They both promised that compared to its predecessors, this plan will be different. The main reason for its difference is that this plan only bites off what it is able to chew, they said. Thus, the plan contains only a few but overarching goals which are manageable, measurable and therefore (hopefully) achievable.
NDP3, on the contrary, was burdened with 21 objectives which confused and overwhelmed policymakers such that they, in most cases, simply threw up their hands in despair and pulled out their hair. As for NDP4, we were told last week that its objectives are high and sustainable (economic) growth, job creation and reducing the stubbornly high income inequality.
On the face of it, these objectives do not appear to be obnoxious and are, as a matter of fact, noble. It is in translating the grand objectives to give the citizens a quality life that the previous three Plans failed to come up the mass. We must commend the director general for realising that one does not need to blot one’s copybook with 21 objectives in order to make a difference. Good start there! The three overarching objectives, we are told, will be driven by tourism, manufacturing, agriculture and logistics.
The idea of the State taking such prominent part in planning for and directing the economy has its roots in the Gosplan (State Planning Commission) of that autocrat and counter-revolutionary Joseph Stalin, of erstwhile Soviet Union. It was on the back of plans produced by terrified Gosplan bureaucrats that rural Soviet Union was culled of the bamboozled peasantry for the slave-like nascent factories ordered by CCPR [the communist party]. We still need to see an Oliver Twist-like version of Moscow of those times.
But since those times, the idea of state participation in the economic life and fortunes of countries have become de rigueur. The only difference is the degree of such involvement. And for this reason, “the invisible hand of Adam Smith” is constrained to a lesser or greater degree. In our own case, it is Article 98 dealing with the “Principles of the Economic Order” which provides the constitutional cover for explicit state intervention in the economy. The National Planning Commission (NPC), which is also a creature of the Constitution (Article 129), is intended to be the vehicle for state direction of development planning. In terms of Article129 (1), the National Planning Commission’s... “task shall be to plan the priorities and direction of national development”. In terms of the same Article, the Director General of the National Planning Commission is” the principal adviser to the President in regard to all matters pertaining to economic planning...”
In planning the priorities and direction of national development as enjoined by Article 129, the state will be mindful of the potential contribution of the private sector and the possibilities for synergies between the public and the private sectors. It is also self-evident that private sector is profit driven and that an absence of a “fair” reward for investment will not only make the private sector risk averse but will also put dampers on other forms of risk taking like research and development, for example.
Of course, there is always the option of state capitalism as voraciously pursued by China. But to expect the sectors identified in NDP 4, as drivers and to obtain the objectives outlined, the State possesses neither the skills nor the capital to realise the set goals by 2017. The ultimate objective of the actions of government must be the increased welfare of the citizenry.
During the plan period, government hopes to create close to 100 000 jobs and reduce unemployment to 45 percent – still, a very high level of unemployment. Part of this five-year plan is to increase Grade 10 pass rate from present 18 to 25 percent. It is sobering that in this plan, government realise that education will be a key enabler. For it is no secret that in most comparisons with our regional peers, our education performance is not something to write home about. But even more critically, there is a need for a culture change so that the young deem it profitable to go out and create their own jobs – earning money and creating jobs for others at the same time.
For us to realise the impact of NDP4, its objectives must be measurable. And for this very purpose, the director general and his time must be required to submit periodic reports on the implementation of the plan and challenges strewn in its way. It is no good to tell us come 2017 that the only a third of our grand dreams were achieved because of a myriad of challenges.
Critically too, government’s annual budget and NDP4 must speak the same language. That is to say that for the plan period, the budget must provide the necessary and adequate funding for the plan objectives to be achieved, failing which the copies of the plan documents may as well be used for a bonfire during next year’s winter.
We must therefore insist on more rigorous discipline in Plan implementation than we have come to accept from government. There needs to be clear responsibilities with consequences for failing to deliver or account. The government’s grand plan – Vision 2030 of creating full employment and prosperity for all 4 million Namibians (then) is only 18 years away. I plan, at individual level, to live to experience this.
A bad plan is better than none and we therefore take NDP4 as our compass to navigate the development trajectory of our country for the next five years. Godspeed!