Oil and Vinegar Don’t Mix [column]

ENTREPRENEURS around the world generally shy away from politics preferring to direct their focus and energy on growing an enterprise, thereby engaging themselves fully in the business of creating wealth and jobs.

Taking note of the saying oil and vinegar don’t mix, an entrepreneur shying away from politics and politicians should not come as a surprise.

Chemically, substances of differing polarities don’t mix. Another reason scientists tell us is that the vinegar cannot dissolve oil.

Entrepreneurs are individuals who organise and manage an enterprise or business with considerable initiative required and risk attached. On the other hand, a politician is involved in influencing public policy and decision making.

There are exceptions to the rule. There always is and will be, even here in Namibia. An entrepreneur of international fame and acclaim who left business to venture into politics is Michael Bloomberg, who served for more than a decade as mayor of New York City.

Politicians are engaged in activities associated with governance of a country, region or town. What politician do or don’t do will impact on an economy. So business constantly has to be alert and entrepreneurs aware of what is happening in the political arena. Politics and business might not mix, but they are certainly intertwined.

Entrepreneurs identify opportunities in the market, gather resources, create and then grow a business venture to meet those identified needs. They identify a need for goods and services and then satisfy that need for a fee or charge. They bear the risk of starting and running the business venture and are rewarded with profit.

Developments on the political front and resultant decisions by politicians, in terms of budgetary allocations, create business opportunities. Consider funds allocated for infrastructural developments such as roads, bridges, harbours and dams. Add to these, budgetary allocations to construct schools, clinics and housing.

Creating of institutions to regulate competition and ensure fair play in a free market economy, to gather, analyse and make statistics more readily available and thereby useful for planning purposes, serve to help entrepreneurs.

Changes to laws and regulations that govern investment and how business must be conducted, serve to build capacity and strengthen the country’s public sector capacity and regulatory framework.

Namibia is a shining example of how things should and must work in a stable multi-party parliamentary democracy. In fact, the country’s high political, economic and social stability is the envy of many developing countries around the world.

Of course there is room for improvement. There always is. This is why business support organisations (BSOs) and private sector representative bodies must with renewed resolve engage with politicians and the public sector. That will cultivate and develop a team Namibia approach that lifts the economy to even greater heights.

Using the beautiful game of football as an analogy, in a soccer team each player has a role and a responsibility. If the strikers, defenders, midfielders and the keeper are not united, that winning goal will not be scored. The resultant disaster might even come in the form of an own goal. So entrepreneurs, the private sector generally and other stakeholders too, must form a winning team.

What then is the role of politicians and of technocrats or bureaucrats in the public sector? Well, the former has a responsibility to prepare, make the ground fertile and the environment conducive to economic prosperity.

Civil servants in turn must execute delegated tasks and responsibilities to the highest standard, and work in an efficient and productive manner.

Although they don’t mix well, vinegar and oil certainly make an excellent salad dressing and when it comes to taste the one complements the other.

* Danny Meyer is an entrepreneur with a social bias. – danny@smecompete.com

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Source : The Namibian