The year 2016 has been an eventful one. It is the year we shifted gear, from planning to implementation. It is the year that we launched our Harambee Prosperity Plan.
In the same vein, this year was also characterised by a some headwinds such as a slowdown in the global appetite for our commodities and a protracted drought, that adversely impacted our developmental plans and objectives.
This notwithstanding, we have managed to steer our economy through what can be described as turbulent weather. To the pessimists who predicted a downgrading of our international investment rating and continue to suggest that Namibia is broke, we have this to say: the Namibian House remains stable and in good order.
Scholars, and political social commentators have written extensively about the Namibian success story. According to Joseph Stiglitz, the Namibian story is particularly impressive, given the severe income and racial segregation which was not present in other successful nations.
In line with the effective governance pillar under the Harambee Prosperity Plan, we continue to strengthen our governance architecture. Not only did we retain our rating as the freest press in Africa as measured by Reporters Without Borders, we also moved up one place to the number 5 position in Africa on the Mo-Ibrahim governance index.
We continue to promote transparency through annual declaration of assets and income by all ministers. This year all ninisters declared their assets and income and have done so, on time. One minister even publicly shared his declaration and I commend him for taking that initiative.
The practice of asset and income declaration has been emulated by members of parliament and civil servants. The Prime Minister will provide more detail on declaration of assets and income by civil servants, safe to say at this point that all accounting officers have declared their assets and income.
Furthermore, the National Anti-Corruption Strategy, which is a horizontal and crosscutting effort to enhance accountability and deepen public trust, was successfully launched during 2016.
In the spirit of transparency, the Anti-corrpution Action Plan is accessible to the public on the website of the Office of the Prime Minister.
Significant progress with the rolling out of e-governance to all OMAs has been made. In this connection some of the e-services worth mentioning, that are expected to go live before the end of March 2017 are:
The Integrated Tax Management System by the Ministry of Finance, a solution that will streamline tax administration;
The payroll system which will amongst others, assist Government to eliminate down on ghost employees;
On-line application for leave of absence by civil servants, which will improve management of leave gratuity; and
On-line applications for legal aid which will reduce the waiting period from 7 to 2 days, thereby making access to justice easier; after all the saying goes that justice delayed is justice denied. With this electronic solution, justice will no longer be delayed.
All Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Permanent Secretaries have signed performance agreements. Moreover, in the spirit of transparency, all ministerial performance agreements have been released on the website of the Office of the Prime Minister, as well as on individual websites of ministries.
Pertaining to the pillar on economic advancement, our pre-occupation has been the safeguarding of macroeconomic stability. As you are all aware, economic conditions globally have been tested to the limit.
One, we have maintained our import coverage of at least three months of imports, with the latest reserve level standing at N$25 billion. This reserve level is more than sufficient to maintain our currency peg to the South African rand. This has allowed scope for our central bank to keep the lead lending rate at 7 percent to promote economic growth going forward.
Secondly, we maintained our international credit rating of BBB- according to Fitch. Recently, Moody’s also affirmed its credit rating of Baa. Unfortunately, both agencies changed their outlook from positive to negative. We have however, instituted measures to consolidate the fiscal position and improve on our credit ratings.
Unfortunately, we overshot our debt to GDP target. Our target was to stabilise debt at 37 percent as a ratio to GDP, however it is likely to come in at 42 percent. Our debt remains however, within manageable levels when compared to regional and international benchmarks.
With respect to investment promotion, we have done extremely well. In this year we gave practical meaning to the term economic diplomacy. A number of high level investment promotion missions, as well as our locally hosted Invest in Namibia International Conference were oversubscribed. A good number of memoranda of understanding and letters of intent have been signed.
We are also pleased to report that the Retail Charter has been finalised and signed into force on schedule and that the economic empowerment initiative, namely NEEEF, is close to being finalised. As a responsive Government, we have extended the deadline for NEEEF stakeholder contributions, several times.
Some activities aimed at stimulating local production and jobs in the manufacturing sector include:
The reintroduction of the equipment aid scheme;
The servicing of industrial land at Brakwater has been started;
The construction of the Keetmanshoop furniture factory which is nearing completion. It is envisaged that in future this factory will play a key role in producing essential furniture for schools and hospitals, thereby substituting imports and strengthening our balance of payments position;
The construction of a garment factory at Outapi is nearing completion. This factory, along with another garment factory planned to be constructed in Otjiwarongo, will play a key role in producing shool uniforms and uniforms for the army and police; while
The Business Plan for the upgrading of the Northern Tannery is also near completion. This factory, once completed, will unlock significant value in the agricultural sector in the northern communal areas.
In light of the global economic slowdown and associated headwinds affecting our economic growth, Namibia must compete for scarce capital. As Dr. Carlos Lopez, Former Execuive Secretary of UNECA aptly reminded us during the concluded Invest in Namibia International Conference, the size of a market is still an attractive proposition for an investor.
It goes without saying, therefore, that in the absence of a sizeable domestic market; Namibia has to position herself as a competitive gateway into SADC and the Sub-Saharan African region.
Our progress on the social architecture front during the year under review has been phenomenal. Some notable achievements and progress include:
The provision of drought relief assistance to more than half a million affected Namibians. Drought relief was one of the few votes that received an additional allocation during the mid-year budget review. This demonstrates the commitment of Government, to zero deaths as a result of hunger during the Harambee period.
The successful introduction of the Foodbank in the Khomas region. The latest available statistic shows that 22,000 Khomas based households, or close to 100,000 Namibians benefit from urban food aid through the foodbank, each month. This programme will be replicated in qualifying urban and peri-urban areas during the Harambee period and will go a long way in stemming hunger poverty, which is estimated to affect 5.8 percent of Namibians as per latest official statistics.
This year we also kept our promise to increase the old age social grant by an additional N$100 to N$1,100. Together with the Foodbank and other iniatives, this will go along way in stemming hunger poverty.
To assist with hunger poverty in rural areas, we have mobilized 100 tractors that will be providing subsidized ploughing services to communal farmers during the current rainy season.
Regarding residential land servicing and housing, a number of projects are underway, not only driven by central government, but also supplemented by Harambee partners. Notable highlights under this programme include:
One, with regard to Land Servicing and Delivery, year to date 2,240 plots have been delivered by Government alone while another 1,624 have been delivered or are near delivery through PPP agreements between local authorities and developers. In summary this totals 3,864 out of a targeted 5000 ervens under Year 1 of Harambee.
Two, an amount of N$367.9 million has been allocated in subsidy, to qualifying local authorities to expedite urban land servicing of which N$151.8 million has been utilized.
Three, with regard to Housing Delivery, 1 681 houses have been completed to date, against the annual target of 6000. While 1 500 houses are under construction. In addition, the Government Institutions Pension Fund [GIPF] has introduced a housing scheme for uniformed personnel which will be rolled out country wide. Other HPP private sector partners have also come up with attractive home ownership schemes to enable their employees to acquire affordable housing.
Four, an amount of N$30 million has been set aside for the construction of toilets in the Hardap and //Karas regions. Tenders for the construction of 780 toilets for the two regions are close to being awarded.
Pertaining to the reduction of infant and maternal mortality, the following progress is worth noting:
A total of 1,646 community health workers have been trained and deployed in all 14 regions to provide basic health promotion activities such as health education in the community and at household level. These health workers have been trained to pay special attention to expectant mothers who need to be referred to a health centre or hospital to prevent maternal deaths;
Sixty new ambulances with maternal functionality have been procured and distributed to hospitals around the country. Emergency care practitioners have been trained specifically for ambulance services;
Upgrades of various maternity wards to improve accessibility are underway, with the Rundu hospital maternity ward nearing completion;
Development of guidliness on maternity waiting shelters were finalized and tenders for the construction of maternity wards by the Social Security Commission have been finalized;
Seventy maternal delivery beds have been procured and distributed to regions as required country wide; and
Introduction of new vaccines to protect children against measles, rubella and poliomyelitis, as well as an oral polio vaccine campaign. In total, more than 100 percent vaccincation coverage has been achieved.
On strengthening on vocational skills development, progress under year one of Harambee has also been phenomenal.
A fully-costed Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Expansion Strategy has been developed with special emphasis on programme diversification, fit-for-purpose equipment and refurbishment/expansion of physical infrastructure, and capacity-building for trainers.
To date, 24,937 trainees are enrolled for TVET programmes country-wide at both public and private training insititutions. This number includes 16,463 trainees funded directly by the Namibia Training Authority (NTA).
With regard to recognition of prior learning, to date 1,100 applications out of a target of 2,000 have been received and are being processed.
To capacitate, attract and retain VET trainers, 469 trainers out of a year one target of 200, from public, SoE and private TVET providers, have already undergone training both in-country and outside the country, between March – September 2016.
A draft Apprenticeship Policy Framework (including an incentive scheme for employers taking trainees and trainers on attachment) was presented to stakeholders on 14 September 2016. The draft policy framework will be submitted to the Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation during the course of October 2016 for purposes of consultation.
Entrepreneurship support for TVET graduates and current Level 3 trainees has commenced. This includes coaching and mentoring, as well as incubation at VTCs as far as practically possible.
This is a shortened version of the statement by President Hage Geingob on Tuesday during the year-end review session held at State House.