Redistributive Inequality vs. Inclusive Growth in Namibia

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Guest Blog by Charlotte Tjeriko-Katjiuanjo, LEG ’22

The growth problem I chose to look at for Namibia is a lack of a diversified sector, which has caused high unemployment and low economic growth. The country has a high and increasing public debt, limited fiscal space, fiscal consolidation, increasing unemployment with limited product space.

The course has taught me to look at the problem with a different eye, distinguishing between the actual cause of the growth problem to the symptoms of the growth. This was quite a revelation to me, that sometimes as a country, we think something is a problem while the problem is something completely different. This made sense as to why the country was failing to move the growth problem into positive trajectory after so many good policies were introduced, because they were diagnosing a problem that didn’t exist. Looking at the 3 As (ability, authority and acceptance) and asking the 5 why’s was quite an eye-opener.

The fishbone diagram was quite an eye-opener, because at times we already have the solutions (mainly from a laundry list of reforms we got from some index), and in most cases this means diagnosing a non-existent problem. What I learned from the fishbone diagram was the need to ask why a problem is a problem, getting the underlying and real cause of the issue.

In the course we learned about product space and the importance of a diversified economy, this was not something new because a few years ago, during the Bank of Namibia annual symposium, we had a speaker from the Asian Development Bank (Dr. Felipe), who said the exact same thing. However, as a country, we took this to mean that we needed to add value to our raw materials, not knowing that we do not always have the set of skills needed for this value addition. What I learned from the course was that we needed to work with the set of skills already in abundance in the country.

What was most interesting to me during the course was the inequality part. As a country with one of the highest inequality in the world, it was quite interesting learning about the different types of inequality. Ultimately, the course taught us the difference between redistributive inequality which was scarce resources being dedicated to redistribution, compensating those with low-productivity for low productivity, from inclusive growth, which should aim to better include low-productivity workers in high-productivity activities. Inclusive growth calls for a rethink of the role of transportation and urban policy. As a country, we have been more focused on redistributive inequality, which, to a certain degree, is understandable due to the nature of how the inequality was formed (apartheid). This tends to create a bit of division between the citizens and doesn’t actually fix the inequality problem.

Creating a sense of us has always been at the back of our minds, but that some policies could be lacking because there isn’t a sense of us (or sufficient) was interesting to learn.

I am also glad that we had quite a diversified team from Namibia that went through the course, which was commissioned by the Namibian government, this means we have at least some acceptance and authority from the government. What we plan to do as the team from Namibia is to come together and go through what we have learned over the 10-week duration and how we can address the issues in the country and come up with strategies from our fishbone diagrams. What we have done throughout the course was to have weekly meetings on Fridays to go through the material and help each other understand it better.

The course was all-around interesting and worth the time and effort. I am thankful to all the faculty members for their outstanding work and patience with us. I am also very thankful to our group (Go with the Flow), it was interesting to see the diversity in the group, the care and patience they showed, and their willingness to give advice on our different problems. I am also grateful to my TA, Anne, her advice to the assignments assisted me to understand the problem better and look at avenues that I did not think of before.

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Leading Economic Growth Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. 71 Participants successfully completed this 10-week online course in May 2022. These are their learning journey stories.

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