In two years, on 21 March 2020 to be precise, our country will embrace three decades of independence. It is an important milestone as we build our nation, foster our national identity, sharpen cohesion and pursue the daunting task of economic development. We cannot erase a century of colonial injustice. The majority of Namibians suffered under that gruesome system. Over the past 27 years, and irrespective of what cynics may seek to project, we have as a people scored noteworthy successes.
Many zones of progress are demonstrable. We have united a divided nation, increased the bandwidth of our roads, widened access to education, invested in health, sanitation and other social services. We have rolled out better protection for the elderly with coverage of the old-age pension at 99 percent, and 40,482 Namibians on the disability grant. Significantly, food poverty has declined from 9 percent in 2003 to 5.8 percent in 2016, and the majority of Namibians are today able to pursue opportunities that were hitherto not open to them under apartheid rule.
Our successes notwithstanding, we are also going through what is without question an extremely difficult period, with several challenges unadorned, and which we must confront in far more pioneering ways. The deficits in quality education, health, and unacceptable youth unemployment have the potential to deepen inequality, creating a dim view of our collective future. Unquestionably, the economic headwinds continue to threaten the ability of government to fight inequality and deliver essential quality services to Namibians.
With the benefit of historical hindsight, we did not prepare ourselves adequately during the commodity boom, which marked a period of sustained economic growth up until 2012. In part, it is why we are where we are today. It is why President Hage Geingob is pulling the Namibian wagon in the direction of bold reforms and actions to set our country on a path of sustainable development and shared prosperity.
It is not seeking cold comfort. It is true that even the highly-industrialised countries with hard-edged governance infrastructure, and better social protection are never fully prepared to deal with sudden systemic disruptions in the global economy. We have witnessed over the past two decades the fragility of leading economies, including Japan, France, and the United States facing economic disruptions during the great recession with countless consequences for their socio-economic and political ecosystems. In light of that comparative anchoring point, it is essential for our national conversation to preface the challenges we face within the frame of the boom and bust cycles of the global economy, and crucially the experiences of other nations.
Eminently, to do so is to allow sanity to prevail, for us to preserve our political stability, and for innovative solutions to emerge, and a winning nation to materialise. The growing embrace of reason and enlightened action as an objective force of lasting change, and not politics by insult and comfortable cynicism deserves special emphasis. More so, at a time when President Geingob has been appealing through words, and reminding us through actions that the crisis of the past five years should not be wasted.
Leading from the front, the President's call is that we learn intelligently from the crisis, and act diligently during this time of economic headwinds for our country. Through the Harambee Prosperity Plan, an implementation tool for the 2014 election manifesto of the Swapo Party, an opportunity to reform our state during this challenging period, and create a more effective government has been made possible. HPP, it should be noted is a vital entry point to create the conditions of possibility through which a better future can be secured for the class of independence, including future generations. Even when emphasising in the preface that, "HPP is not presented as the panacea that will resolve the myriad causes of poverty and deliver absolute prosperity within a four-year period", the commitment of the President to laying a solid base for the prosperity of Namibians will continue to be total in the coming days, months and years.
Entering office on the twin-track of poverty eradication and shared prosperity, the President grounded 2015 meticulously as the year of planning, transitioning to implementation in 2016, and rededication in 2017. The President is hitting the ground running in 2018 on the platform of reckoning, underlining accountability and urgency in governance in order to accomplish the crucial task of development and the noble mission of shared prosperity. Improved service delivery, investment promotion and seeking new opportunities in the digital economy, vocational education and training, the entrenchment of effective governance frameworks, upgrading of growth enabling physical infrastructure are signposted as key to taking government closer to the people, accomplishing the task of development and the mission of prosperity. Achieving these as the President says would entail intensifying the fight against corruption, improving our global competitiveness to attract investment, dealing with the land question and reforming our state-owned enterprises.
President Geingob has always measured the gravity of the moment and tasks assigned to him by the Namibian people. As Head of State, he will continue to protect their interests, whilst underscoring that accomplishing these important tasks (of development) and missions (of prosperity), would require Namibians to join hands and pull in the same direction. It is the responsibility of all, in our schools, in industry and in agriculture, in civil society and in the professions, in faith-based organisations, and in government to secure a country in which "no Namibian feels left out". It is a goal that will be accomplished.
* Alfredo Tjiurimo Hengari is the incoming Press Secretary and Spokesperson in the Presidency