WALVIS BAY – Pressure groups yesterday called on the government to halt the auctioning of over 83 000 metric tons of governmental objective quotas that is being facilitated by the finance ministry. The bidding process for the quotas started on Monday already and is expected to end
Government recently announced it was auctioning its quota with 40% reserved for local operators, while the remaining 60% is to be offered to the highest international
Fisheries minister Albert Kawana last week indicated that the auctioning of quotas was the only way Namibia could acquire foreign currency to help mitigate the costs of the effects of Covid-19 in the country, including procuring medical equipment and supplies.
The government plans to auction 72 000 metric tons of horse mackerel, 11 000 metric tons of hake and 392 metric tons of monk to both local and international players. These quotas had previously been allocated to the National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor), which is now at the centre of the Fishrot scandal.
The People’s Litigation Centre yesterday said it would seek a High Court intervention to stop the process if the government failed to do so. “We noted with dismay the government’s decision to auction the country’s marine resources to the highest bidder,” centre chairperson Mathias Haufiku said in a statement.
“As a catalyst of social, legal and political reform, it is our core focus to ensure that the state is transparent at all times and held accountable when it comes to the handling of our natural resources.”
He explained that it is their view that the decision to auction quotas is a knee-jerk attempt to generate quick money and at the same time a clear admission of guilt that the government has since independence failed to devise sustainable measures to utilise the country’s marine resources in a manner that benefits all Namibians.
“Kawana’s decision to auction the quotas is made possible by the Fisheries and Marine Resources Act that was changed in 2015, that gives powers to the minister to make decisions when it comes to the industry. He heavily relies on the 2015 amendments to Section 3 read together with Section 2 of the Marine Resource Act 27 of 2000 for this process and gives him sole discretion and adjudicates matters around the issuance of fishing quotas including governmental objective quotas,” Haufiku said.
He added that jobs are already scarce in the fishing industry, hence the auction defies the logic of job creation.
“Dr Kawana said the revenue generated from the auction will be used to boost the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, a statement which even caught the health authorities by surprise. We therefore want to put it on record that the auctioning of these quotas without accounting to the nation how the N$8.1 billion stimulus package that was announced was utilised, … speaks to the lack of [an] accountability culture adopted by government during the pandemic.”
Walvis Bay Urban constituency councillor Knowledge Ipinge also took on the government on the issue, saying the process simply does not speak to regional development nor does it address the unemployment issue at the harbour town.
“It clearly contradicts President Hage Geingob’s vow of allocating quotas to the 14 regions to ensure accelerated and equal development in all regions,” Ipinge said.
Ipinge also indicated that several workers who lost their jobs in the fishing sector registered their unhappiness about the auctioning of the quotas at his office.
“I, during the governor’s state of the region address, advised that the unemployment and poverty reduction drive needs a holistic approach instead of the begging bowl mentality. How will we achieve this if we auction quotas while our people are unemployed and on the streets?” Ipinge questioned.
The fishing industry last week urged the government to carefully work out the modalities of the auction to make sure that local jobs and additional employment are maintained and created.
Chairperson of the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations Matti Amukwa said the auctioning modalities and conditions should be adequately thought through and some consensus reached with all relevant stakeholders, while affirming the industry’s support to Kawana.
Kawana last week defended and lashed out at critics of the new fish quota auctioning policy, saying allegations that this course of action could result in another Fishrot scandal should be rejected outright.
“It is most unfortunate to allege, without any evidence, that auctioning will result in another Fishrot. This allegation must be rejected,” he said in a statement.
“It is common cause that auctioning, which complies with international standards, promotes transparency and avoids the experience of the past. The money generated will be paid directly into the State Revenue Account as per the requirements of the State Finance Act of 1991. Thereafter, a budget during the mid-term review will be prepared and ultimately tabled in parliament. The other advantage, unlike in the past, is that there will be full accountability because all monies paid into the State Revenue Account should be audited by the auditor general,” said Kawana.