To Buy Or Not To Buy (land in Namibia)
Note: This letter is 10 months old, but I just found it online, not having realized they printed it! After leaving it here for some time for anyone who might read it I will adjust the date on the entry....
To Buy Or Not To Buy (in The Namibian newspaper in Windhoek, Namibia, Friday, March 12, 2004 - Web posted at 10:09:35 GMT)
I AM an American living in Australia, and recently visited Namibia on my honeymoon.
I found it to be a wonderful country, full of fascinating and beautiful people and places.
This led me to thinking about investing in land or a small guesthouse in Namibia, as I think there is tremendous tourist potential in the country.
I am in fact very close to a deal to buy a small amount of land with some rental camp sites and bungalows, which would employ a couple of local people, as well as bringing more tourism to Namibia through my marketing, leading indirectly to more employment and income.
However, I am inclined not to finish the transaction now that I am reading about your new land confiscation policy.
I realise that the type of small non-farm property I am buying is not subject to confiscation, but the policy itself cannot help but conjure up images of Mugabe's disastrous policies in Zimbabwe.
There is nothing more important in long-term economic development than stable property rights and rules which citizens can expect will not be changed in the middle of the game.
In other words, uncertainty prevents progress and growth.
Frustration with the slow pace of land resettlement is understandable, but addressing it with a policy that is very likely to damage current productivity and incentive for investment is a recipe for disaster.
You have taken the first step down an extremely dangerous road, a step which I think is most ill-advised, is likely to create serious trouble for the country, and is not likely to achieve your stated goals.
Rather, the uncertainty you create will put brakes on economic productivity that you can not afford to diminish, especially with Namibia's high population growth rate.
I urge you to reconsider the policy you have recently proposed, or at least to go out of your way to make sure that land owners and potential investors, and even tourists, understand that any policy has very strict standards which will be adhered to, and that any policy is strictly used for its stated economic or demographic goals and not for political purposes.
I urge you to retract the decision and come out with a policy much more clearly aimed at stability and rule of law.
Ross G. Kaminsky
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