Government this week said it has altered the requirements of applying for fishing rights in order contain widespread endemic corruption that has gripped this process for years.
Despite the fact that Namibia has one of the highest rates of inequality in the world, the country has not optimally used the many waves of opportunities – such as those in fishing – to close such gaps.
Equitable distribution of resources is essential in a society such as ours in order to eliminate the gulfs of inequalities in our country and open fire in the direction of stubborn poverty haunting us.
For way too long, excessive consumption of the resources by few people who have power has helped exacerbate gaps of inequality in a country that prides itself on the principle of all people being equal.
The fishing rights on offer also present an opportunity to help unite our nation – if handled with Solomonic wisdom.
If the benefits of development of natural resources are not shared with society, social conflicts invariably result and have resulted. Libya, a country that has historical relations with Namibia, is a perfect example of how a skewed distribution of national resources can birth conflict.
Closer home, the Democratic Republic of Congo has never seen peace even after colonial power Belgium loosened its grip on that country. DRC suffers what is called a ‘resource curse’ – also known as the paradox of plenty – which is characterised by less economic growth, less democracy, and worse development outcomes.
Many empowerment schemes in this country have become turfs for abuse, favouritism and corruption. We are happy with progress made by government to contain this scourge, although we would have loved this to happen more regularly and at an increased pace. Stuffing national resources in the pockets of the same individuals over and over is itself corruption because it robs of other citizens the opportunity to access the same means. Or how more Namibian must others be to enjoy the same treatment? Government must use this opportunity to redeem itself in the eyes of the electorate whose expectations are clear and known.
Resources are vital for human survival, especially for a small economy such as ours. If resources such as fish are free gifts of nature, why have cabals and syndicates built a firewall around our sea for their sole benefit?
This is an opportunity for socially-inclusive growth, a target well captured in all our national development blueprints, including Harambee Prosperity Plan.
It is an opportunity to bring into the country’s economic framework those sections of society that have been historically excluded.
Further exclusion would only create tremendous social tensions which could, in turn, become a drag on our capacity to sustain high rates of growth.