WALVIS BAY - Fisheries minister Albert Kawana has lashed out at some fishing industry players, saying they were raking in millions and leading luxury lifestyles at the expense of employees who are still languishing in abject poverty.
Kawana did not mince his words during the annual ministerial address held in Swakopmund on Friday.
He accused some industry players of feeling entitled to the country’s resources, despite getting fishing quotas for next to nothing from government.
“Some of you are Johnny Walker specials who came to Namibia without anything and became instant millionaires because of our resources while our people suffer. Yet, you feel entitled to the recently auctioned governmental objective quota, saying ‘it should come to us’,” Kawana said during the meeting.
The minister said fishing industry employees should also benefit from the sector and should at least be rewarded with decent housing and not shacks where their belongings are subjected to fires. “We should take care of our workers. They are the backbone of the industry, hence we cannot be happy with the fact that they live in shacks while they also contribute to the millions we make,” he explained.
According to Kawana, the industry players should take note that they are being financed by the government unlike the other sectors such as oil and mining who finance their own explorations whether or not they yield any success.
“As for the fishing industry... you get the fishing rights for next to nothing. Those rights are bankable documents that instantly guarantee you access to a bank loan, whether it is for seven or 10 years. In actual fact you are being financed by the State compared to the other industry, yet you cry foul,” Kawana added. He noted the government has taken all in account and wants all Namibians to benefit from the country’s resources by adopting the concept of shared prosperity. “In this manner, everybody stands to benefit regardless of the tribe region, race or gender. This approach will spell peace, stability and harmony and a balanced economic development to all regions. We should do away with, it is my time to eat so that all Namibians benefit equally.”
Touching on the recently conducted fishing quota auction, which generated a paltry N$8.4 million, Kawana said government will still rake in money from the quotas that were not sold during the auction.
“Nothing is lost nor is the fish rotten. In fact the fish will still produce and we will even get more fish, despite the fact that the print media made the auction look like a flop, we did not lose anything,” he said. He then indicated that the industry is in support of the auction, but does not support the way it was done. Government raked in a mere N$8.4 million from successful bids and N$76 000 in quota application fees. This is a far cry from the anticipated N$600 million that treasury announced it would net in the process. Kawana said government will now use a different approach to dispose of the governmental quotas in the future. “All is not lost, unlike the way the media portrayed it as if we lost everything like a house that burnt down with all its belongings,” he said.
Meanwhile, the minister also indicated that the long overdue scorecard system to rate fishing companies will be implemented soon and will be used to determine quota allocations. He said a benchmark would be set for the various sectors in terms of their levels, whereby they will further score marks in terms of social responsibility, value addition among others. “Companies will be rated based on how they empower and contribute to their employees, such as living conditions, social responsibility overall and how they also assist the government in addressing unemployment and poverty,” he said. “On top of all that, the industry is required to make sure that the employees get decent housing and wages as most of their employees live in shacks. Government can no longer accept these disparities,” he said.