Inequality and poverty are global issues, and the growing gap between the richest and the poorest remains a concern of leaders world-wide, of course for various reasons. There is wide-ranging related policy and legislation as every country wants to tailor their approach to address their unique socio-economic and political environment. Some efforts of engineering change were successful, where both growth and, simultaneously, a more equitable distribution of income and a reduction of poverty, were witnessed. However, in many countries attempts have failed and led to greater differences between the rich and the poor.
Most societies are aware and agree, that change needs to happen in order to address this gap. For example, in some countries, a domestic worker has to work four years to earn the equivalent of one month’s salary of a member of parliament.
Bärbel Kirchner, consulting general manager of the CIF says: “The CIF is concerned about whether or not NEEEB will bring about the desired results as per the outlined objectives and in its current format. It therefore would be advisable that one would go back to the drawing board and ask the question whether NEEEB can bring about the desired outcome as per the objectives of the bill.”
One fundamental requirement would have to be that one understands exactly what one would like to achieve. If the desire, like anywhere else in the world, is to address inequality and poverty, one first would need to examine the actual causes of current poverty in Namibia. Whilst historic factors, would play a role, with more than 30 years after independence, it would be necessary to revisit the question of what currently causes inequality and poverty and limited access to opportunity.
Once the exact, possibly multipronged causes were established, one needs to consider what exactly needs to be addressed and how. One would need to determine relevant and related measurable criteria in order to measure change over time, in line with needs determined by current realities.
Once criteria are clearly defined, in line with the desired outcomes, one would be in a better position of identifying the best mechanisms of addressing those. Once one has absolute clarity and shared vision of what needs to be achieved, it is possible to look at options, which would find their way into related policies and legislation. This would also allow Namibia to consider best practice policy and legislations from other nations world-wide that effectively secured change to the betterment of all.
This would mean that one would act from a position of knowing the current status quo, and where one would want to be. Change, and the way to get there, would then be guided by detailed knowledge.
That would also help to collect the right baseline data and measure change over a period of time. This would also then allow for a sunset clause, once the desired outcome has been achieved. Without exact criteria, without data, it would be impossible to optimally measure the effectiveness of any policy and legislation, or an enacted NEEEB for that matter.
Identifying the measurable criteria, would also determine the current effectiveness of other related policies and legislation; for example access to education, access to a reliable health infrastructure of a high standard, access to housing and sanitation. Related government expenditure would then also need to continuously be scrutinised and optimised.
Clear and measurable criteria would ultimately allow for clear understanding as to who within a society should indeed be recipients of legislation and related benefits that engineer social change to address poverty and equitable access, and would prevent further empowerment of the current political and economic elite.
To summarise, in order to make a real impact and to change the life of the poorest, it is important that one adopts the right approaches. Before any new legislation is enacted there needs to be absolute certainty as to what would need to be achieved, and how it is measured. Only then the right policies and legislation can be enacted to bring about the desired change.
CIF therefore proposes that the bill not be tabled in Parliament, before further consultations, effective and reliable research are undertaken. That will then allow the policy makers to be informed with relevant and accurate information and in order to find the right instruments and to shape their policy and legislation accordingly.
One needs to ask if NEEEB is indeed the right instrument to achieve the objectives of tackling poverty and inequity. The conceptualisation of NEEEB, more or less in its current format, has already started twelve years ago with the development of the policy Transformation Economic and Social Empowerment Framework (TESEF) in 2008, very much based on unsuccessfully implemented policies in South Africa, and today the macro environment is very different to what it was then.
CIF also proposes that it may be necessary to engage economists from countries world-wide to jointly deliberate the best and most successful approaches, and that these would include representatives from various countries, with different political orientations.
Bärbel Kirchner, consulting general manager of the CIF says: “We need to address the problem. Without any doubt, we are all aware that poverty needs to be tackled and that we need to achieve equitable access to opportunities and a fairer society, but can we really rely on NEEEB to achieve this?”
CIF, as member-based organisation pleads with Government to engage in further deliberations, and to approach the urgency of addressing poverty and inequality with a scientific evidence-based approach.
Ultimately, industry associations, civil society, interest groups, non-governmental organisations and indeed the media, play a very important role in shaping government policy, legislation, regulations and directives. It is a sign of a healthy democracy if all are actively engaged without the fear of being ridiculed or ostracised, or the pure and genuine motives being questioned. Indeed further research, feedback and suggestions should be welcomed by those in power in the interest of shaping legislation and keeping democracy alive.