Fiscal Policy Changes in Namibia: Are Namibians Better off after Independence?

By Shafuda, Christopher P. P.; Kumar De, Utpal | Strategic Review for Southern Africa, May-June 2020 | Go to article overview

Fiscal Policy Changes in Namibia: Are Namibians Better off after Independence?


Shafuda, Christopher P. P., Kumar De, Utpal, Strategic Review for Southern Africa


Introduction

The history of Namibia passed through several distinct stages, from tribal demarcations to the creation of political borders that was marked by colonialism in the late nineteenth century to independence on 21 March 1990. Since 1884 till First World War, Namibia was a German colony, which was then referred to as German South West Africa. After the First World War, South Africa, being a member of the British Commonwealth and a former British colony, was mandated to administer this territory by the League of Nations. As a result, in 1915 South Africa occupied Namibia and made it the fifth province, namely South-West Africa province. Namibia therefore, exchanged one colonial experience for another.

Following World War II, the League of Nations was dissolved in April 1946 and its successor, the United Nations, instituted a Trusteeship system to bring all the former German colonies in Africa under UN control. However, South Africa did not agree with this arrangement in case of this fifth province (presently Namibia) on the argument that majority of its population were comfortable with South African rule. In 1948, the Afrikaner led National Party gained power in South Africa and the then system of segregation that was prevalent in colonial Africa was intensified through its apartheid policy. One example of the way in which divisions between communities were created was the increasingly harsh application of the "Immorality Act", which termed it "immoral" and illegal for a white person to have a sexual relationship or any sexual contact with a person of different skin colour. Nevertheless, after a number of UN resolutions (Resolution 2145 (XXI) of 27 October 1966, resolutions 385 (1976), 431 (1978), Security Council Resolution 435 of 29th September, 1978) and the prolonged guerrilla war, Namibia earned independence in 1990 (after 75 years under the South African regime). The Namibians got absolute power to make decisions and allocate resources with progressive fiscal measures for the welfare of its own people.

Given the aforesaid background, efforts are made in this paper to examine the effect of the policy instruments, which have been implemented by the government of independent Namibia, on various aspects of human development. It is analysed whether the policy changes adopted after independence to improve the education and primary healthcare systems has really made the life of the Namibians better as compared to pre-independence era.

Status of Education and Healthcare after Independence

The independent government inherited an economy of highly skewed income distribution with resourceful minority white settlers, and majority of the country's indigenous people was in absolute poverty (Namibia Statistics Agency 2010). Income inequality in Namibia was extreme, as was inequity in access to healthcare services and education. In order to attain faster economic growth and redress inequality, the government of independent Namibia needed to follow some prudent macroeconomic policies (Sherbourne 2016). Hence, the new government gave more emphasis to education, primary healthcare and other social protection measures. Before independence, the healthcare system in Namibia was highly fragmented and biased towards curative care, which was inefficient and inadequate, and thus the previously-disadvantaged were at the bitter end of the stick. At the time of independence in 1990, the healthcare delivery system reflected a traditional medical model, focused mainly on hospitalbased and curative services and the health outcomes were generally poor.

Soon after independence, a switch in policy with emphasis on primary healthcare was adopted. In order to provide effective and equitable primary healthcare services, the healthcare reform included the decentralisation of responsibilities and local communities were involved in the decision-making processes (Low, Ithindi and Low 2003). In 1994, thirteen regional health management teams were set up to plan and manage all local primary healthcare services and facilities equitably. …

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