Economy forgotten as…

As political rhetoric heats up with the polling dates for the November plebiscite creeping closer, the majority of the 13 political parties in Namibia are still to pronounce themselves on key issues dogging the conscience of many in Namibia.

Glossy manifestos are only paying lip service to issues to do with the economy, rising unemployment and bludgeoning poverty.

Political analysts say that Namibian opposition parties, which are generally expected to exploit the failures of the Swapo-led government, are not extensively deliberating on how to grow the economy and how to tackle unemployment and the apparently struggling education sector.

A snap survey of most political parties’ manifestos do not show any specific focus on any new policy directive and how to address contentious issues affecting the plight of many Namibians.

The politics of personalities and grand approbation about previous achievements and roles played during the protracted struggle for independence have taken centre stage.

Personal attacks and name-calling have become the order of the day and as political parties’ flags flutter at political rallies, supporters praise-sing their leaders hoarse, political analysts bemoan the lack of energised debates on how to take Namibia to the next level.

For many, particularly the previously economically disadvantaged, college graduates and thousands of youths roaming the streets of Windhoek, a job and an income is what they are yearning for.

Only National Unity Democratic Organisation (NUDO) came closer to hitting the nail on the head on the issue of land reform.

NUDO accused Swapo of “systematically marginalising rural areas” adding that it would want to see ‘joint ventures between established farmers and prospective land owners.’

Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) executive director Graham Hopwood challenged parties to come up with new policy initiatives and programmes.

“It’s still much about personalities. Swapo is promoting its track record in government but one does not hear concrete policies.”

The Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), one of the leading opposition parties in the country, claims that the economy has been ‘stagnant’ over the years.

“This is indicative of a government and of economic policies that have run out of steam, are outdated and lack vision,” RDP said.

But despite that the party becomes incoherent on how to grow the economy.

“Opposition parties are putting rather vague wish lists. There is no manifesto saying how the parties are going to finance their programmes and policies when they get into power. There is a lack of policy alternative amongst opposition parties,” Hopwood, who is also a researcher, said.

Unemployment in Namibia is estimated to be around 36.7 percent. Statistics from the National Planning Commission (NPC) indicate that during 2007 and 2008, 12 533 job seekers registered with the ministry of labour and social welfare.

Hit by the global economic downturn, Namibia’s economy will this year decline by 0.6 percent. Namibia’s economy grew by 2.8 percent in 2008.

Swapo, in power since independence in 1990, promises to diversify the economic base, boost trade, address unemployment and wipe out poverty.

But still the promises have not ignited any debate on which political party has the capacity to deliver on its promises, except Swapo, which has already been tipped to sweep this year’s poll.

“Policy issues haven’t started to dominate political debates. Policy issues are somehow obscured, we still hope that more emphasis will be put on issues to do with the people and how to address their plight,” Hopwood said.

He noted that there was no coherent policy debate on the emotive land reform while nothing much had been said about black economic empowerment.

“But Swapo will always refer to Vision 2030 and the National Development Plan to bolster its policy positions. They (Swapo) have at least government documents to back up their claims.”

October 2009
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