The Fifth National Development Plan (NDP5), launched by President Hage Geingob on Wednesday and which targets to create 250,000 jobs in the next five years, raises serious economic questions than it provides the necessary answers on how it will exactly achieve those goals.
In simple terms, the Namibian government intends to, despite various structural and institutional headwinds, ambitiously create 50,000 jobs per year with an annual capital budget of N$32 billion (N$164 billion for entire program) over a period of five years through the implementation of 171 development projects.
This bold goal should be applauded with all sincerity. However, the dismal economic reality on the ground unfortunately dictates otherwise, especially based on the historic performance of the previous NDPs coupled with the failed large-scaled state intervention attempts in the economy, hence the current socio-economic realities such as the ever-increasing high unemployment level.
To successfully reverse these abovementioned negative trends will need going ahead with realistic indigenous ownership and control of key economic minerals and sectors that can enable the country to seriously have a direct influence on its destiny, which is unfortunately lacking.
In the absence of that, the status quo of government being the elephant in the room will in conjunction with those having the necessary financial means continue to have an economic advantage to the disadvantage of the majority.
With that said, NDP5, built upon the guiding principles of NDP4, is in its current form very vague and too general with no clear economic implementation strategies on how those targets will be achieved. NDP5, although not critically assessed and analyzed at this stage, will further in my opinion maintain the status quo of the Namibian government being a significant and major economic player, a situation which will continue to create a strong reliance and dependency syndrome on the state. This is neither healthy nor conducive to the long-term socio-economic development goals of the country.
However, in order to move forward, a careful but serious re-evaluation of the successes and challenges of NDP4 needs to be critically undertaken upon which a realistic basis and methodology can be established to enable the Namibian government and other relevant stakeholders to carefully estimate what can possibly be realistically achieved for the future.
Otherwise, these kinds of forecasts create unexpected false expectations which are not realistically backed up with any sensible economic data or developments.
In this regard and to compare NDP4’s relative performance to the anticipated goals of NDP5, NDP4, despite it being streamlined with fewer economic development goals of achieving a high and sustained economic growth rate, increased employment creation and improved income equality, still nevertheless came short of achieving those desired goals which at this point does not augur well to suddenly expect NDP5 to overperform in a more challenging and depressing economic environment.
The basic enablers to achieving NDP4 were further to create an enabling institutional environment which is still a major challenge, to improve education and skill development, to reduce extreme poverty and public infrastructure which unfortunately all came across headwinds due to significant government budgetary cuts to such an extent that priority development planning should going forward be guided with realistic national development goals and expectations.
Therefore and as a reference point going forward, the economic dynamics of the country have over the last two years or so significantly changed to such an extent that the environment is witnessing, among others, negative socio-economic development trends in terms of massive job retrenchments in key economic sectors such as in the construction, fishing, retail, logistics, tourism and mining sectors.
These negative socio-economic developments can be attributed to the depressing massive government budgetary cuts and spending patterns, which to a large extent have somehow stagnated the economy, resulting in a much less cash flow circulation.
With that in mind, Namibia is with all honesty going through a huge cash flow crunch with no clear and realistic economic solutions in sight, which is unfortunately affecting the abovementioned key economic sectors with dire social consequences.
With that said, the target of government to create 50,000 jobs per year under these extremely trying economic times going forward does not at this stage make any economic sense and should further be interrogated by all concerned. I should however clearly state at this juncture that it is not at all impossible to achieve these bold targets provided that the necessary large-scale structural and radical economic reform policies are devised coupled with the tactical but effective implementation drive which at this stage are unfortunately not visible.
It is however important with all the available economic data and growth forecasts to give NDP5 the benefit of the doubt.
• Pendapala Hangala is a Namibian socio-economist.