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Wednesday 24 July 2019
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Fitch: Just what Namibia needed

Fitch Rating Agency last Friday gave Namibia a rude awakening when it announced that it was revising our economic outlook from stable to negative.  As much it pains me as a Namibian to see my country going through such an ordeal, I am happy that as Namibians we have finally opened our eyes and perhaps realise that life does not revolve around politics. Most Namibians have a tendency of following the country’s political game at the expense of the economic game, forgetting that the economy has the power to dictate the political atmosphere of the country. I must say I am still perplexed to note that since Fitch announced the revision a week ago, not once did Government take blame for the revision. The entire blame is being shifted to the ‘international markets’ and all sorts of external factors. Issues such as high housing prices and NEEEF have been singled out as some of the key ratings drivers and we all know it is our own doing. Government has pleaded ignorance to the country’s economic position since last year, public resources were used to place denounce and rubbish any media report that touched on the country’s finances. Even the President is on record saying “We are not broke”. What now Mr. President? Please come and tell the 87% of Namibians that sent you to State House what your position is right now.

It is not fair unto the electorate to be exposed to such conditions while their political representatives sit on the information that must be made public. The presidency even went as far as saying that such a revision was expected, why then was it kept secret?
The President’s economic advisor Dr. John Steytler was quoted in a local daily saying: “We’re not entirely surprised that this happened, knowing that globally there have been a lot of headwinds. Some countries have lost their credit ratings, so we’re glad that we remain creditworthy and able to borrow at good rates.” He went on to say: “We, therefore, don’t need to be despondent. These are normal cycles that the entire world is going through. It would’ve been worrying if the global economy was positive, while ours is negative. What is happening here is a trend of the global economy outlook.” It cannot be right that Namibia, with its vast potential must rate itself based on the performance of others, when are we going to start pushing to have our fate in our own hands? We cannot feel better about our situation just because others are going through similar situations.  I must say all is not lost for Namibia, the Fitch revision must serve as a wakeup call to us all and remind us that the Namibian boat needs us all to do our part to keep it sailing. It is sad that in these times when our economy is so fragile the problems continue to pour like heavy rain showers. Teachers are planning to strike over salaries, food insecurity, water crisis, land shortage and an ever increasing cost of living. Quo Vadis Namibia?

Can it be that this country is doomed at 26?
I hope not, because some of us do not have another country to flee to if things hit rock bottom. Decision-making is key in this whole ratings saga, Government needs to accept that the way it handles the state purse currently coupled with misguided spending priorities does not make things easier.  When the leadership of the country plan and plot on how to spend the meagre public resources at their disposal, they should do it the way they plan for their houses. It is common sense that one does not buy luxury items in your house unless you have all the basic items, after all, this is not rocket science. But we have seen in recent months how Government continues to push for mega luxury projects while we have outstanding basic necessities such as housing provision, school shortages and a lack of health facilities hanging over our heads. Our list of luxury cravings range from a new parliament, modern office blocks, regional state houses, expensive government fleet and a new airport. For now these are luxuries that Namibia can do without. Chief amongst the woeful spending priorities-and those in Government can deny it all they want-is the money required to foot the salaries of the country’s political class.

Is there really no way that Namibia can have a leaner political class?
Fitch has awaken many Namibians who thought political stability is the only panacea to peace, maybe it is true, but you cannot ignore that economic stability too is a panacea for peace. The ratings agency provided us with a roadmap that we must follow if we are to regain our positive rating, at the same time we were also given a dossier of what we should not do to avoid a further drop. Fitch warned that future developments that could result in a downgrade include failure to narrow the fiscal deficit leading to continued rise in the government debt/GDP ratio; failure to narrow the current account deficit or significant drawdown in international reserves; deterioration in economic growth,  Future Developments that could result in the Outlook being revised to Stable include: – A narrowing of the budget deficit consistent with a stabilisation of the government debt/GDP ratio. -A marked improvement in the current account balance and increase in foreign exchange reserves. Namibia is a country full of potential, therefore, if we make the right decisions nothing can keep us from prosperity.




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