His Excellency, President Hage Geingob has unveiled the contents of the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) during the State of the Nation Address on 05 April 2016. The Plan, as we know by now, focuses on four pillars namely, effective governance, economic advancement, social progression and infrastructural development.
Media practitioners and opinion makers have already reacted to the substance of the Plan, its ideological grounding and appropriateness of the implementation strategies to achieve the intended objectives. It is critical that designers and implementers of the Plan take note of both receptive and critical comments. We cannot build and improve our governance systems and institutions in a constitutional democracy, if we expect to hear nice messages only. Citizens have different theoretical frameworks/lenses and experiences that inform their understanding of reality.
Diversity of opinions, as I have argued previously, is a resource that enriches public policymaking. This article contributes to the discourse on the HPP and argues that its successful implementation is depended on critical success factors that should exist.
These factors in practice would convince informed citizens that it is business unusual and therefore shift their stands. The first condition in my view is the development of an effective communication strategy.
The purpose is to ensure systematic packaging of the HPP messages, coherent and consistent communication, responsiveness to clarify existing and emerging issues and defining appropriate communication medium to reach different segments of society. Some of the HPP messages that were communicated thus far have not been coherent and consisted. This breeds suspicion and confusion. To give one example, the HPP states: “The Plan does not replace, but complements the long-term goal of National Development Plans (NDPs) and Vision 2030.” By implication, this statement suggests that the HPP is a government plan. Few weeks later, we read in the newspapers that the HPP is the
President’s plan. Which message should the public belief? What are the implications and costs of communicating contradictory messages in rallying the citizens behind the Plan? The two examples emphasise the importance of coherent and consistent communication. It is common knowledge that government ministries over the years have demonstrated that they not to have effective communicators due to various reasons. Subsequently, communication flow in most instances is reactive and defensive. It is advisable that whoever speaks on the HPP conveys what the Plan says and not what he or she thinks it says without even having read the Plan, as it is the case in most instances with Vision 2030 and NDP pronouncements. The second critical success factor is the quality and thus conceptual accuracy when translating the Plan into indigenous national languages. Translation, if not done by experts in both the languages and subject contents could produce another plan by not conveying similar messages.
Prosperity in my mother tongue for example and how it is being translated in the NBC Rukavango Service equates to abundance wealth to the extent that you throw food away. It relates historically to a season of the year when we have produced abundantly and resources in nature are in abundance.
You do not know literally what to eat and thus just touch here and there and leave to waste. There is nothing wrong with the translation. The contestation is whether such a translation is consistent with the spirit of the Plan. The third critical success factor is the need for policy coherence and changing the mind-set of the bureaucrats to embrace urgency.
The explanations thus far regarding how the HPP speaks to other national developmental policies suggest that this area needs further attention. Is it clear for government ministries how the HPP relates in practice to their ministerial strategic plans and annual action plans developed in time bound contexts to respond to NDP4 and perhaps will be the same with NDP5?
If policy coherence is not addressed and clarified at the initial stages, then ministries will incorporate HPP for the sake of compliance and not out of strategic conviction. The fourth critical success factor is capacity of a developmental state to deliver quality public services. Many scholars have written extensively about capacity as a critical ingredient in the role of a developmental state in providing quality public services.
It is not only the lack of capacity, which is a concern, but also consciousness to serve the people, hence the need for a radical rethink in the manner in which we appointment public and civil servants. If HPP is to be implemented effectively, then appointments to public offices should be merit-based. The fifth critical success factor is substantively strengthening monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. The mechanisms as outlined in the current document are descriptive in nature and presumptuous. They are framed in the language of ministers reporting annually assuming that the current performance agreements of ministers are solid enough to produce high-level and strategic tangible results as per the expectations of the HPP.
Most of the ministerial performance agreements reported in the media were descriptive in nature without clear targets and outputs with few exceptions. How will someone measure “ensure that the ministry functions effectively?” In conclusion, I hold the view that prosperity is conditional to respect and valuing the dignity of human life as sacred. Economic growth without distributive policies framed in ideological grounding will not bring about prosperity.
Dr. Marius Kudumo is the Director of International Relations at the Namibia University of Science and Technology. He holds a Master of Policy Studies degrees specializing in International Relations from the Southern African Regional Institute for Policy Studies in Zimbabwe.