Namibia’s economic advisory council in limbo
Windhoek – There is a dilemma surrounding the appointment of Namibia’s Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC) as President Hage Geingob is yet to inform the incumbent members whether they will continue with their current posts or not amid speculation that they have failed to carry out their mandate.
The current PEAC that was appointed by former President Hifikepunye Pohamba in 2011 comprises of high profile individuals from the public and private sectors.
These includes former Statistician General Dr John Steytler, Director of the National Planning Commission of Namibia (NPC), Tom Alweendo, Bank of Namibia Deputy Governor Ebson Uanguta and First Lady Monica Geingos.
Other members of the PEAC are Koos Brandt (Bank Windhoek Executive), Professor Osmund Mwandemele (University of Namibia Vice Chancellor), Raimar von Hase (Karakul Board of Namibia), Herbert Jauch (labour expert), Dr Audrin Mathe (New Era Publications Chief Executive) and Seretta Lombard (PricewaterHouseCoopers).
President Geingob, apart from his wife whom he said will not take up any post with government; is yet to inform other members, amid speculation that their term will not be renewed.
Steytler, the former head of Namibia Statistic Agency and the PEAC chairman is on record having admitted to the council’s failure in carrying out its mandate.
The failure is also thought to have irked some senior government officials who questioned why the PEAC members still receive monetary reward from government while they hardly sit for meetings as well as having failed to carry out their mandate.
Approached for clarity by The Southern Times this week, council member Ebson Uanguta admitted that they are in limbo, although the banker could not confirm or deny whether they still sit for meetings.
The Central Bank deputy chief said: “We have not yet heard anything from the authorities so we still regard ourselves as part of the council.”
Presidential Affairs Minister Frans Kapofi was also not aware whether the current PEAC members will continue to carry out their duties or not.
“I have no idea as that responsibility lies with the President. But we haven’t discussed anything of such a nature at least not of as yet. But when it comes to that council it’s not a structural body, it’s a body that is appointed by the president himself or herself.
“It’s also the choice of the president whether to continue with the old council or to appoint a new one but as for now I am not aware whether the current Presidential Economic Advisory Council is still operational or not,” said the former secretary to Cabinet.
Pressed whether there will be a new team of president economic advisers, Kapofi said: “I don’t want to make judgments and I cannot have an opinion on that as of yet. Let it be formed and everyone can then have his or her opinion.”
Political analysts Dr Andrew Niikondo is of the opinion that the PEAC has failed to carry out its responsibilities to a certain extent.
“I can’t really say they have done much because they haven’t produced any document or at least shown evidence of what they did. For a body of that stature, it’s really important and necessary that a document of some nature is produced to justify what they have done,” said Niikondo, who is Vice Rector for Academic Affairs and Research at the Polytechnic of Namibia.
Niikondo added that the advisory council is a necessity in most countries and it’s by far more effective in countries in the East like China as it acts like a think tank to advise the president on economic related activities.
“If I were the president, I will look at two things in this situation. First, has the current PEAC produced work to the president that maybe is not for public consumption, if that’s the case then I will continue with them? On the hand, if they haven’t done anything at all I will simply get rid of them and appoint a new structure that is capable of doing the job,” he said.
University of Namibia economist Dr Omu Kakujaha-Matundu said the blame shouldn’t only be put on the PEAC members but rather the structure that governs how these members operate.
“It’s true that the current PEAC hasn’t fulfilled the objectives but there are several reasons. Firstly, the members of the PEAC are people who have daily jobs and sometimes work from 8am to 10pm thus they don’t have time to delve a little deeper into the work of the PEAC.
“Also there is a need for a structure to be in place, for example under the Office of the President, has a Secretariat with economists and researchers who would implement what the members of the PEAC have proposed. Of course people like (Dr John) Steytler are experienced but having them there alone is not enough as they don’t simply have time,” he said.
He said it will be good if Namibia can model its PEAC to that of the United States, which although has Council of Economic Advisors still has bodies under it with a Secretariat.
The PEAC is comprised of a group of experts in various fields and is appointed by the Head of State to advise the Presidency on economic matters.
The first council, with more than 30 members was established by former President Pohamba in 2006 to advise him on economic and developmental issues. But the council was so ineffectual and was disbanded in 2009.
The National Planning Commission was than tasked to form a new council, which culminated in the appointment of the current nine-member PEAC in May 2013.
Former President Pohamba tasked the council to provide him with quality advice based on facts and on challenges that Namibia is facing.
He also tasked individual members to utilise their expertise to identify initiatives that would complement government efforts to deal with social and economic challenges.
Apart from pronouncing himself on the future of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council, President Geingob is also expected to put in practice his promise to form the Presidential Council.
Prior to his inauguration as Namibia’s third democratically elected president, Geingob announced that he will set up the new advisory body that will consist of Founding President Sam Nujoma, his predecessor President Pohamba and former prime ministers and deputy prime ministers.
In addition to drawing from the experience of the two former presidents, Geingob has explained that the council is important for camaraderie, consultation and continuity of government policies.
He said the Presidential Council was linked to the concept of what he dubbed “New Africa”.
“In the past, former African Presidents would either be exiled, imprisoned or six feet under the ground. In the New Africa, former Presidents live freely and in tranquility in their countries, enjoying respect and appreciation from their countrymen and women. They often end up playing important roles in their countries,” he said.