National budget after Covid-19 disaster

22 May 2020 | Opinion

Peya Mushelenga



Since it emerged in late 2019 when a mysterious illness was reported in Wuhan, China, Covid-19 has not only caused panic in China but worldwide as the new coronavirus that has since spread to many countries around the world and become a pandemic.

Countries around the globe began to put measures in place in order to curb the spread of this notorious virus.

Accompanying control measures are relief packages, which are aimed at leveraging consumers and businesses affected as a result of governments' control measures such as partial and total lockdowns. Despite these reactive actions, the question is: Are we ready to handle the aftermath of Covid-19?



Aftermath

Jobs are at risk from lay-offs, furloughs, reduced pay and lost hours. Virtually every sector of the economy in Namibia stands to lose a large chunk of its business, household incomes will be devastated and spending by consumers and firms will rapidly decline. This has been observed already during the period of March to May.

It's no secret that as a nation we entered 2020 with a limping economy. Namibia's rising debt burden raises the danger of future economic stagnation, reduced ability to deal with national goals and commitments to the public and surely a possible escalation of interest rates.

So, while we are in this unprecedented health and economic crisis, it is also the time to come up with a large and decisive government fiscal response.



Uncertain future

When employment and income prospects are uncertain, sending cash as we did with the N$750 to families is like pouring water into a leaky bucket. What the Namibian government really needs is policies to create good jobs once the crisis has passed. Once the pandemic is behind us, we need to start hiring. Policymakers should already be preparing public service and guaranteed-job programmes for anyone who shows up at the offices, ministries and agencies.



Recovering economy

Since we already have standing policies, plans and national programmes in place, job guarantee should be paired with training and education through various interventions, especially at grassroots level, to help workers qualify for better paying private sector employment when the economy recovers. We therefore need to put in place interlinked procedures that will help policymakers and the public prepare for the less urgent but equally important task of managing the future fiscal and economic threats from today's emergency actions.



* Peya Mushelenga has a bachelors in economics, an honours degree in economics and a master's of business administration in management strategy.

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