Investment bill will deter money

The controversial proposed investment legislation doesn’t align to benchmark policy and will hamper Namibia’s attractiveness further.

29 November 2021 | Economics

We are afraid that if investors read this law in detail, they may decide to shy away instead from our country. – Nangula Uaandja, CEO: NIPDB

Jo-Maré Duddy – There is no point in having an investment promotion agency like the Namibia Investment Promotion and Development Board (NIPDB) if it has no power to engage in actual investment promotion, facilitation and advocacy.

This is the message of NIPDB chairperson and chief executive officer, Nangula Uaandja, which she wrote to Lucia Iipumbu and other ministers after the industrialisation and trade minister tabled Namibia Investment Promotion and Facilitation Bill (NIPB) in parliament on Thursday.

Uaandja, the former chief of PwC Namibia, also sent the letter to Christine //Hoebes (minister in presidency), finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi (in his capacity as the chair of the cabinet committee on treasury), Obeth Kandjoze (chair of the cabinet committee on trade and economic development) and attorney general Festus Mbandeka.

Uaandja, the former chief of PwC Namibia, in her letter welcomed the NIPB’s tabling as positive news, saying it will provide “much needed certainty to investors while at the same time addressing several gaps in the investment environment of Namibia”.

However, Uaandja said the NIPDB is specifically concerned that its “various inputs” were excluded from the NIPB.

These inputs were presented and submitted to the trade ministry and the cabinet committees in April and June this year respectively.

“We equally register our disappointment that some of those recommendations were completely left out without engagement, consultation and explanation as to the rationale of the exclusion,” she wrote.

An independent investment promotion agency (IPA) has been created through the NIPDB, however NIPB provides no independence for the board, Uaandja said.

“This is contrary to the roles and responsibilities attributed to IPAs in benchmark best practice countries. These IPAs are given full independence to act. They are sometimes appended to a ministry, however, this is often the Presidency itself. It is no point having an IPA that has no power to engage in actual investment promotion, facilitation and advocacy,” she said.

OTHER CONCERNS

Uaandja also highlighted various other concerns in the NIPB.

One of them is the role of an inspector for investment. “None of the benchmark countries that we have reviewed has an inspector for investment,” she said, adding: “Policing investments in this way is a negative element for our private sector development.”

Another issue is that the NIPB is heavier on offences, penalties and disputes. “On this issue, we are afraid that if investors read this law in detail, they may decide to shy away instead from our country, as it is not very business-friendly,” Uaandja said.

According to Uaandja: “Given the severity and potential impact of some of these provisions on the ability of the country to attract investments, to enhance our competitiveness as a viable investment destination, to ensure greater ease doing business (notably in reducing bureaucracy and the amount of time it takes for investors to become operational), and for the NIPDB to deliver on our mandate, we will raise this concerns with our appointing authority.”

Engaging the private sector and effectively communicating the provisions of the proposed act will determine its acceptance and impact on investment promotion efforts, she said.

“It is therefore the request of NIPDB that our two institutions set up a small communications team that would put together and co-implement a communication strategy for the bill,” Uaandja wrote.

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