Inside the revolutionary Harambee Plan

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Dr John Steytler

Windhoek

Details have emerged of President Hage Geingob’s ambitious Harambee Plan for Prosperity, which aims to turn around the country’s fortunes and make Namibia a new-look society by March 2020.

If implemented to the letter, Harambee would make Namibia the most competitive economy in southern Africa, government would be more accountable and ministries highly disciplined in handling taxpayers’ money.

This is according to the man tasked to advise the president on economic affairs, Dr John Steytler, who explained the content and intent of the audacious mid-term development blueprint.

President Geingob is expected to provide the finer details of the Harambee Plan when he delivers his State of the Nation Address next week.

Steytler, a former senior advisor at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), explained in detail the four pillars of Harambee, whose successful execution would leave an indelible mark on the Namibian economic and social landscape.

Under the first pillar, dubbed “effective governance and service delivery”, Geingob intends to improve accountability in governance. The new Procurement Act, which will redefine procurement and tendering in the public sector, speaks to this aspiration.

Government also aims to secure improved transparency under this pillar, Steytler told New Era yesterday.

“You’d have seen that Namibia has improved 10 places on the international transparency index recently,” a highly optimistic Steytler said. “This was achieved because of, amongst others, asset declarations by public officials, as well as disclosure of performance agreements of ministers.”

He said citizen satisfaction surveys would be conducted annually as part of the service delivery sub-pillar of the Harambee Plan. The plan also speaks about improved performance, which would be assessed through the existing performance management system.

The performance management system was for the first time extended to public office bearers, including ministers, last year.
The Harambee Plan also aims to secure improved financial management and effective cost controls. Under this sub-pillar, stricter control of expenditure by public institutions would be monitored, as well as the execution rate.

The stipulation of the State Finance Act – that expenditure deviations should not exceed two percent – would be enforced strongly, and so would the return of money to Treasury by various ministries.

Under the economic transformation pillar, the Geingob administration hopes to maintain macro-economic stability – which would entail managing public resources in a responsible manner to curtail public debt and fiscal deficits.

“When you borrow money, you could compromise your sovereignty because of strings attached to such borrowings. We want to be in total control of our finances and make decisions ourselves,” Steytler, the country’s former statistician-general, said.

Under this pillar, government will embark on an aggressive mission to diversify the economy by, amongst others, stimulating growth in the manufacturing sector.

The Retail Charter, which would compel foreign-owned businesses to display Namibian produce on their shelves, would also be enforced strongly.

The ownership structure of the economy will also be addressed under the Harambee Plan through the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF), as will the stimulation of youth enterprise development. “I’m personally excited about the youth enterprise development. It will crush youth unemployment,” said an ecstatic Steytler.

The third pillar, christened “social progression”, aims to eliminate hunger and poverty, amongst others. “Poverty is multi-dimensional, but it is our firm belief that before one can think of clothes and decent shelter, hunger must be eliminated,” Steytler said. The creation of the mooted food banks is part of that intervention, as is harnessing social safety nets for vulnerable citizens.

Infant and maternal mortality would also come under the Harambee hammer, with community healthworkers to be deployed countrywide to detect and treat any early signs of pregnancy complications.

Also under this pillar are vocational training skills, which President Geingob believes would go a long way in addressing economic growth and creating jobs. The enterprise development component of this sub-pillar has Steytler excited.

The final pillar deals with infrastructure development and would address water infrastructure in the country. “Water instrastructure is old in some parts of the country. We also want to have a better supply of water for industrial purposes,” the advisor said.

Local energy generation is also addressed under this pillar, with the country aiming to limit importation of energy from neighbouring countries.

Information and communication technology, with the primary aim of promoting broadband network in Namibia, will also be tackled under Harambee, as will transport.

“Under transport we want to expand our ports and rehabilitate our railways. As a logistics hub, we need railways all over the country to lift some pressure off our roads,” Steytler said.

“We will also introduce commuter trains, starting in Windhoek. Traffic in Windhoek is total madness, plus our people will be paying less in transport costs once this is implemented.”

President Geingob yesterday briefed former presidents Sam Nujoma and Hifikepunye Pohamba on how he intends to roll out his Harambee Plan.

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