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Slow growth is the new normal

15/09/2017
by Chris-Paul
Columns

 

About eight months ago one of the comrades I speak to on a regular predicted that slow growth was “the new normal” for our country.

This was when we were right in the mist of fear-mongering; when fear mongers and economists were warning that the economy was so tapped out that a recession was overdue. Since the government hit back at Moody with facts, the anti-Hage have taken note of our slowly but surely economic revival under President Hage Geingob and are currently scrambling to invent plausible explanations without having to, God forbid, assign any credit to the President and his team.

It is undeniable. In the ?rst year of the Hage administration, the economy was decelerating, with a dismal percent growth rate, but since introducing strict measures on government expenditures and introducing other purse-strings tightening mechanisms, the economy is revving up to a decent percent slow growth rate. It’s easy to read too much into short-term trends, and, yes, they can turn on a dime. But the new bounce in the step of the economy is con?rmed by many other indicators, almost all of which point straight North. And as such there should be plenty reason for optimism. There should be plenty reason for us to place our faith in President Hage and his plan to not only keep digging this country out of the political slump but to lead us at least on the path to prosperity.

Though the enemies of our progress and their lie- machines do not want you to hear it, there is optimism in most places you go. We have started to dream again, we starting to see a silver lining and a positive outlook on the ?nancial base of this country. Though they don’t want us to know it, the economy is not running out of gas, but just the opposite. The post-recession recovery is running behind an average recovery, and it is well below the trend line from the pace initially imagined possible. As we keep on surging, as we should, it is important to note that the Hage presidency has ended what most patriots call ‘looting of Namibia’.

The looting-era regulatory rampage has come to a screeching halt, with some regulations having been suspended so far. A notable dividend from these policies is the improbable comeback of some industries. After being declared a dead industry by our enemies of progress last year, construction is awake to some decent percentage of late, which means not just more jobs but more hiring in, but improvement in infrastructure is on the cards. That’s a microcosm of the Hage effect, whether you are honest enough to yourself to admit it or not. It looks promising, even to fear-mongers. You hear these same sentiments anecdotally from employers. Everywhere I go I ask business people, “How is a business?”

The answer is almost now always one of two words: “good” or “excellent.” Optimism abounds. One northern construction businessman told me recently, “It is like a light switch was ?icked on and our business is starting to improve.” Yes, we shouldn’t read too much into these short-term trends, and, yes, as I said earlier they can turn a dime. But the new bounce in the step of the economy should breed con?dence in our administration; it should give us con?dence over fear-mongers and their conniving tactics to derail all our attempts to progress. This by no means letting off the President and his administration quickly because as much as he is trying, there is still room for improvement.

What the anti-Hage and biased media want us to believe however is that he is not trying at all. And those that think he is trying, they believe without an ideological foundation he appears to be the proverbial hamster on a wheel, expending energy, giving good speeches, but not going anywhere. As for those of us who genuinely want President Hage to succeed, we do not only see and understand his ideological core, but we believe in it too. That foundation, in our view, will manipulate the swamp of politics within Swapo, policy and procedure.

President Hage is not that ‘give me something to sign’ type of president but a president that is seeking to get something done. And that in all is re?ective of a principled, focused, and courageous leader that inspires. The problem has been to those trying to paint an ugly picture of the President. The people I like to call anti-Hage and their never ending bait and switch. Not only are you never really arguing about what you think you’re arguing about with an anti-Hage, but they will also paint you as evil for continuing to support something they were backing ?ve minutes ago. New Era Publications Corporation and well-known journalist Toivo Ndjembela recently hinted something to that effect where he seemed to suggest that Namibians do not know what they want.

One minute they would support the cutting of government expenditure the next they are against it. Except not all Namibians, that’s the bait and switch of the anti-Hage. Along similar lines, condemning whatever the anti-Hage want you to condemn to try to win favour with them is pointless. Go ahead and support their call to for the government to suspend the construction of the proposed new parliament building. Then ?nally, if you say that’s a bridge too far, they’ll say, “Ha! Knew it! You’re just another one of those zombies being paid by Hage!” There is no win/win to be had.

There is no honest debate. There’s only a bait and switch designed to elevate their cause at everyone else’s expense. Let me also note that I am not against apologising when you’re wrong. I do it. It’s the right thing to do, except when you’re dealing with the anti-Hage and their ilk. Never apologise to them. But, what if you’re 100 percent wrong? Still, don’t apologise. Why? Because anti-Hages don’t view apologise like normal human beings. They view even the most sincere apology from a non-anti-Hage as a club they can use to beat you. If you get in the crosshairs of some mob of social justice warriors, you’re a fool if you think that they will let you be because you were big enough to admit you were wrong. To the contrary, they will demand that you be ? red, that you be scorned, that no real person could ever have anything to do with you again and they will point to your apology as absolute proof that they’re right. Remember how it went with Omusati Regional Governor Endjala?

Do you want intellectual honesty from anti-Hage? You’re not going to get it. Human decency? Fairness? Logic? A consideration of the societal or economic costs of their ideas? Do you even just want them to care whether the programs they propose work or not? You’re not getting any of those things from the vast majority of anti-Hages. All you’re going to get is an unwavering conviction that everything they want to do is good because it’s substantial along with baiting and switching until they get their way. Look at the way they interpret court rulings; when a ruling is in their favour then they are full of praises and when not they cry foul. And almost the same can be said with regards to news pieces in the newspapers when a story bashes the government, it is correct, and when it is negative on them or con?dent on government, then it is fake news.

To claim, in this climate, that any criticism of reports that are sometimes inaccurate or even entirely made up, is due to an anti-Hage growing consensus that muf?es discussion, is little short of gaslighting. Questioning a story against you has become a national obsession, as Namibian as kapana and marathon chicken.

Keep calm and carry on dog-whistling. Not only is their little ? re to justify all the smoke, but there is also now a deliberate confection on the part of politicians and journalists to make careers or attract attention. A fake controversy which, when exposed as lies or exaggeration, is rehashed as an attack on the government for trying to suppress free speech. And the difference between the anti-Hage and supporters of the administration regarding free speech is as dramatic as can be. One wonders what happened to the notion of “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” We all know that journalists sometimes attribute stories to unnamed sources that don’t exist.

The truth of the matter is there are some bad apples in recent times that have been making quotes from non-existent sources. But that speaks to the agenda of the media house itself. To the anti-Hage though, fake news is simply news about them that they don’t like or report that shows the government or the President in a positive light. As for honest mistakes, there have been some since Dr Hage became president. But we have to understand that by honest mistake usually means those that come as result of shoddy reporting. This is different from what we see in the Windhoek Observer on a regular which I consider a conspiracy to concoct make-believe facts to hurt the President. We know how it works when a news editor and his team try to make up or twist a story to ? t their agenda. But it’s highly deniable that too many journalists in this country don’t approve of anything about this President, it is the programmes of those that they work for. It’s true that for journalists, introspection is not a strong suit; circling the wagons is.

So they don’t spend a lot of time examining their biases and how those biases affect the way they report the stories. Just ask yourself who has such a vice-like grip on politics, the media and public debate? Certainly not those in government or those in support of the President. In a free country like ours, people need to have con?dence in the press; they need to know that reporters are honest brokers of information. They need to know that journalists are holding powerful people accountable and not settling scores as we see with those from the Windhoek Observer. So, it would help if journalists spend enough time examining their biases, maybe the government and the President would stop trying to delegitimise the mainstream media. And it would also help if reporters acknowledged what a lot of news consumers have already ?gured out: Too many journalists have abandoned the role of objective observers and taken on the role of anti-Hage activists.

And so, if the President has an obligation to be fair in his criticism of the media and not cavalier try with his government to censor it, then journalists also have a duty (as obvious as it may be) to be fair to the President no matter the agenda of the media house they work for. While it’s true that every president sometimes deserves a certain amount of the criticism heaped on him, the press needs to acknowledge that for too many reporters, the animosity of the media houses they work towards this president in?uences their journalism. Because the truth of the matter is that since Dr Hage took of?ce, the willingness of journalists to mix opinion with news reporting has grown. Opposition to President Hage and his policies is now seen as justifying any breach of the church-state divide between news and opinion.

Any efforts to rein in this bias is denounced as buckling under to President’s intimidation or trying to buy favours with the President even if those doing so are merely asking the press to play it straight rather than to signal their disgust and opposition to the President. So we expect the media to acknowledge where the President is doing right, as the new bounce in the step of the economy is con?rmed by many other indicators, almost all of which are currently pointing straight North. We should be informed about this and that there should be plenty reason for optimism not just to focus on fear-mongering to create panic and hopelessness.

As things stand, there is plenty of reason for us to place our faith in President Hage and his plan to not only take us forward but make sure we stay there. Our slow growth is the new normal, patience and hard work are more than just virtues.