The Namibian (Windhoek)

25 January 2013

Namibia: Business Demands Frank Discussion With Govt

THE time has come to do the right thing for business, not the popular thing, the chief executive officer of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI), Tarah Shaanika, said yesterday.

The NCCI plans to have a business climate review seminar next month, which they want Cabinet members to attend. Here the chamber wants to "pinpoint practical issues we experience on a daily basis" which hamper business growth, and remain obstacles to economic growth, job creation and the eradication of poverty.

Shaanika told a news conference that Government has "always" supported the idea of dialogue between it and the private sector. "The only problem is that there is no importance attached to it [dialogue] from our colleagues in Government," he said.

The planned seminar was supposed to have taken place last month already.

Shaanika said the private sector plays such an important role in the economy that its voice cannot be ignored. The NCCI currently has more than 2 000 members.

"For far too long, the private sector has been proposing a formalised dialogue between Government and the private sector without much response from Government. This year, we have made it our primary responsibility to have our engagement formalised and achieve results which are beneficial to our economy and our people," Shaanika said.

The NCCI doesn't want ministerial representation at the seminar; it wants Cabinet. Experience has shown that dealing with issues only at ministerial level leads to "misunderstandings" and results in "a lot of things being disconnected", Shaanika said.

The NCCI wants to "speak to Cabinet in one room".

They want to tell Cabinet how a thoughtless decision of a junior officer in a ministry can delay an investment that could have created jobs. They want to tell Cabinet that somebody "sleeping on the job" resulted in the passport crisis at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, which no doubt hurt business.

"We can't accept any excuse that there are no passports," Shaanika said.

In addition, the NCCI wants to talk to Government about the perception that one "only gets a Government contract if you know somebody very well in a given ministry or if you bribe somebody in Government".

"Media reports about tenders being awarded to businesses which may not have been the most suitable ones to get such a tender, but simply because some Government officials have personal interests in such companies, are indicative of something wrong in our system," Shaanika said.

"These reports also create a perception that our system is corrupt and discourage our people from pursuing Government contracts in a fair and just manner."

Other issues on the NCCI's agenda are labour unrest and unfavourable labour legislation, bureaucracy, inadequate access to skills, stubbornly high unemployment levels, the slow pace of genuine regional integration and "many others".

"We cannot continue doing business as usual as if we are in a normal environment, because the environment is not normal," Shaanika said.

The date is of the seminar has not been set yet, but an announcement in this regard will follow soon, he said.

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