Global report tears into Geingob

A global governance report says there is a growing feeling of marginalisation in Namibia, which has been exacerbated by the emergence of a “nouveau rich” that benefit from close relations with the political elite.

26 March 2018 | Local News

President Hage Geingob has been lambasted in a global report, which says his presidential term started off with promise, but has delivered little to date, except for a government that has overspent.

The Bertelsmann Stiftung's Transformation Index (BTI), which dissects and evaluates the quality of democracy, as well as the market economies and political management of countries, also classifies Namibia as a “defective democracy” in its latest report.

The BTI systematically places political decision-makers' steering capability at the heart of its analysis, and as a result, is the only index in the world that measures and compares the quality of governance with self-collected data.

It says Geingob's presidency was initially welcomed with high expectations and within a year of taking office, he had established a new ministry for poverty reduction and presented the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP), a programme to dramatically reduce poverty.

“But, while Geingob has promised a lot, his presidency has delivered little to date.”

According to the report, the government has overspent, and exacerbated by the decline in neighbouring Angola's oil industry, which had a significant spillover effect on the Namibian economy, and one of the most serious droughts in the country's recent history, revenue deteriorated and now the administration faces massive liquidity problems.

“Public debt increased beyond the accepted maximum of 37% of GDP and the government has had to borrow.”

As a result, the government introduced massive budgetary cuts for 2016 and 2017, after the finance minister announced a strict austerity policy with far-reaching consequences, the report says.

“… Namibia's government is faltering in its ability to deliver on its policy commitments and fulfil high public expectations. “While the country's international reputation remains positive, governance weaknesses have grown.”

The report further notes that even the country's international reputation has been damaged to some extent.

According to the report, the government's foreign policy agenda has shifted toward a “look east” policy, while the government has violated international sanctions imposed on North Korea and has proposed withdrawing Namibia from the International Criminal Court.

Consequently, the government's foreign policy commitment to international normative frameworks has been questioned, the report said.

It says on the domestic front, massive inequalities have only been slightly reduced more than a generation after independence.

Despite being a higher middle-income country, more than half of the population live on or close to the multiple dimensional poverty threshold.

Consequently, there is a growing feeling of marginalisation among the wider population, which has been exacerbated by the emergence of a “nouveau rich” that benefit from close relations with the political elite.

In the long-term, this development might undermine the ruling Swapo Party's popular credibility, although there is no political alternative at present. Policy reforms will depend largely on internal party initiatives and pressure.

Furthermore, the report says fiscal prudence and a strict commitment to austerity will be required to limit the damage caused by long-term government overspending and the abuse of state funds.

Ensuring fiscal stability will be among the government's immediate priorities, which will require a reprioritisation of government expenditure.

Disputed land reform and ethnic tensions

“Though overall Namibia remains a relatively stable country, social protests and ethnic tensions have increased in recent years. This has resulted in interventions by the president and even the dismissal of a deputy minister over the government's disputed land and resettlement reforms.

“Land reform requires urgent government attention. In urban areas, public demand for greater access to affordable land has grown,” the report said.

It says popular dissatisfaction with the current availability of urban land resulted in the formation of a new protest movement within the ruling party's youth league.

According to the report this movement has won support among the younger generation and has established itself as a force to reckon with.

“Land distribution is also a key issue in rural areas of Namibia, particularly where ethnic minorities lost claim to their traditional tribal lands during the country's colonial period.”

Current resettlement policies offer the use of these rural lands to members of any ethnic group, whether or not they were made landless by the colonial regimes.

This has become a cause of dispute among affected ethnic minority groups and has increased ethnic tensions, even leading to disputes within the ruling party. In rural areas, land is as much an issue of identity and ancestral rights, as it is an economic issue. If the government cannot address the issue of land with greater sensitivity, it is likely to reinforce ethnic differences and increase inter-ethnic divisions, the report says.

Furthermore, it adds that politically, Swapo remains uncontested and the major challenge to the ruling party involves internal party developments. Having been occupied with several challenges, government achievements regarding its policy commitments have been few, and public frustration with the current government and administration has increased.

The index ranks Namibia's status of transformation at 37th among 129 countries, scoring 6.5. According to the index this meant that Namibia falls into a category of limited transformation.

The country was also ranked at 27th in terms of political transformation, classifying Namibia as “defective democracy” with a score 7.5 for its democracy.

The country was ranked at 47th for its governance, scoring 5.49, classifying it as “moderate”.

In terms of Namibia's economic transformation Namibia was ranked at 68th, scoring 5.5 overall. This meant that the country's economic transformation had functional flaws.

The Check Republic was ranked first for its status in transformation, while Somalia was ranked last.


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