November 14, 2003

Government flirts with World Bank

Namibia could soon be forced to borrow from the World Bank if it adopts a plan to overhaul the education system. A decision to borrow from the World Bank would oppose the country's refusal to become a debtor to the Washington-based institution and its sister body, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which President Sam Nujoma has described as imperialist agents.

The two organisations have gained a reputation in the Third World for forcing heavily indebted borrowers to introduce economic changes, often with painful consequences, such as cutbacks to education and healthcare programmes. Although Namibia is not at a stage where it may be forced to borrow from these institutions, the Cabinet said that the Government would consider taking a loan from the World Bank. The announcement came after the Cabinet accepted a World Bank study outlining shortcomings in the education system and how they could be overcome.

Minister of Higher Education, Training and Employment Creation, Nahas Angula, indicated that the World Bank made the acceptance of a loan a precondition for implementing the recommendations in the report. Namibia does not need the money but Angula pointed out that the World Bank was the only organisation with the kind of network or institutions with people who were knowledgeable" and could help improve the education system. "We are investing too much in education but getting little. We need to revitalise so that we can get good value for our money", the Minister further articulated.

On average, Namibia spends 20 % of its Budget (N$2,4 billion out of N$12,2 billion in 2003-4) on education. More than 80 % of that goes on salaries and related expenditure. According to the Cabinet statement, Namibia "may consider borrowing ... if the country is classified as a least developed country, given its socio-economic conditions". The borrowing will likely to be closely monitored by President Sam Nujoma, who will head a committee on implementation of the World Bank report. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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