Allow me to give a brief analysis and critique of the state of public policy making in Namibia which fails to produce a more comprehensive condition of human wellbeing and progress.
For whatever reason there seems to be a general culture that holds that having policies just for the sake of it will eventually give us functionality and progress; and pure technical expertise will eventually improve society’s social and material wellbeing. Such that we religiously draft policies upon policies even though we assign their execution to people with no drive for excellence and with poor work ethics.
Our challenge as the Namibian nation is neither lack of policy nor poor implementation, although the latter is constantly termed as the culprit behind every failure of public policy.
The truth of the matter, we are a society without a moral compass and we are governed by Machiavellians who think policies and politics have nothing to do with ethics. And defiantly we continue to see emergence of new policies, year after year, designed for purely political reasons and with nor regard that there are real humans on the ground that stand to suffer the consequences of the systemic failures cherished by politicians.
With this plethora of policies we would expect decisive and systematic approaches to issues; however, we continue to see leadership that is groping in the dark, constantly making decisions negatively affecting the lives of thousands. For example, the spending of millions of dollars to develop the National Development Plan, a beautifully designed document with wonderful ideas but barely delivered a fraction of what it says.
Yet the unsuspecting public is made to believe that this document is essential to our socio-economic development, just for it be printed and left to collect dust for the next print to come join it on the shelf.
This kind of policy making indicates a general absence of a sense of values and a growing disregard for fellow humans which our politicians and public leaders have embraced with impunity. Why are we designing policies which we do not seek to implement in order to enhance the lives of the disadvantaged? Why do we design policies that do not seek to affect our history of oppression, and create better opportunities that will lead to obtaining decent living standards? These aren’t political questions, they are human questions.
Our policies, in general, do not have a human subject in mind, they have projects in mind but not people. And this projectification of humans leads to myopic missions, thinking only of quick fixes but no long term strategies to address social injustice.
We should be deeply concerned when those who develop public policies do so without considering the public as human. We should be concerned when policies are developed simply because we want to look busy even though we know that we have not moved an inch from where we’ve been since independence. To make policies without the consideration of those who are affected is to draft fairy tales, so shrouded in visions which do not interact with the constraints of the real world.
Take Vision 2030, which ought to have been the document that set the pace for our national development. Millions of dollars spent in consultations, conferences, workshops, hotel accommodations, travel, print etc. just for it to be another ‘Black Elephant’; we all know it’s a total disaster and waste of time but we cling onto it, religiously at the expense of the disadvantaged majority.
The document has been reduced to a political tool, an aid in campaigning for political offices, a selling point for gaining university accreditations, a tender winning slogan and a mantra to obtain project funding.
We need a new thinking framework that looks beyond politics that will stir us to action to yield tangible socio-economic transformation. Dr. Geingob’s ‘We would like to have a society where no one feels left out,’ will not come true by only of the Harambee Prosperity Plan without first dealing with the paralysing laziness, wastefulness, mismanagement, and lack of commitment in his administration.
What we need is not new structures, more political seats and economic policies but a renovation of the current defective structures, so may serves as instrument of restoring the dignity of the human person whom these policies dehumanised through wilful neglect.
As the Namibian people, we appreciate the various collective efforts made by the government, to date. However, we need to think beyond projects and start thinking people.
And structure our development goals in such a way that they empower the people – priority area of development. We need to move away from policies that enhance the capricious wants of politicians who want fat salaries and benefits with little delivery and no concern for the human development of the country.
Drafting policies simply because we can and not because we want to empower services for the welfare of society – is a sign of a State that has lost its mandate. Because such policies will only advance administrative corruption, bribery, unjustified dragging of projects that waste millions of state funds, while the poor wait in the shadows hopelessly.
And unless there begins to be a bold sweeping of the Namibian house, to remove public policy makers, administrators, politicians, public servant etc. who undermine the aspirations of the Namibian population and human dignity, we are doomed to continue wallowing in misery.
We appreciate that we have policies but we need them to be human welfare focused, with measures in place to see them achieved; but this must happen with the removal of the state’s pool of poor work ethics. We also need the awakening of our consciousness that will hold the State accountable, in fulfilling its moral obligation to create functional systems that will add value to the lives of its citizens.
We need to evolve a new considerateness, culture of excellence and drive for transformation. Thus, we a revolution of conscience, humanity remade and the instilling of virtues that makes us human such that we will see the next person as fully human.
Finally, policies need to be design in a way that enhance society ‘to have and to be’ – there is no dignity in poverty, minimum wages, homelessness, lack of skills etc. Majority of Namibians are diminished people because of social and economic circumstance, therefore it is unethical for the State to continue drafting White Elephant and Black Elephant policies. Penultimately, we need a critical voice of an ethicist in the development of national policies that will interrogate the degree to which these policies are truly for the good of the public or simply for political advancements.