultimately, this will also put more pressure on politicians to deliver.  Higher-level governments will still have to manage the playing field, and prevent local elite capture, without stifling decentralisation. The NHE mass housing saga coupled with the land issues could have been be avoided had decentralisation been appropriately implemented.

There is a need for more public-private partnerships

All inclusive growth will not be possible without the aid of private-public partnership. Government should allow the private sector to take more social responsibilities and contribute towards making growth more inclusive. There also ought to be greater accountability for politicians and civil servants. Namibia can take advantage of its good name in democracy ratings.

Make it easier for entrepreneurs to start, grow and wind up businesses

An all-inclusive growth will be meaningless if doing business in Namibia remains a far-fetched dream. Despite the continued rhetoric over the meaning and effects of reforms, it has to be clear by now that private sector dynamism is going to drive growth.

Namibian industries have become more competitive. This process needs to be continued and supported—it will also generate the jobs that Namibians need. Specific policy actions include further financial sector reform, bankruptcy reform, a redesigned competition policy, and government regulation, especially at the state and local level that supports a level playing field.

Educate everyone

Growth to be inclusive needs to enhance human capabilities. Education is extremely important for improving the skill levels of the population so that everyone can be an equal partner in the country’s growth. More and better universities, schools and technical institutes should be created. Namibia’s record here is as abysmal as that in health. Again, government intervention has often enervated and corrupted the education profession at all levels.  Needless controls continue to substitute for effective certification and quality monitoring. The evidence here is again that restructuring the system to provide better incentives to those who deliver services (reward good performance, punish fraud, make information available that lets consumers choose better) will do more good than stepping up spending without any systemic change. Education and training at all levels need fixing.

In many cases, industry needs to be made a full-fledged partner in changing the system, through funding as well as redesign. Allowing foreign investment in higher education would free up public resources for primary education.

Agriculture

Agriculture is extremely important for inclusive growth. Since a large majority of the Namibian population is dependent on farming. Improved agricultural productivity would bring in its wake increased family incomes for this vast majority. This, together with better infrastructure in the rural area – greater rural connectivity, rural electrification and investment in irrigation, would aid tremendously in tackling rural poverty, as well as add to the overall prosperity of the nation.

Governance

Governance deficit is considered as a crucial hindrance towards achieving inclusive growth. Many developmental programs were only outlay-based, not outcome based. Therefore to be inclusive governance standards have to be lifted and huge elements of accountability and transparency in governance are indispensable.

To implement inclusive policies successfully government effectiveness will have to be strengthened.

Inclusive growth focuses on expanding the opportunities for all while targeting social protection and interventions at the chronically poor.

Therefore social protection through social safety nets should be incorporated as an additional dimension of an inclusive growth strategic framework.

Mally Likukela is Standard Bank Namibia’s manager of economics and market research.

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