Wednesday 14 April 2021
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Back to the SME Bank drawing board

As Bank of Namibia and the Ministry of Finance remain resolute to see the cash-stripped SME Bank closed down for good, a few questions come to mind: Where did we go wrong? What if we go back to the drawing board and start over, but this time around smarter after having learnt from the current mess? What have we learnt from the SME Bank debacle? BoN approached the High Court on an urgent basis this week to close the SME Bank, arguing that government cannot continue bailing the bank out. The move to close the bank comes in the aftermath of about N$200 million of the bank’s money that allegedly disappeared through dubious investments made in South Africa. However, as Ipumbu Shiimi contemplate and proceed in the courts to shut down SME Bank, let us bear in mind the detrimental effects that the closure will have on the masses – the poor men and women who the bank in its crudest form was meant to assist – the small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
It is no hidden secret that SME Bank, like the Mass Housing Scheme and TIPEEG that came before it was created with noble intentions. As such, closing such an entity just a few years down the line since its establishment makes little or no sense to the layman on the street. However, this noble – President Hage Geingob dream – came to end dismally when the politicians’ unquenchable thirst for money; greed, looting, mismanagement of public funds took centre stage.
With the liquidator to be appointed in the event that the court grants Bank of Namibia its wish, it remains a hope that those who led the institution to the ground and those who made it to the vaults of SME Bank in the form of loans will pay back the money. It pains me greatly when I think  about the impending closure (winding up) of SME Bank where we will be sending over 200 people to the streets (job losses), but such an act will also dash the hopes of the Kapana vendor in the dusty streets of Havana (Windhoek) or the aspiring entrepreneur from the Otamanzi constituency who is in dire need of the much-needed start-up capital to get the business off the ground.
Again, Namibians were let down by those whom we have vested our trust in as leaders. How the Board of Directors sleep at night astounds me. One is perplexed as to why government cannot at this stage bailout SME Bank and implement wide reforms. Is this not the same government that spent billions to bailout parastatals over the years?  But perhaps this is a sign of things to come-a government who will nolonger tolerate inefficiency and one who will not be afraid to shut down dysfunction. Directors beware!  Let us remind ourselves of the core values of SME Bank, they are: service excellence, honesty, integrity, professionalism, passion to serve, respect and teamwork. SME Bank was created to provide special attention to projects of Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs), and those catering to rural communities, micro enterprises and previously disadvantaged communities.
Another suggestion in the public domain is the sale of SME Bank, this according to some will see the bank being prudently run in a business-like fashion.  It is in plain view for all to see that private companies in Namibia are well-run entities as opposed to their public counterparts who are prone to looting. The SME Bank crisis should not be used as a measure of how good we can be as Namibians, but rather a lesson from which we can learn on how to plan and take the necessary steps needed to create well-run institutions that will serve the intended beneficiarie

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