The Basic Income Grant (BIG) Coalition of Namibia has criticised new poverty eradication measures announced by President Hage Geingob during last week’s State of the Nation Address.
Geingob last week hinted government would consolidate and modify the ongoing food bank initiative, marginalised grant and feeding scheme, instead of introducing a basic income grant.
To this, the coalition’s activist Rinaani Musutua claimed the Head of State was still basing his poverty eradication measures and legacy on outdated welfare programmes.
Musutua, in a statement on Friday, said Geingob’s poverty eradication measures are “irrelevant and have made very little impact to the current situation”.
“The President’s stance bears hallmarks of a poorly planned and unsustainable HPP ll, especially in regard to Pillar 3 (social progression), which states that the food bank will be converted into a BIG scheme, where only the previous food bank recipients would-be beneficiaries,” Musutua said.
She added that the coalition finds it problematic, as only 42 000 recipients will benefit from BIG – perpetuating the systemic exclusion of most Namibians in need.
“The President is yet to inform us about the fate of the rest of the 799 958 people who are currently facing hunger,” she said.
She said poverty levels have become a humanitarian crisis in the past five years, adding that two-thirds of Namibians live below the poverty line (US$1.90 per day as per international standards) and unemployment is at a peak high of about 45-50%.
“If the food bank was successful, why do we still have people who scavenge for food at rubbish dump sites and in bins on a daily basis? Basing BIG on welfare programmes that haven’t reached their targets or lack the necessary political will to achieve such targets while only benefiting very few recipients creates frustrated and disenfranchised communities,” she said.
“It also prepares for a scenario that will engulf our entire democracy and set us on a path of social disintegration. The president’s intervention is not a measurable indicator in tackling the problem, and it downplays the magnitude of poverty in our country.”
Proponents of the BIG initiative have been agitating for a monthly cash payment of N$500 for people aged 19 to 59.
The coalition last year re-launched the universal BIG campaign, citing the grant will have long-term social protection relief to afford Namibians basic human necessities.