Presidential advisor on economic matters, John Steytler has cautioned critics against quickly labeling the presidential flag-ship economic blue-print, Harambee Prosperity Plan as a white elephant saying that it is still very alive.
As the Harambee Plan enters its second year, Steytler admitted that a rocky economic environment had non-the-less dealt a blow to implementation resulting in the slow down and halting of certain of its envisaged programs last year.
“I do not subscribe to the views of those critics. The Harambee Prosperity Plan is still one of the most important programs of the government, and in fact it has been incorporated in the performance agreements of ministers and also ministries and has been cascaded to levels where it should be implemented," he said.
By the end of March, the four year Harambee plan would have reached its two-year anniversary and Steytler said government will take stock of achievements and setbacks to re-strategise and move on.
“So we track the performance of the Harambee Prosperity Plan not only on the regular updates that we give but also on a quarterly basis. So I think the Harambee Plan is still alive and well and in some areas we have made good progress. We have given feedback in those areas where we made progress,” he said.
However, the food bank initiative is close to the hearts of the low-income level ordinary Namibians but the project has not seen the light of the day in the country’s regions.
To the embarrassment of government, the project began experiencing plunder and corruption last year as people who were not eligible to hand-outs were also reportedly stealing from it.
This is in spite of the fact that nearly N$34.5 million was coughed out on food parcels that were handed out in the Khomas Region between the months April and October 2017.
Figures made available by the poverty eradication and social welfare ministry also show that another N$2.7 million has been paid to street committee allowances inclusive of an estimated N$350 000 for consultants that aided the project.
Steytler said, “We have also acknowledged where progress has been slowed. But this is with planning, it’s a four-year plan. Not all the activities will be on target as they should be. There are some activities that may be behind target for various reasons. And there could also be milestones that are ahead of target, let’s also not forget that.”
Under the governance pillar of the plan, most of the activities programed, government is doing fairly well on them, Steytler said.
“However if you look at the second pillar which is economic advancement, there we have been challenged and it’s no secret that we have gone through a very difficult economic period. So we are slightly behind some of the economic targets."
"Under the social progression pillar’s sub-pillars, government is on target with most of the set goals while in vocational education and training it has exceeded targets," said Steytler.
Steytler thus said it’s a mix of performance divided into progress and setbacks.
“I think the key principle of Harambee is that, to correctly state, it’s not a government but national plan and we need the buy-in not only of the private sector but also other players. What we see is that despite the difficult period, private sector has also come to support the implementation of the Harambee Prosperity Plan,” said the presidential advisor.
The chamber of mines is also holding hands with the plan in trying to promote housing construction for mine workers, he added.
Said Steytler,“If you ask them they will be able to give you figures on how they have progressed with the provision of housing.”
The banking sector has also been in the forefront of directing corporate social responsibility initiative under the Harambee banner.
Figures from Standard Bank place those living in shack-settlements country-wide at an estimated 500 000 Namibians.
To date, Standard Bank has raised and handed over a total of N$1.4 million to the Shack Dwellers Federation which culminated in the construction of 44 new brick houses for the no and low income residents of Rehoboth in 2016.
According to the bank’s communications officer Surihe Gaomas-Guchu, with a fund increase of 43% year-on-year, the bank handed over N$2 million to the Federation in 2017 via the Buy-a-Brick initiative to build a total of 54 new houses in Otjinene (Omaheke Region), Berseba (//Karas Region), Havana and Okahandja Park (Khomas Region).
“As a responsible corporate citizen, Standard Bank strives to be relevant in the communities in which it operates and that the Bank contributes locally towards their social and economic upliftment. The Bank’s CSI initiatives are therefore reflective of national developmental goals having maximum impact where it is needed the most,” she says.
On the other hand, bureaucracy continues to stall progress in the process of company registration and Namibia still ranks poorly as far as the time taken and documents needed to register business registrations is concerned.
This is in spite of the fact that Harambee envisages a smooth and non-time wasting business registration procedure as well as the ease of doing business.
“That is one of the areas where progress has not been good as it should have been. The approach so far has been really to focus on legal and legislative frameworks and those will enable us now to move faster. One of the legal things we have to do, we realised that one way to ease up the business environment is if we have an independent body outside the ministry which can also assist with business registration,” he said.
Government has nevertheless come up with the Business Intellectual Property Authority (BIPA) and the Single Window initiative to help in that regard although no empirical research has been done to see if both have brought considerably great changes to the situation.
“We expect BIPA to perform. We have established it and this year we want to see it fulfilling its mandate. If resources were not constrained we could have moved faster with the Single Window project, but it will make it much easier for people to do business in Namibia,” said Steytler.