The current nine-member Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC), under the chairmanship of Dr John Steytler, has failed to live up to expectations.
This, after the group members were touted as game-changers – in light of the failure of the preceding group to meet its objectives. PEAC is comprised of a group of experts in various fields and is appointed by the head of State, the aim of which is to provide advice to the Presidency on economic related matters.
Speaking to The Villager this week, SteytIer confessed that, “unfortunately PEAC, thus far did not meet all its required objectives,” citing the lack of research capacity as the main challenge experienced by the council.
Steytler Said, “Economic advice should be evidence-based and backed by empirical research and consultations. Unfortunately, all PEAC members are quite busy and do not personally have time to conduct in-depth research on economic matters.”
In close to three years that the current PEAC has been in existence, its main achievements thus far, according to its chairman, include the development of a code of conduct for PEAC members, the adoptions of a research database and the commission of a first piece of economic research – that the council members hope will be ready before the end of the year.
Steytler’s position on the matter was corroborated by Director of the National Planning Commission of Namibia (NPC), Tom Alweendo. The NPC is tasked with handling the secretarial duties of the Presidency.
Speaking to The Villager this week Alweendo did not mince his words, saying that the country expected more from the Council than what it delivered.
“I don’t think they’ve done much. We were expecting more from them. But if there were any hindrances that caused them to perform below expectation then they should tell us,” Alweendo said
Steytler did not beat around the bush on the matter and said, “That is correct, so far we did not do much in terms of providing tangible advice to the appointing authority. Some background preparation and research was however conducted, and we hope that before expiration of term of office of the President, we will be able to share our findings and recommendations with the President.”
He was quick to stress that, the focus of PEAC is provision of advice and not implementation of Government programs, as often understood by some members of the public.
According to Alweendo, the main reason behind the establishment of PEAC was to advise the Presidency on what should be done in order to advancing the country economically. Meaning they had to analyse existing policies and come up with ways in which they could be turned around in order to yield better results, or to make recommendations on new ways in which the country can flourish economically.
The NPC director cherishes the idea of having a Council outside of government that look into and analyse economic matters with a different viewpoint from that of government insiders, many of whom have become part of the problem.
Be that as it may, the perpetual failure of the so called PEAC to yield the desired outcome is now raising questions regarding the relevance of the formula being applied by both members of council and the appointing authority.
President Hifikepunye Pohamba appointed the current members of PEAC in 2011. The team comprises of Koos Brandt (Bank Windhoek Executive), Ebson Uanguta (BoN Deputy Governor), Monica Kalondo (Stimulus Managing Director), Professor Osmund Mwandemele (University of Namibia Vice Chancellor), Raimar von Hase (Karakul Board of Namibia), Herbert Jauch (labour consultant), Dr Audrin Mathe (New Era Publications) and Seretta Lombard (PricewaterHouseCoopers).
Contacted for additional comment, Kalondo referred all questions to the Steytler.
Said Kalondo, “I don’t thing I am the right person to speak on behalf of the council. The right person will be the chairperson Dr John Steytler.”
With rive reports of Kalondo said to be headed for State House, as first lady, in the event of a Swapo victory, the question as to how long she intended to serve on PEAC was inevitable.
“Yes at the moment I am still a member of the council, but I will only serve President Pohamba; not the next President,” she replied with a glint of humour.
The establishment of PEAC is a Vision 2030 charged undertaking. The maiden council was commissioned during the Founding President, Dr Sam Nujoma’s era. It comprised of more than 60 members and was divided into committees. When Pohamba took over, he trimmed the second council to 30 people among them, the late Harold Pupkewitz, Advocate Vekuii Rukoro, Paul Smit, Theo Mberirua and Kalondo in 2006.
Analyst at the time confirmed to media reports that PEAC at that time did not do much to advise the President on how to create jobs; develop the economy; and on the impact of the outside economic performance on Namibia.
At the time of the current PEAC’s announcement, media reports quoted Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) director, Graham Hopwood, questioning the ability of PEAC in making an impact.
“I really do not think PEAC will change much. I also do not understand the appointments made which do not seem to have the right representation from the private sector,” Hopwood reportedly said, adding, “currently, mining is the biggest contributor to the economy and we do not have the representation from the sector. I also do not think we need to have representation from the SOEs who are, in any case, underperforming being part of that group.”
“I would rather suggest the president should resort to a totally different grouping of economists who would advise him,” Hopwood was quoted then by this newspaper.