by Charmaine Ngatjiheue
THE Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has given a thumbs-up to the responses the government has implemented to combat Covid-19.
In their latest paper titled ‘Helping the people: Welfare and assistance measures, the story so far’, independent think tank IPPR said Namibia’s efforts in the midst of a ravaging pandemic represents a far greater challenge than getting through a harsh but limited coronavirus-imposed lockdown.
“The crisis has shown that the government can respond swiftly and decisively when it decides to do so – in stark contrast to the usual dithering that generally characterises policy making,” the paper reads.
The short paper brought together all the measures taken by the government to counter the threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic to households and businesses.
“Despite going into the crisis after four years of poor economic performance and steadily increasing levels of public debt, Namibian policy makers reacted quickly and imaginatively to the crisis. While there was some inconsistencies in approach to labour regulations, overall the response was rapid, sizeable and realistic and pulled in the same direction,” the IPPR said.
The independent think tank further said it is far too early to assess the longer-term consequences on households and businesses but the short-term response probably staved off the worst potential impact.
In addition, IPPR said the government’s package of measures helped address the short-term challenges although more will be needed if the economy is to fully recover and thrive.
According to IPPR, the harsh reforms that needed to be implemented before the pandemic struck have not suddenly been rendered obsolete.
“The need for emergency measures has highlighted the usefulness of accurate and up-to-date statistics on the economy. Little data is available on Namibia’s business sector and better data would benefit policy makers greatly, not only in times of crisis but on a wide variety of issues from taxation to empowerment.
As in other countries the pandemic has had a very different impact on different people,” IPPR added.
The paper added that the most eye-catching of the measures introduced was the emergency income grant (EIG).
For the first time unemployed people or those in informal employment have received direct financial assistance from the state.
IPPR said: “Namibia has a very poor track record on employment creation and it seems inherently unfair that the benefits of formal employment accrue only to public sector workers and a small number of individuals in the private sector.”
The IPPR further noted that there was, for many years, a relatively lively debate on the idea of introducing a basic income grant.
“The EIG may have set a precedent and in future people outside the current privileged circle of formal employment may demand more from the state. Spending on the EIG was about half of the subsidy provided to Air Namibia in the national budget,” it added.