Curse of the begging bowl syndrome will always haunt us
Dear Economist Editor
With the current financial crunch gripping the country a handful of capital projects have been stopped which in turn resulted in unemployment, retrenchments and closure of businesses, which one can say are the order of the day.
‘Tenderpreneurs’ have been downgraded to nothing but mere shadows of their former lives, as the government halted most of their contracts which the tenderpreneurs relied on for the upkeep of their lavish lifestylse – despite the fact that most of them failed to fulfill their contractual obligations or simply delivered sub-standard material and work.
Trying to pull itself up out of the deep economic trench, the government often appeals for assistance from various international donor organisations who then take the bite as it usually is their mandate to give assistance where it’s needed.
Yes, donors do provide assistance through partnerships and various projects. With this scenario we are very familiar. At the implementation of the project, it is all roses, and a number of beneficiaries are on the right track.
Kudos to the donors for that.
Capacity Building and training programmes which are conducted enable the people, communities and organisations to strengthen their capabilities to develop and implement the projects.
Yes, this is needed for the people to become self-sufficient, but one thing I noticed is the lack of maintenance of the implemented projects.
Donors often implement projects that range from one to several years. Some have produced excellent results while others, let me say, remain stagnant like a puddle of water in a pothole in Windhoek.
As soon as the projects time line lapses or funds are depleted, the projects somehow becomes a white elephant.
This simply means its back to square one for that particular community. It is as if the projects were just for the period as long as the funding lasted. This is not supposed to be the case. Projects are intended to flourish and become the backbone of the community where they are implemented. Why implement them then if there is no future in utilizing them for self-sustenance?
Like the one proverb says, give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. It seems like the country is just given the fish for that period, (fat cats get fatter) and do not think to maintain the projects for the future. After the projects die down, yes you are right, there is always another appeal for more donor funds.
It seems almost as if the begging bowl syndrome is embedded in us and has us at ransom. I am not saying all the projects die out, but the majority just survive for the funding period.
Last week, the US Trump administration announced that it would withdraw from UNESCO. I think we all know that the bulk of the funding for many projects comes from the U.S. My question now is what if the major contributors start pulling out of the agencies? Who will we run to?
What is needed is constant maintenance and monitoring of the projects for them to be successful in the long run and for us to think outside the box and become independent. However, as long as we continue to fall into the beggar trap for donor aid, we will constantly be begging until kingdom come.
There is no denying the fact that the prescription to cure our country from this syndrome is easy and in our own hands. The nation needs to apply all it has learned to avoid digging its own graves because one day donors will decide to stop their assistance.
Let us become that ‘Man who can fish’ rather than that ‘Man who is given a fish’.