The Fifth National Development Plan can smoothly work out if government gets out of the way and unleash the full capacity of the private sector to carry out majority of the capital projects for economic growth and poverty eradication, analyst Rowland Brown has said.
Speaking at a recent breakfast meeting on the opportunities and challenges in the latest national development blue print, Brown came to a head on collision with the National Planning Commission Minister Tom Alweendo when he suggested that government has always been impeding full private sector involvement to get things done.
“In many instances it is not even a case that you need government assistance or anything like that to become involved. You actually have to jump through certain hoops and loops that make it very difﬁcult to become involved. Those in many instances are set either by government policy or local authorities (the municipal),” said the analyst.
He said that NDP5’s weakness is in the failure to rope in the private sector without these red tapes and the over towering presence of government involvement. “That’s in my mind where the plan is weak, it needs a lot of buy-in from private sector and private individuals but it does not unleash the capacity of those individuals to do that. So if you take something like low-costhousing, addressing that in Namibia isn’t a major issue.
It’s only a major issue if we make the entirety of it the responsibility of government. If you can ﬁnd a way to unleash the private sector, companies and individuals to address that problem, it becomes a problem that is not insurmountable by any means. That’s where we need to focus our efforts more,” he said.
While he agreed that there are plenty of opportunities in the NDP5 for investment, Brown said investors will look for a commercial return from certain segments of the project which comprises the housing space, energy, ports, some of the operational companies around rail as well as low-cost housing.
However, Alweendo begged to differ with Brown highlighting that while they expect a return on investment, some elements in the private sector were hesitant to invest while at the same time government was not entirely eclipsing private sector buying.
“Yes I know there must a reason for the return on their investment but I think some of the private sectors are hesitant. We can disagree on that but I really think it’s not always true that government has got so much that makes it impossible for private sector to step in,” he said.
Some experts feel that the onus is on government to completely do away with the New Equitable Economic Framework to allow for a ﬂ ow of foreign investment. Speaking on the NDP5 and the opportunities as well as the role of the banking sector in the plan’s implementation, Bank Windhoek Managing Director Baronice Hans said PPPs should now be one of the most echoed watch-words.
“Public Private Partnerships should become another buzzword. Banks like us have a big role to play and have been playing quite a substantial role. If you look at the performance of the banking sector, the correlation of its performance with economic growth has deﬁnitely been high,” she said. However, some leading experts who spoke with The Villager indicated that NDP5’s inception has come at a time when NDP4 had not as yet been thoroughly examined to ﬁnd out which areas have been achieved, vice-versa and what the lessons are.
“It’s just another sensation which will not amount to anything. We have not held any consultations to ﬁnd out which lessons can we learn to avoid doing the same mistakes, I have not heard of any such consultation. It shows that we are not serious with what we do,” said one analyst speaking on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, Alweendo said that this time the implementation phase of the national project would be different in that ministerial plans would be aligned to it to do away with confusion, while private sector involvement would be increased through continued mutual discussions.