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NPC Director General, Tom Alweendo speaks about TIPEEG, Vision 2030 and NDPIV
- Alweendo says if he were to address jobless people, he would not

Question: Cde Director General, there have been media reports about the slow pace at which TIPEEG (Targeted Intervention Programme for Employment Creation and Economic Growth) is being implemented. The National Planning Commission, NPC, is one of the co-coordinating bodies overseeing the implementation of TIPEEG. As Director General, are you satisfied with the rate at which TIPEEG is being implemented?

Answer: Some of those questions are not a yes or a no kind of answer. But let me give you some background about how TIPEEG came into being. Namibia is faced with a higher rate of unemployment. The government is seriously concerned about this.

While we are busy putting systems in place to prepare ourselves for more long-term jobs, the government thought it wise to do something in the mean time about the high unemployment rate in the country. And the only thing the government can do really is to increase its expenditure in infrastructure development. If you are going to develop infrastructure, whether it's a road, a railway, a school or a clinic, at least there would be some people employed on those projects.

It is true that those people cannot be employed on a long-term basis. On projects like building schools or clinics, such people may be employed for six or seven months. That's how long it takes to build a school. A road could be longer, a railway could be much longer. The longest could be four years. To do this, we have to increase our expenditure in infrastructure development. We have to increase our Capital Budget, which is sometimes called Development Budget.

While we are doing that, we also realized that we should not just develop infrastructure everywhere.

We chose to focus on certain sectors, which may make us more economically competitive for the future. For example, if you have good roads or good rails, you can transport your goods faster and efficiently, thus reducing transport costs. When you have got good harbours, we become competitive as a country in the region. So we are quite selective in where we want to put a lot of money in. So we did not actually go and put money in everything.

That's why we concentrate on transport infrastructure, on agriculture, housing and tourism. So those were some of the areas where we say let us put more government funding to help create more jobs. All it really means is that while we are preparing ourselves for long-term jobs, we must do something in the meantime to create temporary jobs to get people employed. That's how TIPEEG came into being. There is also a bit of a misunderstanding.

People think TIPEEG is a separate fund where people can come and borrow money. That's not how it works. TIPEEG is still Capital Budget, which means, the money is still voted for under the line ministries. TIPEEG funds under construction like roads are still under the Ministry of Works. They are the ones with the money. It is on their vote. For agricultural projects, that money is under the Ministry of Agriculture. Tourism is under the Ministry of Environment.

Housing is under the Ministry of Regional and Local, Housing and Rural Development.

With all these massive projects in mind and a lot of money involved, we also realized that we are not going to rely on the normal implementation strategy if we wanted to succeed. There have been complaints about how slow the Tender Board process is. If we want to make a dent on unemployment, we should not just rely on that. It's not going to help us, especially now that we have got more money than usual. With TIPEEG, the Development Budget increased from N$5 billion to N$8 billion. That is a massive increase. It usually increases by say five percent annually. Today it is almost double.

That's a lot of money. That's quite a huge increase. Now, if you are going to spend that money using the same implementation strategy, we would never actually spend it all. We created a structure where you have a TIPEEG Implementation Committee, chaired by the Permanent SecreSecretary of the National Planning Commission, NPC. We got in the permanent secretaries of the Office of the Prime Minister, Ministries of Labour and of Finance.

The TIPEEG Implementation Committee is made of these permanent secretaries. The idea was to speed up the implementation process. For this to happen, however, the line ministries should take their projects to this committee to quickly advertise and award the tenders so that the project can start quickly. The financial year starts from April to March the following year, but you get people up to now going to tenders. What is the point of going on tender in February? You only have one month left.

With the implementation Committee in place, we thought things would move faster. The ministries were simply not bringing their projects to the Committee. It is not the Committee that should approach the ministries. The ministries themselves must take their projects to the Committee. TIPEEG's money is still under the line ministries.

You know that people do not like changes. Just as things were starting to move, the legality of the Implementation Committee was being questioned. Some people were saying that the new Committee had no powers to award tenders. But at the beginning, we all agreed about the need to create this committee to speed up things. But when we were discussing the matter, these things were never raised.

We discussed these things and nobody raised this issue at that point. Now, if our own people were saying it was illegal, imagine what tenderers were going to say. They would take you to court, especially when they lose tenders. You know how the courts work. It would be drawn-out battles, and you end up paying massive legal costs. And what have you achieved? Nothing!

We then agreed that this TIPEEG Implementation Committee should become a sub-committee of the Tender Board. Whatever decisions the Committee takes, such decisions would be taken on behalf of the Tender Board. Such decisions would be as if they were taken by the Tender Board itself. That was how we went around that legal issue.

But it took us a while to do that. That aside, the Committee's work is really dependent on how fast the ministries come and present their projects to the Tender Board. But ministries were not just doing that. Things really moved slowly as a result of that. To answer your question, I am not happy with the rate at which TIPEEG is being implemented. We just got February figures and I am not happy with that. I am not impressed.

If the idea was to implement such projects quickly, you would not want to leave a cent not spent. But as we speak now, a lot of money is going back to the Treasury. There are lessons to be learned. I believe that whatever system you come up with, it is never perfect. You assume certain things, but when you start implementing them, things turn out differently. The lessons we have learned will help us change the system so that it works better.

For example, instead of concentrating all the projects in the central government, why not distribute some projects to the regions? Each region has its own Tender Board. Why not say to Region A, this project is in your region. We give money to you. These are the rules which must be followed, but you are the one to award tenders.

That we believe will speed up the process. But some people say yes, but the regions do not have the capacity. I do not want to buy that capacity issue. It is actually people who want to concentrate things in the central government who say that. Why have we decided to have regions if we don't want to give them the power to do certain things? Those people in the regions are going to do things on your behalf. It will still be ministry's A's work. There is still a bit of resistance. People are using capacity as an issue why we should not give funds to the regions.

If we are arguing about capacity as an issue in the region, what capacity do we have ourselves? If we are not able to implement the projects fully, and you still want to say you have better capacity! What does that mean? You are actually defeating the whole purpose. You have no argument. What capacity do you have? Money is going back to the Treasury!

Unless you say I have fully implemented the projects because of my capacity and therefore I don't want to give money to the regions because they don't have the capacity. But as we speak now, that is not the case. You are not implementing the projects at the expected speed. Your capacity is therefore probably questionable. That is one of the lessons we have learned. We should probably think about not concentrating all the tenders in the central government. We can set a threshold and say projects below this figure must go to the regions.

The regions should be the ones to implement those projects. We may go there and monitor what they are doing and evaluate what they have done. If we do this, it will seriously speed up the process. The way we went about employment creation through government projects was also really not the best one. If the idea was to give tenders to people who would create jobs, you would want to give the tender to people who have the capacity to create more jobs. But to tell you, if I know that this is what you want, I will tell you I will create 1000 jobs, whereas in actual fact, I only created 400. Yes, we have such cases.

The approach was not accurate because tenderers will just inflate the figures to win a particular tender. But in reality, the situation on the ground is different. We needed to set criteria which would allow us to assess the capacity of the tenderer to create jobs and to deliver before awarding such tenders. That could have made things a lot easier. Figures about jobs created would also be accurate.

Another aspect that also came out is that if you look at the situation statistically, the majority of the unemployed youth are the ones without skills, those who dropped out of Grade 10, or did not even reach Grade 10. These are the people who are mostly unemployed.

Another question was also raised as to what to do with the young people who finished at UNAM or Polytechnic of Namibia, but who do not have jobs? We agreed then that instead of concentrating on Grade 10 dropouts only, we should also look at people who are qualified but who do not have jobs.

These are the people who went to UNAM. You paid to train such people. Aren't you better served to make them employable either through the private sector, where you say, 'employ these people, maybe not on a full time basis, but at least for them to acquire skills and make them employable.

We can create a special fund to offset costs. Once equipped with the necessary skills, these people will end up getting full-time jobs. You need a system where you have government funds through which you assist such people to acquire skills. Those are some of the lessons we have learned through TIPEEG implementation.

Question: Are you saying that part of the slow process is largely because of the legal complications created by the coming into being of the Implementation Committee, and its relation to the Tender Board?

Answer: Not really. The biggest problem came in when the ministries were not forth coming in bringing their projects to the committee. That was the major problem. The one of subjecting the Committee under the Tender Board was sorted out some months ago. The solution was found. It did not take long to sort it out. We did not want to ignore those concerns. We also wanted to be on the legal side of the law. That is where we are right now.

Questions: You are saying you are not happy with the rate at which TIPEEG is being implemented. If you were to make corrections to make you happy as DG, what corrections will you make?

Answer: If it was for me, I would just want to find out why you did not do what you were supposed to do. Is it because you do not want to do it or is it because you do not have the skills to do it? If you don't have the skills, I would understand. I will say let us work on the skills.

But if you did not do it because you were busy with some other things, or you just did not care, you did not pay attention, my solution is this: "My friend, I have got other people who can do it."

Sometimes we are not willing to make people accountable for what they have not done. And people get used to it. This, in itself, also becomes the system. If I do not do it, who is going to do anything against me?

At the end of the day, it is all of us who get blamed. People just NPC Director General, Tom Alweendo say it is the government, whereas it is just one individual who did not do his/her job. These are the people who are giving the government a bad name. People out there do not say Tom Alweendo did not do his job, they just say it is the SWAPO Party government. But that is not fair. True, there are people in government who are doing their best to make things work. But there are those who are not doing their work.

For me the best thing is to find out why things have not moved and hold people accountable for what they have not done. We are letting down the people. We are letting down the President. In every State of the Nation Address, he would talk about service delivery all the time. He always says we need to deliver services to our people. If we are not doing this, we are not heeding the President's call. Honestly, we are not just letting down the President. We are letting the whole nation down. We are letting down the unemployed.

There are the people we are elected to serve, but we are letting them down.

What will make me happy is that people should take their duties and responsibilities seriously and deliver. I must once again say there are people who want to make things happen. There a few ones who really let down the system. And people out there just say the SWAPO Party government is useless. Why should we all be tainted just because of a few individuals?

I understand those who say they cannot do it because they don't have the skills. Those ones must be helped to get the right skills.

But those with skills who somehow focus their attention somewhere else, and not on the jobs they are supposed to do, I will get rid of them. I really would get rid of them. Some people may say it is harsh, but if you are not prepared to say "look my friend, we agreed with you that you would do this. It is not that I am forcing you. We agreed. And look at what you have done?"

But now I am the one who must explain to the people, the President must now explain to the people about what happened.

That is not fair. Imagine you are the Head of State. The President told the nation what would happen when he launched TIPEEG. He can't say it was not me, it was so and so. We are letting the President down.

Question: Given the money that has so far been spent, how many jobs have been created?

Answer: We have created about 7600 jobs as of February. I am being cautious about that figure.

Our system sometimes is not what it should be. It has always been difficult for us to verify those figures from the ministries. The ministries are the ones implementing projects through which jobs are created. They are the ones compiling these figures. We normally ask them how many jobs they have created on each project.

We also ask the contractors, just to verify the figures. But you don't always have the same figure. So you end up getting different figures, sometimes a bit inflated.

Question: Who inflates the figures? Answer: I don't know how they do it. We developed a system which they are supposed to use. But you also find a certain area where there is a project where money was spent on, but the line ministry cannot tell you how many jobs have been created.

Again, they are not paying attention to these things. It is like, "ah we can do it tomorrow."

Sometimes you have projects implemented, but on jobs created, it shows zero. That is not possible. You cannot tell me that you have not created jobs when you have spent, say N$50 million. Surely, there was a project implemented. This money was paid to someone to work on the project. So you can't tell me that you don't have figures for the number of jobs created. So the figure (7600) is probably much higher than it is. Our system of compiling figures has not been consistent, simply because some people do not take their duties seriously.

Remember that we have made promises. The people will want to know one day how many jobs we have created. You want to give the correct figures. You don't want to guess. Therefore as officials, make sure that you have the correct figures. It is not so difficult because the contractor is there, you can go on site and get the figures. But it is a struggle. People do not pay attention to these things.

It was an experiment. I don't also want to be an idealist. You have to be a realist sometimes. As I say people do not like changes. It is only now that they realize it is becoming serious. For example, we need to tell the people which ministry has not done what. Now they start getting serious, for obvious reasons. If people out there know that this ministry has not done that, what does it mean? What does it tell people about your ministry? People are now starting to see that things are becoming serious.

And it has got to be serious because that TIPEEG document is a public document. People have read it. People even know the projects under TIPEEG. They know those projects. They are in that book. You can't hide them.

Even the number of jobs to be created under each project is there in that document. The information is there. People just want to know what happened. And I can't hide that from the public. I just want to tell the public the truth. It already knows where we are. Information about what we promised to do is out there. That document was made public when the President launched it. You need to tell the people what the outcomes of the programme are. Question: What are the reasons given by ministries which have not spent most of the money? What reasons do they give to justify that inaction on their part?

Answer: The answer is usually like "ooh is that true?" I can only say it is so because your Permanent Secretary says so. On the money, we get the figures from the Ministry of Finance. The records are there. You can't dispute those records. But you have some ministries that say, "Look! that can't be true." But it is true. That is the figure we get, verified by your officials. But some officials try to blame the Tender Board. They will say, "Jaah! It is the Tender Board." That is not true either.

I have discovered that this whole thing about the Tender Board being the bottleneck is not true. All along, the issue has always been the ministries themselves, who are the owners of the projects, who do not do their work. The Tender Board cannot do anything until a line ministry approaches it with projects to be advertised and awarded. But they don't. If you do not come to the Tender Board, what do you expect it to do? The Tender Board meets every Friday. So, the Tender Board is not to blame. It is the line ministries who are not doing their jobs fast enough to approach the Tender Board.

Question: As a banker, how frustrating is it to work without figures? For bankers, 2+2=4. But in politics 2+2 is not always 4.

Answer: Yes, sometimes 2+2=6 or even 1. It is frustrating, not only as a banker, but also as a planner. You want to plan based on real information. If you do not have real information, you may overestimate the problem, and you end up doing things that you should not do because the situation was not as bad as you thought it was. Or you may underestimate it and keep quiet thinking that eveverything is fine but things are not as good as you think they are.

It is really frustrating when you have a system which cannot give numbers which people can trust and base their plans on. If you say this is the number, this must be the number. For planning, numbers are very important. It is critical that we perfect the system. I know there is no perfect system.

Even in our ordinary house life, there is no perfect system. You won't have a perfect system. But we need a system where one can say, well, this is the figure and it sounds reasonable.

Question: If TIPEEG is fully implemented, what impact will it have on the goals set out in Vision 2030?

Answer: If TIPEEG is fully implemented, Vision 2030 will be a reality. Vision 2030 talks about having a well-maintained infrastructure.

It means we would have good infrastructure. You would have good roads, rails, harbour. Vision 2030 says we must have such modern infrastructure. It talks about sustainable economic growth. It talks about Namibia being an industrialized country. If projects under TIPEEG are fully implemented, you would have at least contributed to economic growth. You would also have reduced unemployment. Vision 2030 talks about unemployment being below five percent. We are left with 18 years only.

Question: Are we going to make it?

Answer: That is the question. I believe we will make it, but not at the pace we are moving. But for me, it is doable. We can make it, but we have to think differently.

We cannot want to make it and just continue doing things as we have been doing them all those years. Why lie to yourself that way? You can already see that things have not worked, but you want to say it is OK. Unless you are saying you are not serious about Vision 2030. If you are serious and you are saying we will make it at this pace, you are lying to yourself. The moment you start lying to yourself, it is so difficult to correct things because you are trying to protect some thing you shouldn't be protecting.

If I find weaknesses in myself, it is much easier for me to address them. The moment I find weaknesses in you, and I point them out, work on them. Do not defend them. That is what defeats us. Fix the weaknesses and move on. That is how you improve and get better results in achieving your goals. The problem is when we think it is OK, when we know things are not OK. It becomes difficult to act and work on the weaknesses. We must agree that the rate at which we are moving, there is no way we are going to have an unemployment rate of below five percent.

Question: At what rate should the economy grow to realize those goals?

Answer: The projection used to be seven percent, but because for too long it did not move, now it is about nine percent. Now we only have 18 years left. The seven percent is no longer sufficient to realize the goals set out in Vision 2030 in 18 years. You have to raise the bar to nine percent at least. That is a toll order. For me it is still doable because TIPEEG is trying to address immediate problems. What we need to do now is to create industries. We need to create industries. Nobody has seen economic growth coming about by tinkering here and there, creating short term jobs. You need to say, look, let us promote one or two industries where we are making something, something we are selling to somebody or to ourselves. For example, the mining sector is growing.

The whole industry needs input, like uranium needs acid to enrich it. Where do we buy such input? From outside. Why can we not create an acid industry to supply the mining sector? Those are real jobs. As long as you have the mining sector growing, those are real jobs.

Sometimes we are afraid to spend money. We always think it is too much money. But all countries that have industries today have not reached that level by chance. They focused their energies and resources on specific sectors to grow their economy. Yes, most of the time we are told that such things are better run by the private sector. But we also know that the government has to fund those start-ups. It is not always done by the private sector, whether you go to the US, or UK. It is not true that they started using the private sector. Governments in those countries realized that for them to create sustainable jobs, they needed to have those industries. Those governments spent billions of money to industrialize.

It is still doable for us to have such kind of economic growth.

But it will take serious rethinking and changing the way we do things. You have people who will say, "no it can't be done that way, it's crazy, it is too much money. We are wasting money." But in life you are not going to make money if you are not prepared to spend more money. You don't.

How does it work? Even for a private person, it does not work that way. But we are somehow afraid to spend money, made worse by people who also tell us that "you guys, you can't make it. It is not viable."

Take the story of South Korea. That country decided to have a steel industry to build ships and make cars. They did not even have iron ore from which you make steel. They did not have it. They did not have the money to start with. But they decided as a government, that this is our decision, we are going to establish a steel industry. They approached the World Bank to borrow money.

The Bank said no, we are not going to give you money because this is ridiculous. You can't do that. This is not viable." They went to Japan, which gave them some loan, so they started with the industry. Today, they are the fourth largest economy in the world which produces steel. But if they listened to everybody who said they could not do it, they would not have been where they are today. Today, the World Bank cites South Korea as a rare example. But it refused to give South Korea the money because it did not believe that the project was viable.

Sometimes we also like quick results. If I spend the money today, next year they will say "you see, it did not work. We told you." But who said it would work in one year? These things you need to promote until people get used to them. But you have some people who, after two or three years, come and say, "you are wasting taxpayers' money. We told you it would not work. Now you see...." And sure enough, intimidated by such remarks, you just cut off and you start all over again with something else. But things don't just happen in two or three years' time.

Things take long to happen. You have to change the mindset of the people. It takes a while. You have to be consistent and focussed and say that is what I am going to do and do it I will. Sometimes we are too much in a hurry and not patient enough to really just say, "look, we are going to go with this project." You should not be swayed by our detractors. They are always quite happy when you abandon a particular project. That is what they want. They will say, "you see, we told you."

Even with TIPEEG, they will say, "we told you that you are not going to spend all that money." Others will even say, "jaa, maybe we should not have done it that way." Let us learn lessons from what we have done so far, improve on it and carry on with the programme until one day we get where we want to get. We tend to listen to people who say it is not possible. Such people have other reasons to say so. They do not necessarily have our interest at heart.

Some of those experts come from countries where you want to import things you want develop locally. Of course, they will say no to protect their interests and their economies. They have no interest in wanting to buy from you. When they say "it is not possible," it is not because it is true that it is not possible. It is because they have other interests to protect. Their interests are not necessarily yours. They don't have the same interest as you have.

They have their own interest. We are always misled by people who say they are the experts, and if they talk, we must listen to them. I am all for listening. I never claim to be right all the time. But when you listen to people, always analyse their motives. Why are they saying what they are saying? Are we on the same side of things? If we are not, nine out of 10, their reasoning is not based on the same reasoning yours. It is based on other reasons.

Question: If you were to meet and address jobless people who would have benefitted from TIPEEG projects, but who now see unspent billions going back to the Treasury, what will you tell them?

Answers: I just hope that I don't meet them. Really it will be difficult to explain to them about what really happened. It is one thing when there is no money. It is quite another when there is money. I really hope that I don't have to meet them. I would not want to be the one to explain to them. It is very difficult. People are really out there not having anything to do, but here you are, wasting time on the bureaucracy for whatever reasons.

I just hope I don't meet them because I don't know what to tell them. I guess maybe to apologize to them, but that is not good enough. How do you apologise to a guy who was hoping that he would have a job by just you issuing a tender? Now you are saying you did not have the time to award the tender? It is not good enough. Question: Is there anything else that you want to say Cde Alweendo?

Answer: Now that we are working on NDP4 we are going to recommend things that are practical and doable. Some people may say we are crazy, but we really need to start believing in ourselves and we can do these things for ourselves. I also think that sometimes we say things but we don't really believe that we can actually do them. If we believe we can do them, we should be the ones to drive the execution of those projects. The catch-phrase is: "I know that is what I want, and I will do it."

As we speak today, it is as if we are being forced to do things by somebody else. But this is something you said you want to do. Our mindsets need changing. Things are not just possible because they are possible. Sometimes we need to fiercely push them through to make them possible. To do that, our mindsets must change. But sometimes we just say "we are too small a country, we have many unskilled workers, we are just not good enough like the South Koreans.

They can do it, but we can't do it." The self-belief in ourselves is not strong enough in most of us. That is what destroys our spirit and strong will to do things. If you believe in yourself, you just do not let things go by themselves like that. You will always say "hey, what is going on here?" You make it your daily task to ensure that things are happening, you see them happening. Do not wait until year end and say ooh! Really! That is what it is?

What we are promoting in NDP4 is to do basic things - we can only do things if we really believe they are possible and we can do them. Some of us as leaders go out there saying things but we do not really believe them. What I do does not show that I believe what I was saying because I go and do something else or do nothing at all. That concept of saying it is possible and we are the people who are going to make it happen should be inculcated in our people. We can do things. We are just as good as the Americans and the South Koreans.

There is nothing different between you and those guys. The only difference there is so far is the determination. We lack the determination to see our projects through. But in terms of the intellect, there is absolutely no difference. The secret is: "know what you want to do and have the will to do it." It is the belief and the willingness to make things happen which we should cherish and promote. That is what we are going to encourage in NDPIV. Let us change our mindsets about our abilities to do things and tell ourselves that yes, we can indeed do things.





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