‘It’s stupid to tell people we are poor’

Helmut Angula

Former minister of finance and public enterprises Helmut Angula says it is stupid for Namibia to keep telling the world the country is poor, while the country has enough resources.

He says the World Bank will not change Namibia’s classification as an upper middle-income country.

Angula’s sentiments come after president Hage Geingob on Tuesday told the United Nations General Assembly (Unga) in New York that Namibia continues to be “unfairly” classified as an upper middle-income country because of its high per-capita income.

The president said taking the small population of Namibia, dividing its gross domestic product (GDP), and arriving at a high per- capita income is not a good measurement.

“It does not reflect the reality of the past colonial injustices in Namibia where the white minority oppressed the black majority,” Geingob said.

Angula says: “Crying and crying over it is just water under the bridge. It doesn’t help us, because they are not going to change their mind on that classification.

“It’s also stupid to keep telling people we are poor.”

He says Namibia should sell the goods it has, such as lithium, gold and uranium, at appropriate prices.

The world is scrambling for lithium, but Namibia gives it away “free of charge”, he says.

“If they don’t want it, let it remain in the ground. I tell you they will come to their knees because there is no one who doesn’t want to produce batteries at a cheaper price,” Angula says.

Congress of Democrats founder Ben Ulenga says the World Bank’s classification does not reflect reality.

“These are imperialistic rules which are made to the benefit countries such as the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Germany. They are not made in favour of Namibia and its people,” he says.

Economist Omu Kakujaha-Matundu says Namibia’s problem is its skewed income and wealth distribution.

“The same World Bank’s revised 2023 poverty statistics show the poverty rate stands at 51%,” he says.

“So in this case, the GDP per capita is not a good measure of the nation’s welfare or well-being,” he says.

Kakujaha-Matundu says Geingob should rather “come back home and fix income and wealth inequality” than go to New York and complain at the Unga.

“The answer lies in the neoliberal policies pursued by the Namibian government as accepted at independence and ingrained in the Namibian Constitution. Something is broken and needs fixing,” he says.

Political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah says the classification will only push Namibia deeper into dependency and borrowing.

“Our problem is neoliberal-driven economic system we have been embracing since independence,” he says.

According to Kamwanyah, Namibia should not expect the world to solve its problems, but should rather solve its own problems.

“That’s what guided our struggle as our own liberators, but now that mantra seems to have been thrown out the window . . . “

“Why are we not heeding the call for a basic income grant, which seems to be a game changer for socio-economic development policy?

We argue that this would make our people dependent, but we are begging for handouts on a global stage,” he says.

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