Government has succumbed to pressure and has surrendered a clause in the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF) draft bill that would have forced white businesses to sell a 25 percent stake to previously disadvantaged Namibians.
But while that clause may be done away with, government is unrepentant on the Bill itself, which it has hailed as one of its breakthrough strategies for economic transformation. The Bill is so revered in government circles it was highlighted as one of government’s success stories in the past 12 months, as indicated in President Hage Geingob’s State of the Nation Address yesterday. The 25 percent equity clause bit the dust after emotions ran high particularly among the white business community, which felt unfairly targeted by government’s empowerment drive.
The black community had its own voices of dissent, with many saying the scheme would only benefit those already empowered and therefore able to afford to buy into white companies. This, some argued, would have still left the poor trapped in their quagmire of destitution and hopelessness.
Geingob yesterday said the role of government was to create a conducive business environment where owners, whether black or white, who can afford risk capital, can participate in equity transactions under NEEEF.
He said during consultations, a number of key policy and legal issues were highlighted and these included four problematic areas highlighted at a Cabinet workshop on NEEEF in February this year.
Geingob said the problems include the definitional issues relating to previously-disadvantaged persons and the targeted private sector enterprises, the mandatory nature of the ownership equity and management control pillars, the role of sectoral charters, and the need for monitoring and evaluation tools and funding mechanisms to ensure effectiveness. On infrastructure development, several achievements were made, among them the 224 kilometers of road upgrades to bitumen completed nationally in the last 12 months. “This compares favourably to the annual Harambee Prosperity Plan target of 190 kilometers,” said Geingob. The National Oil Storage Facility in Walvis Bay, being constructed at N$5.6 billion, has reached a completion rate of 95 percent.
“The facility is expected to improve security in fuel supply,” Geingob said.
The Massive Urban Land-Servicing programme is on track, Geingob said, with 8,769 erven completed as of March this year.
On education, net enrollment in pre- and primary education increased from 89.2 percent in 1992 to 97.7 percent in 2017. New Era recently reported that the declaration of free primary education has led to a huge increase in enrollment.
During the period under review, 165,376 elderly citizens were registered as recipients of the monthly old-age grant, compared to 159,315 the preceding year.
Currently, old-age pension grant stands at N$1200.
The President remains concerned about levels of youth unemployment, which remain significantly high. In 2017, the unemployment rate among the youth stood at 43.4 percent for those in the 15 to 34 age bracket.
“We are acutely aware of the plight of the out-of-school youth, students, job-seeking graduates and entrepreneurial startups,” the President said, before announcing that developments such as the planned car assembly plant slated for Walvis Bay are some of government’s efforts to stimulate jobs. The plant is a joint venture between the Namibia Development Corporation (NDC) and French carmaker Peugeot.
“One key lesson learnt from the recent economic downturn is that our growth path was overly dependent on consumption and government spending. We have resolved to rebalance our model from consumption driven to investment-led growth.”
The Head of State also reported that Angola has made four quarterly payments, totaling approximately N$3 billion, in 2017 in regards to the failed currency deal that the two countries entered into to smoothen inter-border trade. “The total 30 outstanding payments of N$1.2 billion will be fully settled by June 2018.”
Regarding land, the second national land conference, which was called off last year due to inadequate consultation, is scheduled for October this year. The conference seeks to address the structure of land ownership and debate the following topics such as the willing-seller-willing-buyer principle, ancestral land claims for restitution, expropriation in public interest with just compensation, urban land reform, resettlement criteria and the fate of the veterinary cordon fence.