To embark on the daunting task of getting Namibians off the streets of our cities and towns, the Namibian government came up with an ambitious plan. Please bear with me here because this is a long name – the Targeted Intervention Programme for Employment and Economic Growth (TIPEEG) was slated to be the panacea that would address Namibia’s unemployment woes – with a figure estimated at 50 percent.
The price tag was an approximate N$14,7 billion over a period of three years but this may yet reach an amazing N$18,7 billion if we factor in labour-based works in other sectors and parastatal investments. So the stakes are high both in terms of the enormity of the problem and the amount of money involved. The economy will have apparently created 104 000 direct and indirect jobs over that period according to ‘economic forecasters’.
In an article in The Namibian last December titled ‘Tipeeg in slow motion’ we were given some interesting but conflicting figures. For a start, N$1,1 billion was spent between April and September last year which is said to have created 8 571 jobs. We are also told that 25 394 people found jobs under this scheme. Further on we are told that 33 965 new employment opportunities were created since the launch of Tipeeg. The target was to be 34 667 jobs per year. To me this all sounds confusing.
But two issues bother me most. One is what students of policy studies call the ‘implementation gap’ and the other is the intellectual context, call it ideology, within which this whole employment-creation venture is to be situated. This country is awash with well-meaning public policy initiatives that are hardly implemented. Two come to mind. In the mid-90s the government with the assistance of the World Bank came up with a policy document on ‘Poverty Reduction Strategy for Namibia’.
How about the fancier one of ‘Transformational Economic and Social Empowerment Framework’ (TESEF)? Lack of policy implementation has had nothing to do with lack of resources but instead a lack of political will, commitment and also lack of technical expertise at some of the agencies that are tasked with putting it into effect. Both the director general of the National Planning Commission, Tom Alweendo, and the Ministry of Finance last year lamented the poor execution of development projects as well as reporting on how much they have spent.
Thus, most of the time we fail to go beyond the policy pronouncements. Successive development plans have fallen to the same fate of an ‘implementation gap’ and no one is held responsible because I get a sense that most people in leadership, and indeed the so-called educated classes in Namibia, don’t think deeply about the enormous problems that confront their society and the plight of their fellow citizens – they only think about their bellies. And as long as they get the government tenders and end up doing substandard work then they are happy because the money ends up in their bank accounts. And sometimes the work never gets done because these ‘briefcase’ companies are fighting over tenders in the courts. This brings me to the issue of what the Ministry of Works is supposed to do if everything is outsourced to these ‘briefcase companies’.
Government has been on sale through outsourcing of services and the so-called private-public partnership deals, all in the name of BEE. The point is that you don’t empower a small clique of people while the majority is trapped in abject poverty – jobless, landless, homeless and hopeless.
But what would you expect because most government policies are geared towards the economic interests of the elite. Take the example of ‘black economic empowerment’. The focus of the past 22 years has been on deals for black people with access to power, leaving behind the poor.
Unfortunately we don’t have a reformist, let alone revolutionary-minded leadership in this country. What is needed now is a radical development agenda for progressive social and economic change but this, I’m afraid, can’t be achieved through the neo-liberal path that we have religiously been following for the past 22 years.
Thus, unless we get our ‘ideological house’ in order first and ready ourselves for a paradigm shift in the way we think, act and do things, we might as well forget about the myth of creating thousands of jobs, the billions of dollars said to be put in the Tipeeg programmes notwithstanding.