Consumers pay for growth at home
A top government official this week condoned the meteoric rise in the prices of chicken and dairy, saying on a public platform Namibians will have to foot the bill for the trade ministry’s Infant Industry Protection policies.
The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Hon. Tjekero Tweya said at the Made in Namibia Trade Expo at the Safari Conference Centre that consumers will have to endure the price pinch for government’s Growth at Home strategy.
He made this comment during a panel discussion between the Namibia Consumer Trust’s (NCT) Michael Gawaseb, Team Namibia CEO Daisry Dumeni and Sven Thieme, President of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce (NCCI).
The exhibitors and buyers exchanged remarks on issues affecting Namibia’s national manufacturing output.
Gawaseb did not mince his words on the cost of Infant Industry Protection to consumers’ right to food security, advocating for more support from government in playing a referee role.
Tweya vehemently rejected notions of the government not having the interest of consumers at heart. Citing the Growth at Home strategy to promote and protect investments in key industries, he said these policies are not about specific companies but to grow the local manufacturing base.
“Government’s role is not that of a referee but rather a facilitator, to both the consumer and investor. Tweya said.
Thieme shared the minister’s view saying “We need to create jobs. Consumers are invented by having jobs”.
He added that consumers will have to bear the brunt of high prices in the meantime.
Addressing the issue of local producers getting their products into main retailers, a participant in the expo raised his observation that there is a lack of will from buyers, mostly major retailers, in procuring local products for their shelves.
Thieme said that efforts are being made through the Namibian Retail Charter by the Namibian Trade Forum, advocating a preference to keep money in the local economy.
“There is a three-fold approach to buying local, products should be competitive, adhere to standard and must be the preferred choice in comparison to price” he said adding that economies of scale which influence price depends on volume output.
When asked for a show of hands it transpired that only three retailers bothered to attend the Made in Namibia trade expo.
Thieme urged retailers to sign up small farmers in procuring goods to ensure that farmers play a larger role in local production.
A sentiment which Tweya echoed is that Namibia’s logistics sector has a large potential for filling in the gap between consumer and producer.
Team Namibia CEO, Dumeni urged businesses to take on the Team Namibia Boardroom Challenge in sourcing every possible local product before looking elsewhere, particularly in boardrooms as this is the place where business to business agreements happen.
“Reform in the business environment, particularly private sector involvement through the Made in Namibia Expo [must complement] the government’s effort to [address] income inequality.” Dumeni said.
Tweya said in order to foster inter-regional trade, Namibia must have products to bargain with.
At the same time he made the point that foreign investors’ capital is beneficial to the local economy while they too must comply with local legislation as per SACU agreements.
Tweya closed the discussion by emphasising that restrictive measures on the import of goods and higher import duties, are not meant to undermine consumers but to boost reinvesting to produce more locally and provide more jobs.