Tuesday 11 May 2021
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Government should re-prioritize development budget to address youth anger

Rainer Ritter in his publication titled “ Unemployment in Namibia: A Proposed Agenda to Make Namibia Smile Again”(2018) aptly observed that “ one can read and sense brewing levels of popular disillusionment about the current state of economic affairs”.
This popular disillusionment is currently being vented out by the youth in the refrain, “we want change”.
The youth and a large section of the population feel forgotten, neglected and not valued. Their economic plight is not catered for through the national budget under the current consolidation framework. Unemployment is estimated at 34 percent of the workforce. Unemployment affects the youth severely.
With the continuing economic contraction, unemployment is likely to continue to affect more young people. Youth anger will not be addressed through the election regardless who wins the presidency. If youth unemployment, poverty and inequality are not  addressed  decisively, a form of youth “ Extinction Rebellion” will be inevitable,, not about Climate Change, but against unemployment, poverty ,inequality perceived rampant corruption.
Minister of Finance, Calle Schlettwien, has made it a habit during his budget statements to make empty promises. In his Mid-Year Budget Review for the Financial Year 2018/2019 he promised that, “… Government will frontload implementation of growth enhancing public investment stimulus with the objective of supporting domestic economic activity and job creation.”
He repeated the same refrain this October when he presented his Budget Review in Parliament.
One would have expected that the N$ 999.59 million freed from the Development Budget could have been allocated to employment creation projects.
He, however, borrowed money from the African Development Bank  to support Small and Medium Enterprises through the Development Bank of Namibia. This money will not be affordable to an average youth who intends to establish a small business.
The lending rate at the Development Bank of Namibia is currently 13 percent. This kind of approach to employment creation is not likely therefore to yield satisfactory results.
In his latest Budget Review the Minister of Finance promised to allocate N$7.8 billion to Development Budget during the coming Financial Year. He further indicated that Government will allocate N$8.2 billion in the Financial Year 2021/2022 to the Development Budget. If N$1 billion from these allocations could be allocated to employment creation  it might be possible to create jobs for the unemployed.
The Deputy Executive Director in the Ministry of Education, Knox Imbuwa, recently told the Annual Construction Industry Conference that the Ministry needs 1532 new classrooms, 1712 ablution facilities, 280 additional hostels, 62 new Special Education classrooms and 11 new dining halls. To meet these needs the Ministry requires N$1.95 billion.
There is an opportunity here job creation for the youth.
The Health Sector is likely to require new clinics and health centres as well as the rehabilitation of existing health facilities.
The Ministry of Environment needs to rehabilitate its parks and accommodation for its staff. Road maintenance could provide jobs to semi-skilled workers.
The sanitation crisis in informal settlements is a threat to the health of the residents of those areas.
The youth, under supervision of experts, could be mobilized to construct improved sanitation. This will improve the dignity of the residents  of  the informal settlements as well as their health.
The hospitality sector needs well trained workers to provide quality service to tourists and other visitors.
A programme of training young people in hospitality related competences will go a long way in improving the quality of services. Similarly, the ICT sector has a potential of training young people in various ICT skills which are required by the Service Sector.
There are many other areas which offer possibilities for youth employment.  The Ministry responsible for Employment Creation must be resourced to be able to develop a variety of employment creation programmes.
This Ministry should collaborate with the Ministry of Youth to mobilize the young people in small groups to create companies to undertake, for example, construction work under supervision of qualified engineers to ensure quality outcomes.
The youth divided should not be allowed to turn into a negative force. Youth energy should be translated into a positive force for creativity, growth and development. Government should be pro-active in this regard.
It is nice to build roads, but it is even better to invest in people. Some roads can wait for tomorrow.
The youth need income today!  Re-prioritize the Development Budget to respond to youth anger!

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