President Hage Geingob yesterday hosted revered economic experts Professor Joseph Stiglitz, Dr Carlos Lopez and communication specialist Anya Schiffrin, who are in the country to conduct high-level leadership seminars with members of Cabinet and other senior officials of government.
Also to attend the seminars are permanent secretaries and members of civil society, business people, representatives of the Namibia Employers Federation and organised labour organisations.
Stiglitz was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2001, while Lopez is a former eighth executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa.
Schiffrin is the director of the international media, advocacy and communications at Columbia University’s School of International Affairs.
The trio yesterday visited President Hage Geingob at State House where they expressed gratitude for the invitation to come to Namibia, have discussions and share their vision with Namibian leadership.
The theme of the three-day seminars is “Closing the Gap of Inequality” – which aligns with President Geingob’s nationally declared all-out war on poverty.
Geingob introduced the Harambee Prosperity Plan, which intends to address some of the country’s biggest socio-economic challenges.
Addressing his guests yesterday, Geingob expressed concern that Namibia has a plethora of good plans, but implementation has proved to be the biggest bottleneck towards realisation of such plans.
“We have good plans on paper, very efficiently prepared, but they are not implemented and therefore they became ineffective,” he observed.
“Therefore I say let’s change that with the Harambee Prosperity Plan. We have prepared a grand plan for over a year now and for the next four years, and we will implement it. Even if we can just implement sixty percent of what we are saying, it will make a difference,” he said in reference to his ambitious development blueprint.
“We shouldn’t do things as we were doing in the past. We have been waiting for improvement for too long.”
Geingob said there was a need for a new approach in doing things and it needed a change in mindset. “We are supposed to have a new approach. That’s why I brought these people,” he said while gesturing to his guests.
Government already worked with Lopez last year on the drafting of the performance agreements which ministers have signed.
Geingob said he already received the first quarterly reports from his ministers, which he said “do not look bad”.
“It is a new thing and I think people are on board,” he confidently added.
Even though the visitors had not yet had time to study the content of the Harambee plan, Stiglitz said the plan is the first step where government recognises inequality.
“Namibia has stood out as a country with the highest level of inequality and some or much of it is the legacy of the past, which has to be dealt with. The challenge of providing employment will be a challenge,” he said.
Lopez in his response said the design of the Harambee plan is a result of a strong commitment on the part of the president to address issues of poverty and inequality and it comes “on the wheels” of other very successful designs such as the Industrial Policy design and Vision 2030.
“The big issue is going to be implementation capacity to make sure that it requires a very strong drive on the part of the state and requires some alignment that needs to be in place,” said Lopez.
Speaking later at the opening of the seminar at the Windhoek Country Club, President Geingob said the three experts were jetted in to help consolidate the Harambee plan and help realise its successful implementation.
“I have no doubt that the concentration of intellectual knowledge and capacity, as well as leadership experience that is present here today will result in the realization of tangible results in some of the key outcomes that we would like to achieve under the Harambee Prosperity Plan,” he said.
Referring to the trio, he said: “They will share with us their experiences on this subject and provide us with greater insight on economic transformation and ‘Closing the Gap of Inequality’, which will be the overarching theme of this seminar.”
Last night Lopez presented a topic on current global and African economic trends affecting Namibia. Stiglitz spoke on economic policies of a small open economy in a polarising global economy.
Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein presented an overview of the Namibian economy as well as an overview of the country’s current and medium term development policies.