!Gawaxab defends Geingob’s committees
21 July 2021 | Government
Bank of Namibia governor Johannes !Gawaxab says criticism against President Hage Geingob’s establishment of various economic committees - which many have described as useless and without tangible results - is unfair.
After announcing a Business Rescue Task Force recently, Geingob was described by his detractors as a “man who limps from conference to commission, panel to task force”, in reference to the many initiatives he has established since taking office seven years ago.
Recently, Windhoek mayor Job Amupanda – a leading critic of Geingob’s policies – listed several of these initiatives, which he called gimmicks.
Among these are the poverty conference (2015), the Genocide Negotiation Commission (2016), the Investment Conference (2016), the National Land Conference (2018), the High-Level Panel on the Namibian Economy (2019), the Economic Growth Summit (2019), the Business Rescue Task Force (2021) and the Fourth Industrial ‘Revolution’ Task Force (2021).
Gawaxab disagreed that the initiatives are gimmicks, particularly with regards to the High-Level Panel on the Namibian Economy, for which he was the chairperson.
The panel was appointed by Geingob to navigate Namibia out of its muddy economic waters, revive the economy and propose solutions to many stumbling blocks to growth.
The 22-member panel reverted to Geingob with recommendations, which were described as weak and too general by the Institute for Public Policy and Research (IPPR).
Speaking to Namibian Sun yesterday, !Gawaxab said: “The narrative that the president is appointing panels and commissions which are not delivering is misleading, disingenuous and does not paint a true picture”.
He said some of the panel’s recommendations have already started bearing fruits, while others are on a path to implementation.
“One of the targets, for example, was to raise N$10 billion worth of investments. To this, the panel recommended that government sets up a body specifically mandated to attract investments into the country – leading to the creation of the Namibia Investment Promotion and Development Board [NIPDB],” !Gawaxab said.
“In this regard, we recommended that Namibia should issue visas upon arrival for investors, so that they do not go through the tedious process of applications that can put them off.
“We also recommended permanent residency permits for investors bringing in N$500 million and more in the hopes that they will start personally investing here in terms of acquiring properties and so on.”
Panel on panel
On the target regarding natural resources, !Gawaxab said it was the panel’s idea that fishing quotas be auctioned – as has been happening lately – instead of allocating them to individuals as per the old regime.
“The first auction went bad but the second one was extremely successful in raising money for the state,” he said, adding that other highly-sought natural resources such as exploration licences would also be placed on auction.
“In terms of investment into water infrastructure, NamWater recently entered a public-private partnership for a desalination plant in the Erongo Region. This emanated from the panel’s recommendations,” he noted.
Other windfalls of the !Gawaxab-chaired panel include the creation of the Green Hydrogen Council, tasked in part to attract investment into green energy and reforming public enterprises.
“The panel’s transformation plan included getting rid of Air Namibia, which was fully implemented; the listing of MTC and thus reducing the state’s monopoly of the telecoms industry as well as gradually getting out of the hospitality industry by getting out of companies like Namibia Wildlife Resorts [NWR].
“The other recommendation [the panel] made was to set up a Sovereign Wealth Fund for intergenerational wealth transfer - if our minerals are depleted, there must be something in the kitty for the next generation - and to stabilise the fiscus in difficult years. This recommendation was also accepted. The Bank of Namibia will administer and manage this until a proper home is found,” he said.