Inequality unsettles Geingob

05 September 2017 | Government

JEMIMA BEUKES



President Hage Geingob says the inequality in the world keeps him awake at night and is simply not acceptable.

Geingob said this in light of the Oxfam report launched early this year, which stated that eight people in the world own as much wealth as the 3.6 billion people who form the poorest half of the world's population.

This state of affairs is shameful, Geingob said when he delivered the keynote address at the international conference on African European party dialogue of socialists and democrats yesterday.

Geingob blamed Namibia's inequality, which means the country's wealth and land are largely owned by a white minority, on colonial rule and apartheid.

“It would be a gross betrayal of trust if we did nothing about inequality. It would be an even bigger betrayal if we were to allow an elite of white minority ownership to be replaced or joined by a few blacks,” said Geingob.

He emphasised that poverty, inequality and poverty are interrelated and need to be addressed simultaneously and systemically, but added that those who own the wealth will resist, believing that they are being unfairly targeted.

“I am intentionally using the words 'haves' as it is colour neutral and includes the wealthy black Namibian elite. As a nation, we have a tendency to radicalise the discussion of wealth redistribution when in actual fact it is a matter of highly skewed distribution of resources which is unsustainable. As a country that begrudges our status as one of the most unequal in the world, we are compelled to act with urgency to reduce inequality,” he said.

According to Geingob the country is making great strides in reducing poverty and inequality with its progressive income tax and generous social spending programmes.

However, the president noted that despite these reductions both inequality and poverty remain stubbornly high and act as a stark reminder that the government has the complex challenge of creating a conducive environment for job creation while also widening the ownership base of the economy.

“Namibia's commitment to equity is not restricted to poverty and income measures; we believe that gender equity is equally important for a stable and harmonious society. In this regard a policy decision by the governing party, Swapo, to introduce the zebra-style representation at party level has led to significant improvement to 47% in Namibia's parliament. This is the second highest level of representation on the continent and among the top five in the world,” he said.

The two-day conference is being attended by delegates from 15 African states and 10 European countries and will end today.

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