Good afternoon to you all and welcome to this press conference. I would like to begin by noting that I have made it clear on many occasions that I would hold regular press conferences. As President Elect I promised to have three press conferences, and as you are all aware, I kept my promise. On the 24th of November, the announcement was made that a press conference would be scheduled during the second week of December reflecting on the year that was.
As a leader, I am committed to transparency and accountability. One can only be held accountable for the promises made. My assessment of the year that was should, therefore, be viewed against the backdrop of the pronouncements that I have made as Presidential candidate during the 2014 Presidential and National Assembly Elections and subsequently as President of Namibia since the 21st of March 2015. I would like to reflect on the following pertinent pronouncements made during the course of the year:
Firstly, building a strong, unified and inclusive Namibian House;
Secondly, promoting transparency to manage conflict of interest;
Thirdly, promoting accountability to ensure improved service delivery;
Fourthly, declaring all-out war on poverty and inequality;
Fifthly, regularly engaging with communities through town hall meetings; and
Sixthly, streamlining cabinet decision making processes
1. BUILDING A STRONG UNIFIED AND INCLUSIVE NAMIBIAN HOUSE Before starting to implement any plan, it is important to develop a shared Vision, to ensure that all are pulling in the same direction. Mahatma Gandhi once cautioned, that “one can go fast, but in the wrong direction” This is not what we want for Namibia. We would like to go fast, but fast in the right direction. We can only go fast in the right direction, if there is a shared Vision and teamwork.
I have often said; “Hage alone cannot deliver on the prosperity promise”. It must be a collaborative effort. Therefore, the top priority during the past nine months was to rally the Namibian people behind the concept of a strong unified Namibian House where no one should feel left out. This was done through speeches, press conferences and statements, as well as personal outreach to all via extensive town hall meetings and social media platforms.
Namibians from all walks of life have positively responded to the call to unite and defeat poverty. There’s a newly invigorated spirit amongst the Namibian people, A Nation rejuvenated. Developing a shared Vision was an important precondition to developing a robust and implementable plan that speaks to the aspirations of all. In other words, the time has come to propose an executable plan that brings us closer to the prosperity promise. Today, some of the emerging elements of that envisaged plan will be made known.
2. PROMOTING TRANSPARENCY I noted in my State of the Nation Address that one important way to prevent undue benefits accruing to Public Officials would be to prevent conflict of interest through the disclosure of assets. In this regard, I have decided to lead by example and promised on that occasion to publicly declare my personal assets.
Not only, did I keep to my promise, but the First Lady also publicly disclosed her assets, despite the fact that there was no legal obligation for her to do so. At the same occasion I also released my medical health reports for public scrutiny. These declarations of interest have cascaded to all civil servants. In this regard, the Right Honourable Prime Minister has set into motion the amendment of Regulation 11 under the Public Service Act of 1995 to compel civil servants to declare private interests and engagement in remunerative work outside the civil service.
Today all civil servants are required to declare private interests and obtain explicit permission to engage in work outside the public service. I would like to reiterate that the declaration of war on poverty is matched by the declaration of war against corruption. Civil servants, in particular our Permanent Secretaries will have to make up their minds if they want to be businessmen/women or civil servants. You cannot have your bread buttered on both sides. This is a matter that enjoys the attention of the Right Honourable Prime Minister.
3. PROMOTING ACCOUNTABILITY One of the key promises I have made - was to promote accountability by introducing performance agreements at the highest level. The process towards being truly accountable started off with the requirement for all Ministers and Deputy Ministers to issue Ministerial Declarations of Intent that constitute their promise to the public.
Since it is their promise to the public on delivery, I expect that the public will use opportunities at their disposal to keep Ministers accountable. This was followed up with the signing of performance contracts between Ministers and I. It gives me great pleasure to note that all Ministers have signed their performance contracts and are hard at work to ensure that they deliver on these contracts. Performance contracts is a new concept for all Ministers, and I urge all of us to give them a fair chance to prove themselves.
4. DECLARATION OF WAR AGAINST POVERTY AND ASSOCIATED INEQUALITY Perhaps the most important pronouncement made was the declaration of all-out war on poverty and in turn on inequality during my inaugural speech. Many sceptics have countered that poverty can never be eradicated, because even the Holy Bible suggests, “the poor will always be with us”. Surprisingly, when the World came together in New York in September this year, the most important resolution taken was to eradicate, not reduce, poverty by 2030. It is clear that poverty cannot be eradicated overnight.
As a first step we will focus on significant reduction of poverty, before 6 ultimately eradicating it by 2025 in Namibia. We will fail if we only alleviate poverty by a measure. We must be bold and ambitious in our targets, when it comes to the plight of the poor. Even if we half the poverty rate it will not be enough. Reducing the poverty rate to single digit will also not suffice. We are not saying that every Namibian will be a millionaire. No. We are talking about human decay. So what has been achieved since declaring war on poverty and inequality? Five important things are worth mentioning.
Firstly, the first significant step was to increase the old age social grant by 66.7 per cent from N$600 per month, to N$1,000 per month. During the recently concluded town hall meetings, senior citizens expressed their appreciation regarding the increase. Confirming that it will go a long way in arresting household poverty including childhood poverty.
Secondly, we have established a Ministry responsible for Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare. This Ministry is now fully operational and ready to spear head the war against poverty. In addition, the Ministry has been placed in the Presidency to backstop it properly at the highest level.
Thirdly, as promised during my State of the Nation address, we successfully concluded a national dialogue on wealth redistribution and poverty eradication. A number of proposals, on how poverty could be eliminated were put forward during this national conference.
Fourthly, the Ministry is now in the advanced stages of finalising the national blueprint on poverty eradication. This blueprint recognises that poverty is a multidimensional program, requiring significant and proactive approaches to overcome it. This will include social and economic interventions.
Fifthly, plans are at an advanced stage to open the first Windhoek based food bank by mid-2016. This will go a long way in arresting rampant hunger that is a result of poverty in urbanized centres.
5. ECONOMIC TRANSFORMATION With regard to transformation of the Namibian economy, especially transformation of ownership of the assets of production, as well as the promotion of local businesses, I have 8 directed that the Public Procurement Bill be tabled in Parliament as soon as possible and signed into law.
The Public Procurement Bill was finalised and has been signed into law. The new Public Procurement Act will not only promote transparency in Government procurement but also stimulates the domestic business sector, especially SMEs.
The Prime Minister has finalised the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework and the next step of drafting a legal framework has commenced. It is through procurement that corruption takes place. Hence the new act.
The Retail Charter is also at an advanced stage of completion and will be tabled before Parliament in early 2016.
6. LAND SERVICING AND HOUSING With regard to urban land delivery and affordable housing, the following important developments have happened during 2015.
Firstly, Government has undertaken and commenced upon a massive urban land-servicing programme on a pilot basis, namely, in Windhoek, Walvisbay and Oshakati.
Secondly, the mass housing programme was put on hold to investigate suspected irregularities associated with it. It is the intent of Government to resume the mass-housing programme pending satisfactory resolution of some irregularities.
Thirdly, the Regional Councils Act and the Local Authorities Act have been amended to prohibit the sale of land to and ownership to foreign nationals.
Fourthly, Government will subsidize the servicing of land to the local authorities that receive large influxes of citizens due to domestic migration.
7. COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENTS Some thought that when the idea of town hall meetings was first floated to bring Government closer to the people that it was just on empty rhetoric. Action speaks louder than words. I went to all 14 regions. As noted earlier, there are more schools; there are more clinics and there is more road infrastructure in all parts of Namibia. The Namibian people are seeing light at the end of the tunnel and are rightfully demanding more. That is why I repeatedly say that the day our people stop complaining, is the day that I will become worried.
8. STREAMLINING CABINET DECISIONS To improve on the effectiveness of Cabinet, I have introduced two separate Cabinet meetings one which is chaired by the President and another one by the Prime Minister. As noted before, the meeting chaired by the Prime Minister is what can be termed as a deliberative meeting at which issues are extensively discussed and argued before they are submitted in the form of proposals for decision making to the substantive cabinet meeting chaired by the President. So far this arrangement is paying off, as is reflected in the following summary statistics: Since April 2015, Cabinet has held 16 Deliberative meetings, and 16 Decision-making meetings. The 16th and last Decision making meeting for the year took place on the 8 th December 2015.
Some of the major policy initiatives considered and approved by Cabinet include the following: a) Short, Medium, Long-term interventions for Drought Relief in the Country; b) Negotiations with the Recognized Trade Unions on the Improvement of Salaries and Benefits of civil servants for the next three Financial Years namely; -Establishment of the Namibian Industrial Development Agency (NIDA); - Working Methodology for Cabinet Meetings; - Incorporation of the 2014 SWAPO Party Election Manifesto into the Strategic Plans of the Offices/Ministries/Agencies; - Immediate Interventions to contain Foot-and-Mouth Disease in Ohangwena and Oshikoto Regions; and - Approval, in principle, for the Introduction of Amendments to the State-owned Enterprises Governance Council Act of 2006 to provide for the assignment of the functions of the State-owned Enterprise Governance Council to the Minister responsible for Public Enterprises.
9. TEAM WORK What was achieved over the past nine months reflects the collective effort and commitment of Government. I would like to in particular commend the efforts of the top four in Government, namely, the President, the Vice President, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of my entire Cabinet. As you are aware, Cabinet Ministers were selected and allocated to various ministries based on their qualifications and level of expertise, after thorough analysis of their Curriculum Vitae, which I had requested. These appointments have motivated the people as well as the ministries themselves. Cabinet members are on time for meetings and react to action letters with a sense of urgency. We understand that this renewed culture has started to trickle down into various offices and Agencies. I am proud of my team.
10. WAY FORWARD Some have accused us of only talking and not implementing. Transformation is a process that first and foremost requires the adoption of a shared strategic vision that speaks to the aspirations of all. A period of planning is thereafter required to design suitable, coordinated and executable interventions that can respond to the complex problems we face and bring us closer to the prosperity promise. We have listened carefully to the most pressing issues that the Namibian people are facing on a daily basis and this process of planning has been widely informed through the just concluded regional town hall meetings. Pertinent issues raised include drought and water crisis, potential electricity crisis, land delivery and housing, lack of funds for entrepreneurial activity, weak service delivery at local level and many others. These are all factored into our plans.
The importance of planning as a precondition to accelerated implementation cannot be over emphasized. As Benjamin franklin said: “if we fail to plan we plan to fail”. After all, who would build a house without a blueprint? It is with this view that, we are in an advance stage of preparing an acceleration plan or a targeted impact plan. This plan will span the period 2016/17 to 2020/21 and will come in to effect on the first of April 2016. The purpose of this plan will be to complement our efforts, have high and immediate impact and bring us closer to the prosperity mandate. The broad features of the proposed plan are as follows.
The proposed name of the plan is “Harambee Towards Prosperity for All”. Prosperity is our key promise. We can only move towards prosperity, if we pull together as a united team in the same direction; therefore “Harambee”. The Swahili word Harambee has been selected, because it resonates well with the Namibian public. It was chosen as a word that all Namibians speaking different languages could get behind and is consistent with the ideal of “no one should feel left out”. It is an acceleration plan aimed at significantly reducing poverty levels, reducing inequalities and uplifting the living standards of all Namibians.
The plan will not replace NDP4. It complements NDP4 and other developmental plans. Developing a targeted, high impact plan, alongside existing national plans is not unusual or unique. To ensure flexibility and agility, countries around the world have from time to time, needed an additional push in the form of a complementary plan. It became more prominent during the recent global economic crisis, where almost all economies did some additional tweaking, despite having long-term plans. At this initial stage the plan will be build on four pillars. Under each of the pillars, three to five critical success factors will be addressed. Currently, a total of sixteen critical success factors have been identified and proposed.
The four proposed pillars are:
Effective Governance and Service Delivery;
Economic Development ;and
Under the Social Development pillar the following five issues will be addressed:
arresting hunger poverty;
accelerating servicing of urban land and delivery of affordable houses;
addressing the poor sanitation situation in the country;
reducing infant and maternal mortality; and
expediting the development of vocational skills.
With regard to arresting hunger poverty, the following key actions will be implemented:
One of the key reasons for hunger in Namibia is the increased frequency of natural shocks, such as drought. Therefore, immediate life saving assistance, such as food distribution and water provision to affected households will continue. We will also strengthen the delivery of Government subsidised farming implements to fight rural hunger.
To arrest urban hunger, the establishment of food banks will be rolled out countrywide. The first food bank will be commissioned in Windhoek by the middle of next year.
The Basic Income Grant [BIG] will be revised and linked to the activities of the food bank. Other conditions may be attached to BIG, thereby making it a conditional Basic Income Grant.
The old age pension will be increased to N$1,200 per month by 2017 and to N$1,300 by 2018. On servicing of urban land and provision of affordable housing the following measures are planned for implementation:
The implementation of the massive urban land delivery program, to cover all regions by 2019;
The resumption of the mass housing program;
Starting next year, introduction of subsidies for land servicing towards deserving local authorities;
Leveraging GIPF funding to develop housing complexes for cohorts of government employees such as uniformed personnel, medical personnel and teachers; and With regard to the reduction of infant and maternal mortality, one of the key strategies will be to partner with friendly Nations to provide medical experts in different areas, while efforts to develop local skills through our medical school will continue.
The pillar Effective Governance and Service Delivery, will tackle the three crucial issues:
Performance management; and
Enhanced service delivery.
The drive to promote accountability, performance management and enhance service delivery has already commenced. Now that all Ministers have signed performance contracts, the next step will be to report on quarterly basis, on agreed upon targets.
The Economic Development pillar will address the following key priorities:
safeguarding our economic sovereignty;
increase the drive towards economic transformation [both production and ownership structure];
addressing youth unemployment and
promoting economic competitiveness.
The final pillar of infrastructure development will provide solutions to the following:
how to fix the looming energy supply deficit;
how to solve the on-going water supply shortages;
How to upgrade our transport infrastructure, in particular our ailing rail system and dilapidated runways at our airports; and
how to leverage ICT for developmental purposes. With regard to the looming electricity supply deficit, the approach of Government is to embrace a mix of energy solutions.
These include, non-renewables and renewables such as solar and wind energy. Focus will also be on reform of the electricity sector 19 to make it attractive for the private sector to invest in provision of energy solutions. With regard to water supply shortages the following key strategies will be pursued:
Implementation of the national water resources monitoring system;
In the north, we will develop infrastructure to fully utilize the newly discovered deep groundwater resources;
In the central area, focus will be on implementation of the Windhoek Managed Aquifer Recharge concept;
At our coastal area, we will develop more desalination capacity in conjunction with use of using renewable energy (solar, wind); and
We will explore the feasibility of bringing industrial sites closer to water resources. Water intense industries ideally should be located away from the central region and close to the perennial rivers.
This would also reduce the influx of settlers from those areas. The upgrade of our transport system will be aimed at ensuring that we maintain our competitiveness from a transport and logistics infrastructure perspective and to bringing Namibia closer to the vision of becoming the gateway for SADC. In this 20 regard during the Harambee period, the following key activities will be undertaken:
Completion of the deepening and expansion of the Port of Walvis Bay, to ensure that Walvis Bay becomes the preferred port along the west coast of Africa;
Upgrading of critical sections of our railway to SADC standard, to be able to transport heavy freight and lessen the damage to our roads, while at the same time lead to safer conditions for ordinary road users;
Introduction of dual carriages in some parts of our road networks, including those between Windhoek and Okahandja, Windhoek and the International Airport as well as Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. Other critical roads will also be upgraded to bitumen standard.
Introduction of commuter trains within the Windhoek district and between Windhoek and Rehoboth, Windhoek and Okahandja and Windhoek and the airport.
Upgrade of Hosea Kutako International airport and runways countrywide. To ensure a high success rate, the plan will be integrated into the next budget. 21 To ensure consistency in efforts and avoid duplication, monitoring of the plan will be integrated into existing monitoring and evaluation mechanisms at the National Planning Commission and the Office of Prime Minister.
Details of the plan will be fleshed out in a consultative manner, during the next two months. The final plan will be presented to Cabinet for approval, before it is launched during the next State of the Nation Address. I thank you for your attention.