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Sunday 21 April 2019
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“Times that try men’s souls”

 
 
Thomas Paine (writing under the pseudonym “the Author of Common Sense”) entered the American lexicon even before there was an American lexicon: “These are the times that try men’s souls” is the first line of the first of 16 pamphlets he published over the course of the American Revolution, from 1776 to 1783.
Paine’s words fit perfectly into Namibia’s current situation whereby the country’s teetering economy has become a test symbol to see how rigid the country really is and whether it can withstand these tough times.
 
At some point the blame-game must stop so that we can all address the elephant in the room-the empty national purse.
Remedial action must not only entail solutions to get us out of the current economic predicament, but also ways to avoid falling into the same trap in future.
 
The process that led to the cash crisis in Namibia lapse was the culmination of a series of failed measures to salvage at least parts of the economy. The government diluted it in some respects before it finally introduced several austerity measures.
 
Originally, government paid little attention to how public funds were being spent, this includes reckless allocations to the defense ministry, inflated tender prices, questionable borrowings and poor tax collection systems.
 
On top of this the provision of services such as rural infrastructure, affordable housing, industrial corridors and infrastructure and social infrastructure only started gaining prominence a few years before the crisis we find ourselves in as a country today.
 
Although many Government officials continue to argue that Government adopted the austerity measures at the right time, the reality on the ground tells a different story.
 
Insufficient funding over the years combined with other faulty practices have led to a dysfunctional Government system in the country.
 
Yesterday our finance minister Calle Schlettwein said the change in administration in the United States of America (USA) has brought with it great “uncertainty” especially in the developing world.
Donald Trump, who against all odds succeeded Barack Obama as the 45th U.S president was described by Schlettwein as having taken a “protectionist” as opposed to a “multilateralism” approach.
“It is not good (Trump approach) for development,” lamented Schlettwein.
 
We all know that Trump is a man who is not bothered about America defending economic and political freedom and human rights around the world. You get the impression that his America will only fight for its own good, unlike that of his predecessors.
Developing nations have little comfort to take from Trump so far, as protectionism is an easy partner for isolationism. This was the voice of a man who isn’t especially bothered about America defending freedom and human rights around the world. In Africa, we will be asked to make more effort to take care of ourselves and eventually start pursuing trade instead of aid.
 
Trump emerged onto the steps of the US Capitol having made it clear that his number one priority is the American people, the rest of the world must cater for itself. To a certain extent he needs to be applauded because he did not go around soliciting support using lies that he will be a President for all. For once in decades the US have a “What you see is what you get” President.
 
Trump’s arrival is a blessing in disguise for Africa, it will ruffle our feathers in a way that will force us to start producing our own goods. We cannot industrialise through aid, be it concessional loans or any other form. Trade must be our moral compass.
 
The US needs the rest of the world to survive, so as much as Trump thinks the US can do it on its own, other countries must strengthen their systems and take their rightful spots in the global trade arena.



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