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SONA should focus on reshaping economy and implementing action plans

SONA should focus on reshaping economy and implementing action plans

By Josef Kefas Sheehama.

The President, HE Dr Hage Geingob, will deliver the State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday 16 March 2023 with many anticipating that the focus will be on the reshaping of economic activity and building economic resilience.

The SONA wherein the President outlines priorities for the year, the state of the economy and achievements, and implementation strategies, is always much anticipated. We expect the President to focus on renewable energy, the discovery of oil, corruption, Russia-Ukraine unrest, COVID 19, Public Private Partnerships, and narrowing the income gap, among other things. The State of the Nation Address provides an opportunity for the President to articulate the plans and progress made thus far in the application of national values and principles. The fight against corruption, which has robbed Public Resources requires bold legislative and policy reforms. There is need now more than ever to restructure the economy and set the country on the pathway of economic recovery.

I expect the President to provide a clear economic implementation action plan that demonstrates the importance of the government’s commitment to the Economic Recovery Plan. In term of the policy to get the youth trained moving forward, the President should address the resuscitation of the education system.

The President should enlighten Namibians, pursuant to South Africa’s grey listing by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). We also expect the President to address the high cost of living in the country as he addresses the nation. The President should address the uncertainty that the country has witnessed in the petroleum industry. Regarding the possible increase in fuel prices, it is important for the government to state its position and the possible resolutions made with the private sector and Namcor. It is important that he clears uncertainty on the plan to retrench civil servants to cut its wage bill as it struggles to pay its 107,000 employees. It is important to come out strongly on the matter of rampant inflation and the cost of living. It is important for His Excellency to come out strongly on the matter and advise what government is doing to mitigate the impacts of the high cost of living in Namibia.

Furthermore, the recognition that an enabling environment for business is critical for attracting investment and helping to solve the unemployment and low economic growth challenge in Namibia, is significant. The success or failure of government in this regard will be a decisive factor in determining whether Namibia’s agricultural sector lives up to its potential or stalls as the nation’s infrastructure and vital services continue their decline. The job of the government is to create a conducive policy environment with working infrastructure and effective service delivery. Only then will the agricultural sector be able to accelerate the expansion of these employment statistics, creating a wealth of opportunity for a generation of workers in the rural communities that most need them. In this same collaborative spirit, the government must be willing to hear the voices of the sector as we propose solutions to some of the greatest problems facing the industry and the country. This is especially true for the issue of land reform.

It is important for the Head of State to come out strongly on the matter of Namibia and Botswana, and the use of national identity cards as travel documents. His Excellency should address the issues of the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) and the Sovereign African Rating (SAR) agency viewed as catalysts for long-term continental prosperity and integration. It is important that he comes out strongly on potential tax reductions for both corporates and individuals.

Going forward, whatever level of increased economic activity this would trigger, it is worth implementing because our unemployment situation is so desperate. Furthermore, the problems in the Namibian economy are deep and they are structural. Structural reforms to support SMEs, investments in infrastructure and the emergence of new sectors will drive a turnaround in economic growth driven by the private sector. Adopting truly transformative pathways will require viewing the roadblocks on the journey to sustainable development through a transformative lens.

One way to clear the path is to address the issues that have been ignored thus far but now brought to light. This is indeed a difficult time for the President who is tasked with reviving an economy ravaged by economic mismanagement then damaged further by the Russia/Ukraine unrest. The critical aspect of his approach needs to strike the right balance in all his polices between protecting the poor and growing the economy. Working with both public and private sector partners, the government is implementing a range of measures to address inadequate and inconsistent performance by the State Owned Enterprise (SOE).

Therefore, we should aim to be masters of our own destiny, where we mobilize our own resources for the future, breaking the shackles of the colonial economy and a mindset of dependency, bailouts and extraction. It is an economy where we look past commodities to position ourselves in a global marketplace. It is a country where we focus on trade, not aid, a hand-up, not a hand-out. It is a country with a strong private sector.

It is a country that recognizes the connectedness of its people and economy to those of its neighbours. This requires a forward-looking vision for our country, enabling us to confront our challenges and embrace our opportunities, not one fastened in the rear-view mirror. It is a Namibia beyond aid. We need to see the words translated into actions, the emphasis on a market led economy and a greater role for the private sector bodes well for the future.

In conclusion, we expect an announcement that the President will release clear, firmly structured processes for each deliverable, clear responsibilities for members of the Cabinet, and timelines to achieve precise implementation milestones to focus on meeting the above goals. We believe that the SONA provides an opportunity to send a clear signal that government is beginning to implement the structural reforms urgently needed to attract investment and build our economy.

Therefore, we have high expectations that the President’s address will provide a clear policy direction and road map on some of the major issues that the nation is faced with.


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