On 11 May 2016, UNIC Windhoek learned about the role of the government as well as the private sector in eradicating inequality through economic policy.
The seminar, which was titled “The role of Government and the Private Sector in a Developmental State”, included informative and thought-provoking speeches by Namibia’s Minister of Finance Calle Schlettwein and world-renowned economist Professor Joseph Stiglitz.
Both Minister Schlettwein and Professor Joseph Stiglitz mentioned the situation of poverty in Namibia.
Although the percentage of the population in poverty has reduced from 27.6% in 2003/4 to 19.5% in 2010/11 and those in severe poverty has reduced from 13.8% to 9.6% in the same years through the war on poverty, Minister Schlettwein said that a large number of Namibians are still in poverty.
As part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, Goal #1 is to end poverty in all forms. Minister Schlettwein echoed this goal when outlining Namibia’s Vision 2030, which also aims to eradicate poverty through income generation and social protection.
Professor Joseph Stiglitz mentioned similar themes in his speech, and touched upon many ideas that are encompassed in Goal #8, which aims to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
Highlighting that sustainable economic growth is inclusive growth, he said, “An economy that doesn’t deliver for a majority of its citizens is a failed economy.”
“Wealth belongs to the country as a whole, should be managed for the benefit of the country as a whole,” he added.
Stiglitz outlined that when it comes to the economic status of the global atmosphere, there are now broader goals which include not just growth, but instead creating sustainable, inclusive and democratic environments with a focus on shared prosperity.
Stiglitz also citied that there has been a shift in developmental thinking. Instead of inequality being viewed as solely the result of the economy, it has been viewed also as the result of policy and what individual governments do. It is now also seen as a choice in this light, as it is the result of our rules, how we design institutions and what we spend money on.
Stiglitz depicted the vicious cycle between economic inequality and political inequality. Thus, Stiglitz outlined the importance of the government in combating inequality, in the form of the developmental state which has a ‘regulatory role, catalytic role and coordinating role.’
“GDP is an indicator of growth not of well-being” Minister Schlettwein said, also hitting on themes of Goal #8. He cited that although the economy has grown immensely since 1990 and poverty has been cut in half, the fact that Namibia is considered an upper middle income country does not accurately depict the state of the country and the per capita GDP income. This structural challenge of high income inequality will be tackled through Namibia’s Vision 2030 and President Hage Geingob’s Harambee Prosperity Plan.
Minister Schlettwein also hit upon ideas of Goal #2 to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture; as well as Goal #6 to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. He pointed out that 29% of Namibia’s population is employed in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors, which is the largest percentage of employment in the country.
With the impact of climate change hammering the country as seen through the incessant drought and water crisis, a large percentage of Namibia’s population has been impacted. It has also led to an increase in the amount of food and water that is imported into the country. The structural challenge of higher imports than exports will also be addressed through Namibia’s Vision 2030, which Minister Schlettwein mentioned in his speech.
In line with Goal #10 to reduce inequality within and among countries, in an in-depth question and answer, Professor Stiglitz mentioned that, “The most pernicious inequalities are ethnic/race/gender inequality and this is present in all societies” and called for intervention to address these situations.