Economic ratings, necessary tools or agents of status quo?
Unlike some doomsday prophets, one cannot but conclude that there may have been much ado about nothing. Reference hereby is to Fitch’s recent revision of Namibia’s economic outlook from stable to negative. Not that the revision is a strange and unheard of phenomenon. It is a normal thing all over the world. Therefore for a country like Namibia, a self-styled mixed economy as per her own definition, this should neither be strange nor surprising.
Despite her being a mixed economy, as per the Namibian constitution, much of what one has been seeing and seen this far are the unsightly but understandable rigours of a pure capitalist economy. Gross inequalities and abject poverty with the attendant high crime rates and social decay.
While this has been the case, the next thing the country is slapped with a negative rating. A rating not based on abject poverty and inequalities but most baffling, partly based on some, if not only one, of its policy intents to try and alleviate the very socio-economic ills bedevilling her. One such basis for the revision of the country’s outlook is the New Economic Equity Empowerment Framework (NEEEF). This is after years of rhetoric on black economic empowerment, meant at attacking frontally if not only alleviating the effects of an inequitable economic system, which has been, and no doubt has continued to be, dominated by one section of the Namibian population. A system for that matter which in the past entrenched itself by heaping and confining benefits of the capitalist colonial apartheid politico-socio-economic and cultural system, on whites only. But now with NEEEF, through which the Namibian government seems and intends for the first time to meaningfully and purposely deal with the issue of unbundling the economic and financial sector in the country, comes the Machiavellian designed negative ratings.
Only because NEEEF is suspect of disturbing and disrupting the status quo. Something not to the liking of Fitch whose operators obviously must be the guardian angels of the unequal economic system.
It would be long what damage such downgrading may inflict. Because needless to say given the supposed fragile sensitivity of the markets and investors, such a rating could unrepairably negatively engender Namibia in the eyes of international investors, that may take her years to undo, and equally a number of years to recover from.
Before Namibia and her policymakers have had the chance to put NEEEF into practice as a policy instrument, to correct an abnormal historical economic legacy, but which in the parlance of capitalism there seems nothing abnormal about it, she is being held at ransom by a negative rating. Namibia has many challenges. One such and pressing challenge is landlessness. Such has been existing since the advent of German colonialism when land was forcefully taken at gunpoint from the original owners, and deviously through protection treaties. The bulk of this land to this day remains in the hands of so-called owners, descendant land barons of colonial settlers. While the rightful owners from whose ancestors this land was confiscated, do not only remain for most shelter-less without a plot to build a decent shelter, but altogether for a greater part landless.
But this state of affairs, typical to the fallacy of such rating like the one of Fitch, has never been anything at all to earn Namibia a negative rating. Because obviously those doing the rating are part of the propertied classes and would not dare make a negative rating based on such a variable, lest they give rise to a campaign for the return of the land to the rightful original owners. Cutting off their noses to spite the faces? No!
Not only this but the Namibian economy, as we speak, remains predominantly in the hands of a certain section of society. Call it manufacturing, financial, tourism. These sectors remain in the hands of a minority. And it is not even clear whether this minority are bona fide Namibians. This is a legacy of capitalist colonialism. And 26 years after independence when the country must have seen some fundamental changes, a bid at a fundamental transformation of such is met with a negative rating. But such ratings seem to have been oblivious, for clear and obvious reasons, to such skewedness in the economy of the country. Skewed in favour of the previously advantaged and against the very same people who fought for the emancipation of this country, including ultimately economic emancipation. Can in this regard anyone really see in such ratings anything less than the propping and maintenance of the status quo, which is against the majority of the indigenous people of this country?
Yes, in an ideal world, such ratings may have been an important tool to guide policymakers by giving them the necessary signals as to the state of the economy. But when they are dangled like a carrot and stuck in the face of policymakers, the usefulness to them, and for the greater wellbeing of the Namibian populace, becomes suspect.