THIS contribution is inspired by an article authored by Bjorn Lomborg, Director at the Copenhagen Consensus Centre, which appeared in the Namibian newspaper on Friday, 31 March 2107, under the title Using data to find the middle ground.
Namibia, as a developing nation, needs to take a serious look at the use of research in informing policy formulation, as alluded to in the above-mentioned article.
One such case I can point too, where the government is likely to benefit by using such an approach, is a 4 April 2017 front page article, which reported the Office of the Prime Minister ruling out the downsizing of the civil service, in order to reduce the wage bill.
It begs the question: What informs this decision?
A cost-benefit analysis on the current cost of the civil service and its anticipated cost increases, due to inflation, as opposed to downsizing in the short-term, through retrenchment, and curbing costs in the long-run, can better inform whether downsizing is the optimal strategy for government to save resources and divert the deadwood into more productive sectors of the economy.
Another approach can be a quantitative and qualitative study on the opportunity cost of a bloated civil service, as opposed to a leaner more cost-effective one.
A research-based approach to policy formulation will modernise government and replace ideologically-driven politics, with rational decision-making.
Government partners in this approach could include, but are not limited to the Namibia Statistics Agency, the National Planning Commission and the Namibia Institute for Policy and Public Research, which can better inform government decisions. Why I choose to mention these organisations is because they have the competency, capabilities and credibility within the public space, to offer a rational, rigorous and systematic approach to data-mining, as well as compiling, presenting and generating recommendations for government.
Given the political nature of policymaking, it becomes crucial not to have a disconnect between researchers, government and citizens (those directly affected by the policies). Bridging this gap, and creating synergies between all stakeholders, is of outmost importance.
What I seek to advocate is that there is a need for research-based approach to policymaking, or rather the use of data to find the middle ground.
Another example where research-based policy formulation can assist governments, in informing policy, is the recurring issue of subsidies to agriculture and agricultural businesses, which is frowned upon as anti-competitive, with many governments shunning the practice, due to inter-trade agreements. However, in the case of Namibia giving subsidies to dairy and poultry farmers, for example, could help government build industries, create employment and save the end-consumer money, through the consumption of local products, at a lower price.
My last example of how research-based policy formulation can assist the government, in drafting laws that are for the greater benefit of the people, is the lawfulness of shebeens in residential areas. Arguments have been provided that the liquor trade, through backward and forward integration, contributes immensely to the economy of the country, but my question is at what expense? This can be calculated through a cost-benefit analysis and a decision can then be made, based on the findings.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015