By Lahja Nashuuta
President Hage Geingob’s 28-member Cabinet has come under closer scrutiny with many analysts voicing that it has to be trimmed down to manageable proportions given government’s financial squeeze, the small size of the economy and the 2.4 million population.
The call for the cabinet-cut also comes amidst South African President Cyril Ramaphosa having been lauded by the markets and economists for trimming his cabinet from 36 to 28.
Given the mega-size of South Africa’s industrialised economy which is projected to be US$390 billion by the end of this quarter, Namibia should be seen to employ a number of cabinet ministers that does not take too much from the national purse.
China with a population of 1.4 billion people and a GDP that stands at US$12 trillion has only 24 ministers while India with 1.3 billion people and a US$2.6 trillion economy has 24 ministers.
The world’s largest economy, USA, with a population 327 million people only has 15 ministers.
Closer to home, Tanzania so far has 18 ministers who drive a US$162.2 billion economy that caters for a population of 50 million.
These staggering population numbers eclipse Namibia, yet when it comes to cabinet numbers, Namibia takes the lead.
Brazil, with a population of 209 million has 22 cabinet ministers hut has managed to grow its economy to $2.0 trillion by 2017.
Russia has also managed to sail through tough economic sanctions from the US with only 22 ministers who take care of an economy with a population of 144 million. Despite the high number of ministers, Namibia is also one of the most unequal countries in the world with a slow pace of poverty reduction.
As far as our size of Cabinet is concerned, Namibia has 28 ministers inclusive of the Presidency.
Political analysts argue that to realise economic prosperity, Namibia now more than ever needs to emulate good practices from other countries with huge populations but are currently growing their economies with fewer members of cabinet.
“It seems that in Namibia when it comes to the appointment of cabinet ministers, quantity matters more than quality.
There is a wrong perception that the country needs lots of ministers and parliamentarians to deal with economic calamities facing the country, which is not the case,” political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah expressed.
Kamwanyah said in order to save the sinking economy there is a need to stop the tendency of giving jobs to comrades and appoint people with the required leadership needed for the economy to grow. “The issue here is that the government does not prioritise issues of citizen wellbeing but rather creating jobs and taking care of themselves as comrades” he said.
Another political analyst, Dr. Charles Mubita said apart from the need to reduce the ministers, government should also consider getting rid of some of the parastatals that are white elephants.
Mubita said the structure created does not resonate with the economic reality and numbers as a nation. He said with too many ministers, parastatals, governors and councilors, the country has created a reservoir for expenditure rather than creating quality leadership that can add value to the economy. The same sentiment was echoed by the director at the Center for an Accountable and Transparent Society, (CATS) Carola Engelbrecht.
She said too many ministries have created confusion and duplication of the mandate of some institutions.
“We have many ministries that are doing the same thing. Most of the ministries are currently funding projects for informal business and start-up businesses which is supposed to be the mandate of the Ministry of Trade,” she said.
She further said there is a need to stop the jobs for comrades in the country and appoint ministers to run sectors based on their skills and experience and not just to give jobs to comrades who are incompetent.
However, political analyst Phanuel Kaapama who also supports the idea of cutting the cabinet ministers suggested that there is a need to divert resources to local authorities in order to speed up service delivery.
“We’ve got good policies and laws in place but our implementation structures are weak, that’s where we should divert resources,” he said. He further said there is a need to narrow the roles of ministers to that of making policies and regulating institutions that are trusted with implementation.
Research Associate at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Frederico Links suggested that the only way to cut on the cabinet ministers is to combine those with some similar mandates.
He, however, said this will not be achieved soon, as the challenge is that most of government is “led by a political movement that believes in jobs for comrades.
Most presidents looked at people that campaigned and supported them during the election campaigns and not really the competence of individuals.
Some of the institutions do not speak to the needs of the public,” he opined.
He further pointed out that competence and low levels of literacy on the part of some cabinet ministers was another concern slowing down the growth of the economy.