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Govt sleeping on the job: Analyst

Mon, 1 February 2016 03:35
by Charmaine Ngatjiheue
News Flash

Analysts have come down heavily on the President Hage Geingobled administration for being complacent in pushing for accountability in the civil service, pushing for efficiency and also creating genuine mechanisms which can combat the scourge of poverty.

Top amongst analysts’ concerns is the failure to date by the Geingob administration to come up with pro- poor fiscal policies, aligning the taxation regime to target the rich more and the administration’s appetite for employing advisors that has the potential to balloon the Government’s wage bill.

The criticism comes hot on the heels of the proposal by Government to come up with a sort of tax called Solidarity Tax meant to assist the poor, but generated from the working class.

Most of the political and economic analysts who spoke to The Villager believe that this year, the Geingob administration needs to come out of its comfort zone and walk the talk instead of making policies which are never implemented.

Senior Adviser and Director Emeritus of The Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, a research institute based in New York which works in tandem with United Nations partners across the globe, Professor Henning Melber believes the Geingob administration needs to be closer to reality and improve drastically in implementing policies, and also improve on a culture of accountability.

“Much stress was in the past laid on accountability, transparency and efficiency, and poverty reduction remained the declared top priority. But at the same time, the words were followed by little action and implementation,” Melber said.

“I think the pressure to deliver will increase. The expansion of the top levels of government (including the A-team) also added unforeseen fiscal pressure on the current expenditure side”, he noted Melber, a former Director of the Namibia Economic Policy Research Unit (NEPRU) and an established author, also does not have kind words so far for the Government for not being able to come up with tangible remedies which redress skewed wealth distribution.

“The redistribution of wealth has not been pursued rigorously enough. The tax policy has not been pro- poor, rather pro-rich. The old and new elites should be taxed much higher to generate revenue spent on pro-poor infrastructure and empowerment in both the urban and rural settings,” he reasoned.

“Money will be scarcer soon, with declining revenues from the Southern African Customs Union, and the megaprojects might not be the best investment. If government thinks differently, then its decisions should be based on evidence shared with the public to reduce doubts that these are projects which benefit middlemen (and women), but not the common people”, Melber charged.

He further argued that “political office-bearers should be fully-taxed, assets comprehensively declared and a political culture of moral responsibility towards the less well-off deliberately cultivated. While this is not enough for a comprehensive turnaround, it would send the much-needed ethical signals that those claiming to act in the interest of the people indeed do so (and not only in their interest).”

Corroborating the criticism was SME Compete’s Managing Director Danny Meyer, who opined that the introduction of a performance monitoring mechanism for Cabinet ministers might be seen as no more than a ploy to gain political kudos.

“Herein lies the problem. Officialdom and the way public servants go about their duties is not always aligned to the aspirations and targeted results as set by their bosses, the policymakers. Cabinet discusses, decides and decrees, but officialdom is not convinced and resultantly might not buy in,” Meyer said.

“So, it is not surprising then that fingers get pointed when things go wrong, or if bureaucracy is believed to be stifling development like when hospitals don’t have blankets, schools insufficient classrooms to accommodate learners, queues at public offices get longer to the annoyance of the public and State-owned Enterprises (SOEs) keep seeking financial bailouts”, he added.

“Are civil servants really the stumbling block and the reason for under-performance by Government ministries and departments, or could it be that the politicians in the form of ministers and their deputies are operating at one level, and officialdom on another? Costly studies could be undertaken to determine causes, but a top-down approach might be a swifter way to correct system and policy application wrongs”, he stressed.

Adding his voice, the Director of the Institute of Public Policy and Research (IPPR) Graham Hopwood said Government this year should not only stick to the set plans, but also implement them.

“This year’s budget will be important as it needs to respond to Namibia’s specific problems, such as low foreign reserves and the drought, while also ensuring fiscal discipline. The assessment and evaluation of past government spending needs to improve to ensure better results from expenditure,” he noted.

He said more transparency is needed, and Government should think about joining the Open Government Partnership “and introduce polices on access to information and open data, which is bound to improve accountability and efficiency.”

The University of Science and Technology (NUST)’s Deputy Vice- Chancellor, Dr. Andrew Niikondo said 2016 is a totally different year as there are no elections similar to the two preceding years.

“First, it was the general elections in 2014, and then we had the local and regional authority elections in 2015. However, this year the focus is on implementation of the set proposals. What was done in 2015 was to pass laws and set up new policies, and they are all peculiar,” he said.

He added that currently, there is a debate on the Local Authorities’ Amendment Bill, where it stated that it gives the minister more powers.

“This year, there is a democratic process taking place, and people are freely allowed to speak their minds. This year, challenges will be dealt with using different strategies,” he added. business@thevillager.