Alweendo blasts ‘oil entitled’ Namibians

Mines and energy minister Tom Alweendo has told local entrepreneurs “nobody owes them anything” and they should guard against a sense of entitlement in terms of the country’s natural resources.

He was speaking during the Namibia International Energy Conference in Windhoek yesterday, where he also said Namibia will use countries that have been successful in the oil and gas industry as benchmarks.

He asserted that Namibians should accept personal responsibility for their successes or failures.

According to Alweendo, a sense of entitlement causes Namibians to believe they deserve something without actually deserving it.
“Entitlement is a belief that I deserve something, without making sure that I deserve it. Let us accept personal responsibility for our successes or failures.”

Alweendo said considering the oil and gas sector is a new industry, the country lacks the required expertise.
He added that there are still uncharted territories that should be explored in the oil sector.

“It is our belief that there is still so much to be discovered, both in the Orange Basin and in other locations. Namibia’s offshore Walvis, Lüderitz and Namib basins hold tremendous promise, yet are mostly unexplored,” said Alweendo.

The conference was held under the theme, ‘Re-Imagining Resource Rich Namibia’, and saw participation from over 800 delegates from across the world.

“We have a unique opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past and adopt the best practices of successful petroleum economies as we proactively plan for our local content framework.”

Alweendo said the content plan will create in-country value across the entire Namibian economy and ensure sustainable economic impact.

Namibian petroleum commissioner Maggy Shino said it will be mandatory for investors that decide to come to Namibia to use local goods and services.

She further said there are existing regulations that require operators to ensure subcontractors prioritise Namibian goods and services.

Economist Omu Kakujaha-Matundu said resources belong to the Namibian people and, therefore, the government, as the representative of the people, should make sure to extract maximum rents for the benefit of the Namibian people.

“Such rents should be invested in the Welwitschia Wealth Fund as a common pool of wealth for all Namibians for the benefit of all. It is so sad that the minister has started scapegoating, so as to say, ‘I told you so’, when things go the fisheries and other mining resources’ way,” said Kakujaha-Matundu.

Omu Kakujaha Matundu

“It will be a sad day if the people’s oil is used to line the pockets of the multinationals and the political elite, while their elected government is telling Namibians, ‘nobody owes you nothing’,” said Kakujaha-Matundu.

Economist Josef Sheehama said the conference did not bring about any major change, as no policies have been enacted.

He added that domestic skilled labour is required for sector support, as there is currently concern about the large influx of foreign labour.

“The majority of Namibians lack adequate oil and gas infrastructure. As a result, the minister’s motivation to play a meaningful role as the first Namibians must be trained while we wait for actual exploration,” said Sheehama.

Member of parliament Henny Seibeb said there has been little effort being directed towards empowering local communities, which has been compounded by the absence of a local content policy or even a draft for deliberation in the National Assembly, as well as the absence of a synthetic fuels bill.

He added that it is incumbent upon Alweendo, having taken an oath to protect our natural resources and advance the welfare of all Namibians, to mitigate poverty, inequality and unemployment.

“His stance is incongruent with the ethos of his own political party, Swapo, which advocates ‘socialism with Namibian characteristics’. In other jurisdictions, such remarks could precipitate immediate removal from office,” said Seibeb.

Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Charity Mwiya said a lot has been achieved from business sector-led initiatives to advance the capacity and capability of local business to participate in the oil and gas industry.

“All the relevant policy documents, including the Local Content Policy and the Minerals Beneficiation Strategy are currently undergoing stakeholder consultations, which converge on the need for local participation to create linkages and support local industry growth,” said Mwiya.

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