Some opposition parliamentarians are not impressed by the mid-year budget review for the 2020/21 financial year, which was tabled last week by finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi. Both the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) and the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) have bemoaned the lack of structural economic transformation and the inefficient distribution of Namibia’s vast resources.
PDM Member of Parliament Nico Smit on Tuesday this week said the budget review is just more of the same old story of rewording the same ineptitudes.
“When I work through the budgets and the mid-term reviews every year, I always find some humour in the way that the unsuspecting voters are blindsided by a barrage of very big figures, twisted incrementally up or down to obfuscate the fact that the government is technically bankrupt,” Smit said in parliament.
He noted that he is not convinced that this mid-year review has taken much effort from the minister and his army of officials, as he believes that they were all working on only one thing, which was juggling figures and to do it in such a way that the underlying fundamentals appear either unimportant or of a fleeting nature.
Furthermore, he stated that the level of borrowing we see today is not new. “It only looks large because of smaller deficits from 2017 to 2019 but it is still in the same league as the explosion in debt that we saw at the end of 2016.”
Smit indicated that the only difference is that the first period of excess was followed by three years of restraint, which saw a moderation in the growth rate of government debt, and an earnest attempt to rein in the budget deficit. “You do not need me to tell you that all those undertakings have flown out of the window this year.”
“As long as criminals who milk the public system are at large and as long as you as the Hon minister of finance, and Swapo as the government, do not address these fundamental issues, for so long you shall always have to borrow more and more and Namibia will never be a prosperous nation,” slams Smit.
He noted that repeating budget mistakes year after year, has brought Namibia to the point where it is completely at the mercy of donors.
He continued that he was flabbergasted to learn that all Namibia’s ills and perils have been caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It has become the new go-to excuse for a government unwilling to set the skew ship on a straight course. This unwillingness or ineptitude when it comes to righting the fiscal wrongs does not need a pandemic and a lockdown, it was there for everybody to see when it first became visible in 2016,” said Sit.
Smit sarcastically added that he was impressed by the finance minister for saving the country N$602 million in the current budget and then at the same time expanding the government’s debt by roughly N$20 billion. “This is certainly the most impressive way of doing business,” he said, adding “Imagine how many companies will survive, even if only for a single year, when for every N$602 they save, they have to go and borrow N$20 000 just to keep their doors open. This seems to be this government’s new way of doing business”.
Meanwhile, RDP president, Mike Kavekotora, emphasised that poverty in Namibia is manmade. He explained that Namibia is not a poor country because it has a small population with many resources. “Allocation of resources is failing and is leading to higher unemployment in the country,” said a concerned Kavekotora.
He continued that the Covid-19 impact was undeniable but stressed that economic fundamentals need to be adhered to by executives in the local economy. He also charged that the ruling party failed in the structural transformation of the economy, which he noted has been mentioned for years by former finance ministers.
“The finance minister said we are facing several economic challenges and to achieve these objectives, we need to enable and implement macro-structural reforms. The reform must not be delayed because it is needed in many sectors,” Kavekotora advised.