29 January 2013

Namibia: My Poor Rich Country


OUR government has made significant progress in addressing many developmental challenges such as access to basic education (now free primary school education) and primary health care services. Namibia maintains a social safety net for the elderly, the disabled, orphans, vulnerable children and war veterans among others.

Nonetheless, daunting challenges persist, while unemployment remains high. Namibia is a middle income country, rich in mineral resources but the majority of the population is poor which has consequently earned itself the status of a poor rich country.

Namibia has the highest Gini coefficient in the world putting it in the hot seat of the worst income inequality in the world. Despite knowing the undeniable reality that the majority of our people are poor, underprivileged and live below the poverty line, the Public Office Bearers Remuneration and Benefits Commission acted capriciously and whimsically to the reality on the ground by proposing a 31% salary increment for the already highly paid senior government officials.

I want to salute all those who querulously questioned and rejected the self-enrichment scheme. I was puzzled by the reason that the commission advanced that politicians are lowly paid.

If our politicians who are living a lavish lifestyle are lowly paid what about civil servants, who are one funeral away from bad debt. What happened to the Wages and Salaries Commission (WASCOM)? Is there any reason to believe that the union leaders who spearheaded it fell in the trap of quid pro quo. I appeal to the president to reject the commission's recommendation.

Poverty is a time bomb. The unemployed are suffering and live in despair and destitution. I am appealing to our government to introduce an unemployment allowance. I don't buy the argument that all Namibians must receive BIG.

What justice does it serve for some of us who receive a monthly salary to receive the N$100.00 grant? The introduction of an unemployment allowance will make a great impact in our society. Most importantly we must come up with our own unemployment allowance model that fits our situation.

Our model must be different from that of Norway, Finland, Luxembourg, Israel, Japan, USA, Germany and even that of South Africa. The other bone of contention is whether the issue of tribalism should be addressed with the carrot and stick or with an iron. We cannot move towards Vision 2030 if we still have problems such as tribalism, regionalism, etc.

There is no reason why a public figure cannot be fired when he/she promotes tribalism. The reluctance of our leaders to come up with a hasty solution to the issue of tribalism could set off wider reverberations of discontent. I propose that our government should enact a law which should promote the representation of diversity in the workplace.

The Employment Equity Act does not address the issue of tribalism in the workplace. The enactment of a Labour Diversity Act may compel both the public and private sectors to have workforces that represent diversity. I rest my case.

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