HERE we go! Have we done more for less?
It is nice to have something good to say! I was highly pleased when yet again our HonMinFin expressed concern about our GRN wage bill exceeds the 50% level. She obviously recognises that this is a rising and unsustainable situation and requires action; commendable, as last year..
However when I look a little closer at the numbers armed with pencil and envelope it takes little time to add in medical aid, GRN outsourced activities that used to be internal activities, SOEs and other staff-related costs (training, S&T, phone calls). I end up with a number approaching 70% of budget. Ouch.
Equally the reported number of public servants (100 000), when outsourced jobs and SOEs are added, show at least an additional 20% (120 000). Plus MOD and MFA show anomalous averages!
Relating this to our population (2.3 million?) means there is one public servant per 20 citizens and that one third of Namibians are in some way beneficiaries of GRN wages. Five times even the worst nations!
As few of those counted have any direct productive and profitable (taxable) output, this means that our small private sector, through taxes on profits, salaries and diamonds, is supporting a massive machine often, rightly or wrongly, accused of only employing the subservient and friendly! Do they deliver?
Ignoring the well-criticised public good functions of education, health and transport, plus increasing levels of poverty and unemployed, just looking at SOEs, I recall how in 2004 it was announced that the CGA was starting up full time to address the SOE crisis, how Air Namibia was given its final multi-millions to boost it to profit or how tender procedures were to be improved (the latter, several times).
What really happened? The CGA after five years of messing about got closed, later replaced with the SOE committee. Air Namibia remains bailed out and tender board failings and exemptions continue to give opportunity for malfeasance.
Even the directive that SOEs would have to raise loans without GRN guarantees almost immediately fell by the wayside, NWR of course is becoming a national joke and NaTIS has raised vehicle licence fees astronomically but can't even send out the reminders that enable quick payment!
NATIS MV licence charges for my 750cc motorcycle from 1998 through 2013 as follows (N$ per annum); 48, 48, 48, 55, 66, 72, 84, 96,108,120,144,168, 208, 228 - a fourfold increase since 2000! For what? Better roads, better policing, improved safety? No, just to pay officials more, have more overseas shopping trips and ... is it? This, like increased fuel levies to pay for SOE incompetence or an increase in parking fines (this century) from N$15 to N$500 are all signs of institutional failure outside the budgetary remit. These are just additional taxes foisted undemocratically upon the people.
So thank you HonMinFin for raising the issue of unsustainable wage levels in GRN. I extend the discussion to SOEs and labour hiding outsourced functions once internalised and suggest that we have to act now, before we fall into the pit of unmanageable debt and have to download people the Greek way. Now is the time to act and I hope your budget speech reflects this unpalatable but necessary truth; now is not the time to hide from reality.
We once had good roads, kids did not have to buy school books, the railway worked, Air Namibia made money and our debt was small. Current policies and actions, especially TIPEEG and corruption, are leading down a dangerous road. Once prosperity, austerity now cometh and posterity will reflect reality. Are we brave?
As people we want a government that anticipates problems and takes suitable action, not one that constantly reacts to circumstance. Policy is about creating a good future, no defending the past. The budget allocations show our real priorities, how have they changed this year. Did we do more for less? Or do we spend more and get less? Are we also hiding behind over-optimistic growth rates to disguise debt? Judgement day approaches!
Fortunately our 'new' leaders know this and realise that now is the hour to stop talking about governance and implementation and wind up the GRN machine to new levels! They also realise that real growth will come from the poor part of our population currently isolated from the economic world, being set free through BIG, and through true Namibian spirit start simple production and raise their spend!