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Published on November 13th, 2014 | by admin


Groping in the dark

How this environm ent has
managed to develop for so
long speaks to a policy and
political culture in which
relevant authorities are not held

Elections are times when politicians emerge with slogans and promises of changing the world for the better.
However, very often election statements and promises, while sounding good wrapped in emotive and catchy phrases,
on closer inspection do not look feasible or display a gross lack of grasp of the substance of issues they are meant to speak to.
It has become apparent that many politicians do not have a clear understanding of the issues they say they will be addressing
and yet they are promising to create policies to tackle or mitigate such issues, through state budgetary or resources allocations
once in power.
This lack of understanding is carried through to policy design, and implementation, if the politician and political party happen
to be the lucky ones in power following elections. Against this backdrop, it is evident that Namibia suffers from a lack of policy coherence
and effectiveness. Policy landscape To be clear, Namibia has some very good policies at macro level. However, the policy environment
is fragmented and there is considerable incoherence and weak policy implementation. A large part of the problem is that Namibia has been slow
in developing a culture of policy design because Namibian policy design and implementation capacity is very limited. Thus
Namibia has a long history of consultants, very often foreign consultants, creating policy. The consequence is that structurally
the country has become very dependent on consultants for policy design.
To illustrate, a while ago it was reported that since independence Namibia has paid roughly N$1 billion to consultants, albeit not all in the cause of policy development and design. However, the widespread use of consultants is merely a symptom of the managerialist model of policy design employed in Namibia, with policy creation being an executive led process. This approach comes with inherent deficiencies and inefficiencies,
arguably most visible in the way various policies which should speak to an integrated approach, are created in a vacuum by different state departments, ultimately leading to a landscape of policy confusion and inertia.
For instance, in this framework, quasi institutions such as the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC) have
been created to play a role, but have delivered and achieved very little, as a result of an informal structure and an unclear mandate.
Lacunae In many instances, and considering the campaign messages and promises, many policies suffer from the lack of a clear and
robust definition of the problem that the policy is meant to address. Compounding this is the general lack of reliable and
up-to-date evidence, information and data, and detailed consultative processes.
These are fundamental flaws, undermining the production of high quality, evidence based policies. Furthermore, whatever policies are produced
and introduced are subverted by the general absence of effective implementation frameworks and a misalignment of institutions.
In this context it is often hard to relate state spending and implementation initiatives to a clear policy statement.
How this environment has managed to develop for so long speaks to a policy and political culture in which relevant authorities
are not held accountable.
Experts who’ve been involved in policy design in Namibia paint a picture of processes being sub-standard, with these processes often devoid of
thorough consideration of the fundamentals of policy design, namely: the clear definition of the core ideas out of which policy flows; the interests consideration; the institutional mix; the informational requirements; the impacts; and the integration of the policy environment. Listening to or reading through political party statements or manifestoes it becomes clear that in most cases these considerations also do not form part of the thinking, with campaigning politicians glibly pronouncing how they’ll create policies to deal with the plaguing issues of society, even as it’s
clear they haven’t properly come to grips with what the issues substantially are.
Change thinking
Those in policy design spoken to say that what needs to be happening is that local policy development capacity needs to be nurtured as a matter of urgency in order to wean the state off reliance on especially foreign consultants, who in many cases adopt a cut-andpaste methodology that largely ignores local realities.
insight has learned that a proposal has been put before Cabinet for the creation of a statutory body that would be responsible for managing the
policy design processes, by procuring and contracting local research capacity and expertise – including non-governmental organisations – to craft and draft policies as they are required.
In this way, the proposal goes, the current state of the policy landscape could be righted, with the benefits being cost saving and greater efficiency; greater integrity of the policy process; stimulating local policy development capacity; and enhancing the overall coherence
of policy.Whether this proposal will be accepted is of course questionable. However, it is clear that conditions on the ground require a
rethinking and retooling of the policy creation processes. Or as one longtime observer of the policy landscape opined exasperatedly: “We have to
develop an appropriate policy culture where people are held accountable. Let the people who have the capacities do the work.”

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