The Namibian sport budget antidote: system thinking perspective

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It is embedded upon all public intellectuals, scholars and practitioners to dissect and interrogate the fibre of our national budget. This analysis should be timely and is guided by our patriotism and commitment to see the national developmental trajectory.

As a notable disclaimer without any sort of conscious guilt, yours truly has invested tremendous time and resources in the development of the sector.

It would only be fair and just to continue to expand the knowledge frontier by shaping broad conversations that would build a case for sport in Namibia. Through intense research, a helicopter view of the National Development Plans formulated since 2004, revealed that sport has not featured prominently as an enabler for economic and social development.

This is supported by the notion that the role of sport is still not well acknowledged and articulated as a potential mechanism for national development outcomes. Thus it remains one of the least funded sectors through the national budget despite global influences and awareness of its development potential. This in itself is of great concern.

As case in point, the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Services’ overall budget was reduced by N$100 million in this financial year. The Namibia Sports Commission received N$21 million from the line mnistry, a budget to be shared amongst 52 sports codes.

Research further indicates that the Commission requires an annual budget of N$300 million to optimally develop the sector. The sector should however be comforted by the fact that over the past 27 years, it served as a vital catalyst for uniting a “broken” nation that was in need of reconciliation from the apartheid era.

Needless to say, sport in many developing nations has created employment opportunities for young people, improved social cohesion, and marketed countries internationally, hence the sector can be used as an important vehicle for more than uniting communities.

As part of the fiscal consolidation plan, government over the years prioritized education and health as critical sectors worth investing in. This may be attributed to the fact that the nation deems these sectors to be of greater value.

However, as opined by a renowned business management scholar Peter M. Senge there is an urgent need to integrate systems thinking in our national developmental approach if we are to meet our national goals.

Senge is of the opinion that sectors are becoming far more overwhelmed by complexity. Perhaps for the first time in history, humankind has the capacity to create far more information than anyone can absorb, to foster far greater interdependency than anyone can manage.

It is therefore important to understand the causal relations between various sectors especially sport in this case and other sectors as the antidote in the age of interdependencies.

The sport sector’s continual lack of funding has brought about the nation’s consistent average performance in competitions and could be the cause of the decline in sport development and participation. This ill-fated situation has become increasingly apparent when positioned against the obvious benefits derived from sport to the nation, which cannot be over-emphasised at this stage.

What then should be done to the readdress the obvious challenges illustrated above? This fundamental question should be answered if the sector is to claim a role within the developmental framework of the country.

Senge further argues that when developing a sustainable system, it is imperative that the sector takes a systems approach towards its development. He defines systems thinking as the ability to think about a system as a whole, rather than only thinking of its individual parts. As the business of sport is a complex system, there is a need to promote the understanding of its interconnected pieces and interdependent relationships.

For far too long has the sport sector moaned of the lack of adequate funding without looking at the various reasons why its budget continues to be reduced. One may opine that in an environment such as ours where there is a need to reduce the budget to ensure fiscal consolidation, the government will reduce budget allocation based on sectorial performance and their relevance within the national development framework.

Consequently, in line with the philosophy of Peter Checkland, it is important that we analyse and understand the interdependencies that are technical, social, temporal and multi-level.

Sport should work with other sectors such as education, tourism and health to maximise the benefit that can be derived from a systems thinking perspective. The Namibia Sports Commission should be supported without fail to realise their objectives as enshrined within the envisaged National Sport Plan.

The public private partnership (PPP) model should be adopted in the sector to meet the government halfway in the persuasion of sports excellence.

In conclusion I would like to recommend the use of the works of Peter Senge in his book, The Fifth Discipline, so that in order to remain competitive as a sector we apply these five practices, namely personal mastery; awareness, understanding and changing of the current mental models, having a common understanding or shared vision, team learning, as well as systems thinking.

This will enable us to collectively as a nation apply a paradigm shift and ensure that from a national perspective the sport budget is maximised for the benefit of the owners of sport.

* Ndeulipula Hamutumwa is Doctorate of Commerce candidate at the University of Johannesburg, a former sport commissioner and retired Namibia National Olympic Committee board member.

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