In April this year, President Hage Geingob launched his Harambee Prosperity Plan, aimed at eradicating poverty in Namibia and leading Namibians to prosperity. The Patriot spoke to some policy experts in various fields to offer some initial assessments of the plan’s progress so far after the first quarter and their future expectations. Some of the targets that were supposed to have been met by end June include, among others, income and asset declaration by all ministers, submission of quarterly management reports, review of ministerial development budget against an execution rate of 95 percent and the creation of a policy advisory unit existing by June 2016. As the nation waits for the Presidency to release the results of the first quarter, it remains a mystery whether the set targets were realistic or ambitious considering the set timeframe. “We have good plans but we are not good at implementing them. I think the piece they bit with Harambee is too big to chew,” said Labour Resource and Research Institute director Michael Akuupa. Akuupa expressed concern over the alignment of the targets in the Plan and the ministerial activities. “In some ministries, the Harambee component is non-existent, you look at the Ministry of Labour Relations and Employment Creation, this is the ministry responsible for job creation but it is not mentioned as the champion driver. Even vocational training is not aligned with the ministry but we are saying we want to create more jobs,” he opined.
“The Plan speaks of the establishment of a productivity centre but you do not even have an employment creation commission, how will the entire process work?” questioned Akuupa.
According to Akuupa: “While the Plan was received with mixed feelings by the research sector, we had faith to say that if this was an implementation strategy plan it would work well, but so far we have not seen implementation taking place, or maybe we should give them time to announce the results.” He also stressed the need for the contextualisation of the Plan politically in order to understand its origins. “The Plan talks of the end of the Harambee period, does this mean we are looking at a Geingob legacy or is Harambee a political plan or tool to create a legacy. Progressively when you look at President Sam Nujoma’s plans you will see that he never completed them, President Pohamba came to complete, the same was expected from President Geingob. There was no need for a new Plan, all we needed was a strategy to implement the existing plans,” he opined. Akuupa also questioned the timelines set for the targets. “Are these timelines really reasonable? These quarterly reports are not progressive because when you have to put infrastructure in place to implement your programmes, three months is definitely too short” he said.
Namibia University of Science and Technology’s head of media and journalism studies, Emily Brown, welcomed the Plan but questioned the chosen communication strategy. “The planning cycle was a bit off the mark because of the tough start in 2016 that saw the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals to which we did not give a good account in my view, now we have the Sustainable Development Goals that have 169 targets,” she said.
Brown highlighted the importance of a good communication strategy in such a Plan. “The communication aspect plays a huge part in the whole process. Currently, there is just a lot of text which might not appeal to everyone. They could have mixed it with some audio/visual component so that it can be appealing to those who must implement the Plan,” she said. If the communication strategy was adequate, Brown said, more people would have grasped Harambee. “The manner in which it is currently being presented needs to be revisited because people are too inundated with text,” she proposed. Brown was also worried by the timeframe set for the targets. “Organisational culture is something that must be worked on and more time needed to be spent on ensuring that civil servants move gradually towards implementation. Implementation and monitoring continue to be a problem and it requires a budget and human resources,” she said. “We often underestimate the extent we need to interact with people on policy documents, some ministries have focal people which really helps, and then you find those that do not have a focal person,” she said, while at the same time urging more public discussions around public policy documents.
The Namibian Red Cross Society secretary Dorkas Kapembe-Haiduwa also formed part of the deliberations, and according to her, more time was supposed to be allocated for the planning phase. “Proper planning is important in order for the Plan to be implemented successfully. In project management, the first six months is key for the groundwork so that things can be put in place. If you put too much emphasis on achievements at such an early stage, you are digging your own trench,” she warned. Kapembe-Haiduwa said: “When you introduce something new – from the market perspective – you need to work with psychology of people and they need to comprehend it.” “It is not up to me to say what will be achieved or not during the first quarter, but what I can say is that whatever needs to be in place to get results must be worked on. We should not be too hard on ourselves if the results are not as we wanted them to be because it will take a while for people to adjust and they must not be demoralised if targets are not reached during the first months,” she said. She also warned against pushing for targets just to score points. “In the implementation of any plan, especially this one, there are those that are after quick wins just to meet the deadlines, what we should aim for is sustainability of the targets that have been met,” she cautioned. The Red Cross secretary also warned against the duplication of social programmes.
“I just think there are too many duplications, you have the drought relief, the President’s winter drive and food bank. The food bank money comes from the same budget as the drought money, this means somehow you are duplicating things and you need to work smart to be efficient in what you are doing because it is inefficient to have different social safety nets that are not aligned. Perhaps it is time we consolidate the safety nets,” she proposed. “The Plan talks about providing 50 000 rural toilets, yet this is something the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry is occupied with, what is being done differently to achieve this target in a short time knowing very well Government has struggled for years to provide toilets?” she questioned. Max Weylandt, a researcher at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), fears that some of the set targets are disjointed. “Perhaps it is still premature to comment since the results have not been released but I feel the targets are not talking to each other. By last month the new Procurement Act had to be in place, but then the appointment for the Central Procurement Board is set for December, he said. Weylandt said: “Initially, I would have thought they would pick easier targets before moving onto the bigger ones because one can see that there is evidence that the targets for the first months were a bit too ambitious so it was as good as not having any targets while the groundwork is being done.”
NUST International Relations director, Dr Marius Kudumo is of the view that the Plan is target-specific, but stressed the need for clarity as to how the plan will complement existing national plans.
“The concern I have is that you need a system to do what you want, therefore I expected the Plan to have conceptual clarity on what it is about? Whose plan is it? And how it will be implemented? These things are not clear,” Kudumo said. Kudumo said: “I read about NDP5 but one can see there is need for policy clarity to clarify key concepts so that people can have the same understanding. There is need for time to simplify the programme and to deal with the communication strategy thereof so that people can understand it.” The Plan is good but our policies are not good because of the way we conceptualise them. “The first year could have been spent to sell the concept because for Harambee to work you need a radical change in how civil servants’ work,” he said. Kudumo also warned that the limited human resource capacity in the Presidency might hamper effective monitoring. “We should have spent more time clarifying the programme to the civil servants. Some of the targets are too ambitious and even in the event where targets are not clearly defined, people do not need reports to see if things are on track – they can see for themselves,” he said. Kudumo said he hopes those responsible for implementing the plan will not get defensive if targets are not met but rather review targets and move on.