PRESIDENT Hage Geingob has declared 2021 as the Year of Resilience after a tumultuous year where the COVID-19 pandemic has sowed unprecedented heartache and destruction.
President Geingob’s full New Year’s message reads as follows:
The Year 2020, which I had declared as the Year of Introspection will go down as one of the most tumultuous in modern history. It is a year where many of our beliefs were tested and our way of life was upended. Dreams and ideas were shattered and plans were jeopardized. Our processes, systems and institutions were tested. Although we were pushed to the brink, we did not break. That should be the enduring consideration, which we must carry into the New Year, 2021.
One does not know one’s true strength until one is pushed to the limits. If 2020 taught us one thing, it is the Namibian spirit of bravery, resilience, perseverance and persistence in the face of adversity.
Therefore, the year 2021 is the Year of Resilience.
The year 2021 brings with it a new promise of renewal and a new dawn of hope. We should take encouragement from the early rains for which we are grateful. Not only do these rains bring with them the promise of revival but they also speak to the idea that as the dark clouds in life fade away, they leave behind the light, in which we can pursue with resilience our happiness, growth, dreams and purpose.
The past six years of my Presidency have been fraught with untold challenges. We have faced unprecedented headwinds, brought about by a global economic downturn, characterized by falling commodity prices and exchange rate fluctuations. To make matters worse, for Namibia, this economic slowdown was exacerbated by the worst recurrent droughts in our recorded history.
In the midst of this slumping economy, we were forced to deploy measures aimed at ensuring fiscal sustainability and in turn implemented the biggest expenditure cuts since independence. As a consequence of a slowing economy, a number of big and small businesses were negatively affected. Having staved off this testing period, we were anticipating the beginning of a phase of rebuilding in 2020. Regrettably, the arrival of an uninvited and unwelcome guest, Covid-19 changed the well laid-out plans of recovery.
The arrival of Covid-19 on our shores and its rapid spread across the country destabilized our plans and threw us off-kilter. Subsequently, jobs have been lost; a number of businesses have reduced their capacities or have closed down completely and this has led to tremendous suffering for our people, at a social, economic and psychological level. With socio-economic activity slowing down, the optimistic economic prospects we had anticipated for the year 2020 came to nought. Our Central Bank has estimated an annualized real GDP contraction of 7.3%, while our deficit is estimated to balloon to beyond 10% of GDP. This level of economic recession is like nothing we have faced as a nation since independence in 1990. It is unprecedented. Covid-19 has had a seismic effect not only on our local economy but the global economy as a whole.
Given the magnitude of the fallout ahead of us, we will have to respond with a bouquet of interventions that are unorthodox. In this regard, the Government has already delivered this year measures of relief through the N$8 billion stimulus package, a N$1 billion health response and a N$500 million SME financing intervention.
The Harambee Prosperity Plan II, which I will launch in February 2021, will have a focussed Economic Recovery component, prioritising important projects that will be delivered with urgency and transparency.
Namibia has unmatched regional potential to tap into a renewed global focus on the blue and green economies. To this extent, Namibia joined 13 other countries in 2018 worldwide to form the High-Level Panel on a Sustainable Ocean Economy and has also been the subject of various global conversations revolving around the potential of our renewable energy resources.
The Cabinet Retreat held in December 2020 identified Agriculture, Education and Health as three key priority areas. These areas are well covered in HPP II, which I will present in February 2021.
As we increasingly seek to advance our economic growth and capacity, we should be cognizant of the crucial role that investors play in bringing much needed funding and expertise to our industries. We are in need of private investment in infrastructure, energy, and water amongst others. These investments will bring much-needed jobs. However, I have regrettably noted with concern that there is an increasing aversion towards foreign investment by certain sectors of our society. As of recent, we have witnessed investors being received with hostility, either through negative reporting or through accusatory rhetoric. Such retrogressive attitudes do nothing to aid our economic recovery, employment creation and our long-term developmental objectives. In fact, the more we display an inhospitable attitude towards investors, the further we fall behind the economic race on the continent. The fact remains that in the absence of investment, we cannot move forward as a nation. To partially address this issue, I am looking forward to the inauguration of the Namibia Investment Promotion and Development Board in January 2021. The Board will seek to augment the manner in which we court and accommodate investment – both local and foreign.
The retrogressive movements of tribalism and racism do not have a place in the Namibia we are building. Nation building is not a choice. It is a journey of generations and an intentional process we should continue to pursue relentlessly in order to build a more tolerant and more united Namibian House, free from tribalism, racism and regionalism. All Namibians, irrespective of race, ethnicity, colour or creed will enjoy the same rights, responsibilities and the same protection as enshrined in the Namibian Constitution.
Furthermore, I have on repeated occasions expressed regret at the loss of lives of Namibians who were callously shot in the Zambezi region on November 5, 2020 by the Botswana Defence Force. I have been engaged in on-going consultations with the President of Botswana, and we issued on December 30, 2020 a joint statement on progress regarding the investigation. Namibia is governed through processes, systems and institutions, underpinned by the rule of law. The investigations into the killings are on-going. The affected families and the Namibian public will be informed about the findings of the investigations at the appropriate time. In the meantime, let me once more express my sincere condolences to the bereaved families. My dear brother, President Mokgweetsi Masisi has joined me to apologise sincerely for the loss of lives and the apology is included in the joint statement we issued.
As 2021 beckons, it is clear that if we cultivate an attitude of togetherness, selflessness and teamwork, we can rebuild our economy, increase our resilience to future shocks and reconstruct a platform on which we will develop an industrialized nation. Our destiny is in our hands. Therefore, collective responsibility towards the maintenance of peace, progress and development is key. We can either choose to rise together or choose to fall apart. I have the utmost confidence that under the circumstances in which we find ourselves, we will choose to rise together as a nation.
We should bear in mind that how we decide to tackle the current Covid-19 pandemic will determine whether we are able to move forward with our plan to build back a better home for all or whether we will end up stuck in the morass of disease, underdevelopment and death. This New Year’s Eve, I ask of each and every Namibian to take his or her responsibility seriously in fighting Covid-19. How will you protect yourself, your loved ones, your neighbor and your country?
Recent statistics indicate increased infection rates and deaths. They paint a bleak picture. However, if we exercise utmost responsibility and display an exemplary level of maturity then there should be no need for doom and gloom. There will be no need for a lockdown. The steps are simple:
Wear your mask
Practice social distancing
I wish to extend my sincere condolences to all the families who lost their loved ones due to this dreaded virus. In the same vein, I also wish a speedy recovery to Honorable Mchenry Venaani, the leader of the Official Opposition and all those who are suffering from COVID-19.
If we all abide by the rules and pull in the same direction, we can confidently reverse the dark clouds of 2020 and welcome with hope and anticipation, the promise of renewal in 2021.
In the midst of difficulties, we have proven that we are a resilient, united, patriotic and peace loving nation. We showed great discipline and maturity during the recent Local Authority and Regional Council Elections, which were conducted in a spirit of peace. Our democracy continues to grow from strength to strength; our governance architecture remains vibrant and solid.
As a Government that has heard the cries of the ultimate sovereigns, we aim in the coming year to redouble our focus on areas that matter most to Namibians, such as job creation, economic opportunity, service delivery, housing provision, youth unemployment, the fight against the scourge of Gender Based Violence and crime in general. Gender Based Violence does not have a place in a peace-loving nation. Our efforts to deal with this scourge have been stepped up. During these times of uncertainty, we will continue to utilize all possible means to keep our daughters, our mothers and all Namibians safe and healthy.
Tomorrow promises a new year of renewal and rebuilding. Our difficulties notwithstanding, we should enter it with renewed hope and energy in order to move our country forward towards a path of inclusive development and shared prosperity. We should hold hands and not give up on the ideal of a better and inclusive Namibia.
In the Year of Resilience, let us start a new page by rekindling the spirit of perseverance, solidarity and compassion. The spirit of solidarity and resilience is what defines us. Let us look out for our mothers, daughters and sisters. Let us drive responsibly and keep our roads free from the carnage of accidents through reckless driving. Let us give gratitude and pay homage to our frontline medical personnel in the trenches of the difficult war against Covid-19. Some of these heroes of our Land paid the ultimate price in their endeavour to keep us healthy. Let us show gratitude to our uniformed services, first responders and staff working in all these essential services.
Let us come together as family, friends, neighbours and colleagues, in a festive spirit of renewal. Let us continue to hold hands and cherish Namibia, our beautiful home.
I wish you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year 2021.
May God bless you all and may God bless the Republic of Namibia.
I thank you