A Thoughtless Policy Change

BARELY a week after President Hage Geingob made his wealth publicly known, the exercise already runs the risk of becoming a futile publicity stunt what with government employees given a measure of carte blanche to do private business.

The question is: why did the government rush to lift a ban on civil servants running their own businesses? The move is clearly in contradiction with the tone that the President is trying to set with regard to good governance and effective delivery from the public service sector.

Even before private business is taken into account, many government ministries, agencies and parastatals are struggling to keep workers focused on their jobs. Senior government officials, for instance, have more than enough time to administer private farms (businesses in their own right) that are hundreds of kilometres from the owners’ employment centres. Hence, every weekend is a long weekend.

It appears that the three-year ban was removed before even the basic issues were considered. Why, in the first place, was it assumed that government employees must own and run their private businesses? Why is there no indication that civil servants are banned from running businesses that benefit from government contracts or aid, such as the drought-relief scheme for farmers?

To be fair, major corporates are also guilty of the malaise of employing people and yet giving them carte blanche to run private companies on the side. This tendency has fuelled the culture of greed in Namibia. It has worsened inequality because the people occupying the most powerful positions tend to rake up all the income-generating opportunities.

The powerful elite (in private sector and government) even set up companies to take contracts (such as cleaning, catering and other ‘outsourced’ services) from central government, municipalities, parastatals and corporates and then rent them out at maximum benefit to themselves.

Namibia has become a country where a salary is taken as a minimum entitlement and extra payment or incentive is expected for people to do the job they were hired for.

Government employees with private businesses are no longer ashamed to boast that their state employment is mainly to secure benefits like housing subsidy, car allowance, medical aid, pension and even travelling allowances.

Services they were employed for suffer so badly that overtime work is engineered because the employee used work hours to do private business. Lowly paid workers like cleaners then follow suit by running their hawkerkapana business from their workplaces.

Despite the massive increase in the numbers of government employees outpacing population growth, delivery of services has worsened nearly in every area – crime prevention and anti-poaching measures, education, health road and other public infrastructure even simple tasks like processing permits, cleaning or answering the telephone lag behind. And the main culprits are people in supervisory jobs, management and the political leadership.

The rat race for more and more cash at the expense of good governance and effective delivery of service is devouring our nation.

Resist Projects with Short-term Gain

WE SUPPORT the stance of the fisheries minister Bernard Esau that our government policies must be driven by the sustainable exploitation and long-term use of our resources, especially natural ones.

It is disconcerting that the minister of mines and energy, Obeth Kandjoze, appears hell-bent on pleasing ‘buddies’ in his sector while seemingly turning a blind eye to the possible consequence of the damage to fishing. While at Namcor, Kandjoze, if not instrumental and complicit, was part of the group who oversaw the get-rich-quick oil exploration period in Namibia over the past decade and a half.

Generally, the mining industry, through exploration and mining licences, has helped create overnight multi-millionaires (both Namibian and foreign), benefiting even government officials within that ministry and government personalities like President Hage Geingob.

But making a few people rich should not come at the expense of the majority and, definitely not at the risk of destroying renewable natural resources, as the case between phosphate mining and fishing may be. Oil exploration has already been reported to have disturbed tuna fishing, causing migration to quieter waters away from Namibian shores.

We must resist short-term gratification in favour of sustainable long-term survival.

Source : The Namibian