Saturday 17 April 2021
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Public Policies and the Promotion of Poverty

Poverty is a state of powerlessness to meet one’s basic needs and lead a decent life. It extends beyond mere economics and rather involves the total being of the affected persons.
The state of poverty in our country is by any definition appalling, even something one has to be ashamed of for being a Namibian. It’s a state that protrudes its ugliness on every corner of the country – contrasted by extreme wealth of a few individuals. We are also aware that a large chunk of this dehumanising poverty has historical roots of colonial oppression and the apartheid system. However, we cannot reconstruct history and right it and we are thankful to have come out of the grip of such a past. The onus to right or amend the structures that have contributed to the effects of today, rests with the State and its policies on poverty.
For example, let’s take the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare, ignore the titular misrepresentation. This ministry ought to be key in the policy development and drive the agenda of tackling poverty with real solutions. However, this policy making body is literally a structural decoration and a replica of already existing but malfunctioning, non-function or practically defunct. It’s an entire ministry with people operating it to address issues of socio-economic injustice with not effective strategy. This kind of structural and administrative failure is in itself evidence of the government’s contribution to the promotion of poverty.
While government has made small positive steps, these are being nullified by poor policing and goldbrick administrative structures. This in itself creates a moral dilemma and promotes the presence and extent of poverty among the already poor.
The poor of our country will continue to be poor because the means of empowering them is constantly being diverted to source a top heavy government administration. The limited resources of this country which ought to be used to improve the socio-economic conditions of many impoverished people are being diverted to fund luxuries and wasteful projects. This is a policy issue, which is contributing to poverty.
For a government that has publicly sworn to fight poverty but has literally been setting budgets that advance the very thing it has identified as a public enemy. Shouldn’t we have seen a reduction in government size, luxury vehicles, duplication of jobs etc? Is the talk about poverty and its eradication not a political Trojan horse aimed at deepening the poverty levels? Personally, I’d like to think that our government is the key sabotaging agent on the war on poverty. It’s actions, almost at every level, are self-defeating and undoing the fight against poverty. Because of the kind of economic structure we have, the state which is the custodian of public resources, is a wasteful spender with not long term goals.
Why have poverty levels increased and continue to worsen after independence, when they’re supposed to reduce? Over the years, the fight against poverty has received beautiful verbal and policy commitments while in the meantime only doing actions for media purposes. The poor continue to receive an upgraded Bantu education system; the public health care system are literally wastelands with human occupants; skill development has been hijacked by public training institutions with high costs which the poor can’t afford.
Many are convinced that this is something that has started with President Hage Geingob taking office. An utterly false claim. The problem of governance which leads to the promotion of poverty, is deeply enshrined in the absence of an effective governing culture. Such an absence of culture can only lead to the designing of policies that will strengthen poverty levels, because of poor or absent management, supervision, accountability and implementation. The current administration is not new, only the presidential figure has changed. We need a change of internal culture about the policies and action plan implementations. Then only will the aim to alleviate poverty take an intentional course to address this social evil.
It’s sad to see how our government over the 28 years has been effectively disempowering the poor through misappropriation of resources. The coming of the current head of state raised high hopes in the eyes of the public. Unfortunately, the wasteful spending has continued unbendingly and has been diverted from being too obvious. While these spending are increasing, the poor continue to languish in poor health, living conditions, education etc. This is a systematic assault on the most vulnerable, a state sponsored and initiated assault because it is hidden by existing policies which do not translate into transformative actions.
Should we continue to hope that things may someday change? Or are we in the Inferno of Poverty with Dante’s inscription at its entrance, ‘All hope abandon, ye who enter in?’ Twenty-eight years down this path of political independence, we only know the punishment the state has unleashed on us through its tool, the government. As far as poverty is concerned, the poor have become continuous captives of dashed hopes, which even at present doesn’t inspire confidence in the eyes of the public. Every experience, so far, indicates that public policies are cover-ups to promote poverty, protect mismanagement, and administrative corruption that is stealing the resources that ought to alleviate poverty.

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