It is about living within existing means and environment; it is not about always cutting back and does include the need to take well-considered risks for a better future while understanding downsides. Austerity in dictionary terms is about being morally strict, stern and severely simple!
Politicians worldwide have perverted this word to mean states need to stop spending even on matters promising future benefit and taking away from populations their earned rights, pensions, jobs and freedom to protest to correct their past failures. The word has been bastardised to keep those incompetents who failed to be austere and created chaos to retain their power and money!
Although in Namibia the “austere” word remains of the periphery of our lexicon, its “synonym”, “More for Less”, our budgetary motto, is scrawled on the graffiti wall of political doublespeak but without any sign of physical action to prevent the approaching financial cliff!
Some facts that identify problems around the corner that we are currently hiding from. A public service of 80 000, but including SOEs and others probably around 120 000, gives a ratio of about 1 public servant per 20 citizens. A ridiculous level and 5 times higher than even Tanzania which once was the cheerleader in this area.
Equally 50% unemployment, N$5 billion a year subsidising SOE economic stupidity as state assets fall into disrepair or given to political thieves! And do not forget N$16 billion TIPEEG, its toilets and Chinese buildings as the current national joke. And the new headline that Cabinet is going to employ more civil servants. More good money thrown after the bad!
Basics. Public employees are funded by tax from a productive private sector. Productive jobs are a consequence of useful infrastructure and output that consumers want to buy. Growth is the result of more people wanting to buy things. Non-trade jobs result from local (or cooperative) region manufacture. South and East Africa (essentially Sadc plus EAU) have 500 million people consuming about US$15000 p.a. of imported goods in return for export of primary products (same population as the EU!) We act as an economic slave of the EU.
Most important is that at least half of the population (1 million in Namibia) are essentially excluded as non-cash societies from the economic world. This despite much hailed job creation and anti-poverty expenditure. Present policies are complete failures and only make more IRBs and advance BEE (Black Economic Enrichment).
Jackie Asheeke’s article (The Namibian, October 16), as one from the front line and suffered Toby’s Joke, deserves close examination. BEE, turnarounds, community projects all show how our culture at leadership level wants money, not work!
Budgets show intent and open critical doors. We have to change our lexicon to make jobs. De-engineering, reverse marketing and bottom-up development. We must ask why we spend N$1.9 billion for 80 000 public servants medical aid while we refuse N$2 billion a year on BIG to capitalise the talents of our wasted human talent sitting outside the cash economy.
Yes BIG must come and BEE must go! Our new leader must support this. Or explain why not! Practical “Austerity” is “More for Less”, support Namibian creativity.