THE scourge of the coronavirus requires immediate intervention as Southern Africa and most of the rest of the continent does not have the capacity to care for a large number of infected people.
In a statement the Chairperson of the Economic Social Justice Trust Herbert Jauch Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) as pushed for by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have significantly reduced funding for health care and so have local cost-cutting measures in recent years.
“To make matters worse, the capacity for testing is very limited. The only option left is to prevent the spread of the virus and it is against this background that we welcome the declaration of a state of health emergency by the Namibian president. Its implementation proves to be tricky, however, because of structural challenges,” Jauch said
According to Jauch social distancing and self-isolation to avoid a further spread is virtually impossible under overcrowded conditions in informal settlements. He said the same goes for public transport which consists mainly of taxis packed with people.
“What makes matters worse is a lack of potable water and sanitation which still affects a large number of Namibian households. These conditions have to be systematically redressed in the years to come to ensure that future health pandemics can be dealt with. For now, all efforts have to focus on preventing a spread of the virus and on isolation as China has managed with considerable success in Wuhan,” he said.
According to Jauch the key issue during the current Coronavirus crisis is to ensure survival.
“There is no doubt that the economic consequences will be severe but unlike during the global financial and economic crisis of 2008, the focus this time has to be on household support and not on bailing out corporations.”
The trust did some research and came up with a proposal that would make a huge difference if steps are taken immediately.
According to Jauch it is essential for government to pass additional regulations that explicitly prevent the retrenchments of workers during the lock-down. He said employers should be required to continue paying their staff and in cases where they are financially unable to do so, they must provide proof to government as a precondition to be assisted through tax exemptions and other measures.
“A particular focus will have to be on small and medium-size enterprises that will face the greatest challenges in maintaining and paying workers.”
He further stated that for the period of the lock-down, the government should declare a moratorium on rent and bond payments so that nobody loses housing or falls into further debt.
“This cannot be left at the discretion of financial institutions,” Jauch maintained.
He said immediate steps must be taken to stop racketeering and price hikes on essential goods like food, hand sanitizers and masks. South Africa provided a good example in this regard by making such practices punishable by a fine of N$ 1 million or 10% of the business turnover. Furthermore, businesses are named and shamed for such ruthless and selfish practices.
“This is something we need to follow immediately as some shops are already guilt of racketeering.”
Jauch said these are immediate interventions required to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the Corona pandemic.
He said that in the medium-term, Namibia needs to solve the housing and sanitation crisis, improve the public health care system, implement an unemployment insurance scheme and provide a basic income grant for all.