Jade McClune at Walvis Bay
THE secretary general of the Namibia Employers Federation, Tim Parkhouse, says he was somewhat disappointed in the turnout at the Erongo Expo at Walvis Bay this year and believes the drop in the number of visitors may be a sign of the economic difficulties consumers are experiencing.
In a wide-ranging interview with Confidente, Parkhouse said the expo was “very quiet this year” and that he was somewhat disappointed in the organisation of the event, as there were no clear signboards or maps of the venue to direct the visitors.
In his view, the various expositions at towns along the coast may cause exhibitors to become fatigued as it is costly to attend and the events follow rapidly after one another. He thinks they should rather be combined into one massive annual expo that rotates between the various coastal towns.
On the broader economic trends in the country, the NEF spokesman said there were worrying signs that the recession was hitting hard, as even the sale of mealie meal was declining, which acts a sort of baseline indicator of the spending patterns of people at the very bottom of the economic ladder.
He was also concerned over the rise in unemployment, and noted without going into details that there was talk doing the rounds of the imminent closure of another mine (although not in the Erongo region), which would result in the loss of around 150 jobs.
“I plead with everybody, however boring, however poorly paid your job is – keep your job,” he said, adding that in the current economic climate, “everyone will have to tighten their belts.”
Asked about the prediction by FNB analyst Namene Kalili that the recession would last another four years, Parkhouse said in his estimation the country would be through the worst of the downturn and on its way to recovery by the end of 2019, but this was largely contingent on a rise in commodity prices.
He also warned that government’s policy of boosting local manufacturing would not necessarily solve the unemployment problem, because “Manufacturing is no longer creating jobs,” mainly due to the rapid and large-scale automation of industries, which require fewer and fewer human workers.
Parkhouse believes Namibia should focus on areas where the need is strongest and where the country has a competitive advantage to “build sustainable enterprises and sustainable jobs” through renewable power and local agricultural projects (labour-intensive production) to address high unemployment, as well as energy, water and food shortages.
He also asked whether Namibia has been spending its money prudently and wondered about the size of the public service, which he said, in proportion to the size of the population, was one of the largest in the world. He further criticised the productivity levels of Namibian workers, saying those employed in the public and private sectors need improve productivity.
The NEF secretary general also railed against what he called “the over-regulation of business”, noting there are around 54 statutory payments to be made by companies per year, failing which penalties plus interest are applied.
He said the NEF’s view is that Namibia needs to speed up the process of registering a business and improve the ease of doing business. Although rules are needed, these should be reasonable so as to encourage new companies to register, he advised.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015