Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) parliamentarian Nico Smit has charged poverty eradication has long been a slogan used by government to rally voters during elections. Speaking on the national budget recently tabled in parliament by finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi, Smit said government should stop trying to wipe out the private sector and instead provide assistance to lift people out of landlessness, hunger and poverty.
“The PDM in its manifesto has reiterated that agrarian and land reform must take centre stage, if we want to stimulate the Namibian economy towards an upward growth trajectory,” charged Smit.
He noted that in this regard, the PDM proposed massive financing of agricultural infrastructure to fully empower newly resettled farmers, increased uptake of new technology in the agricultural sector from farm level to agro-industries, ensuring that every farm is fully functional and organised and that all farmers have access to mechanised farming equipment.
“There are already such private agrarian schemes operating in our country, while government’s attempts at getting such schemes off the ground seem to produce only failure. There should have been money allocated to supporting the expansion of such schemes, as not only would this provide food to feed the nation, it would create the jobs our people so desperately need and make them self-sufficient,” said Smit.
He continued: “What has become of the promises when the Fishrot scandal broke last year that the fishermen who lost their jobs as a result of this blatant corruption by government ministers and lackeys would be re-employed? And what has been done to help small and medium businesses establish themselves since the collapse of the SME bank, another scandal due to corruption?” Smit added that in the recent budget, he did not see any serious effort to channel funds to ministries tasked with alleviating poverty and unemployment.
“When poverty and unemployment are among the greatest and most pressing problems experienced by more than half our people, what can be done with a mere N$5.2 billion?” Smith questioned. The PDM MP also asked where the vision is in this most recent budget that would allow landless people to be given urban land with a title deed that would enable them to use that land for their own development.
“Municipalities are not meant to be profit-making entities, they are meant to provide services to the inhabitants of their town or city. Thus, if the people are given title deeds to erven in urban areas, they will become ratepayers, and this will provide local authorities with the income needed to provide the required services. Once again, I refer to the lack of logical priorities that are missing from this budget – what can the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development do with N$1.7 billion except pay some of the salaries…Thus, nothing for the people once again.”
In his response to matters raised during the second reading of the 2020/21 Appropriation Bill, Shiimi noted that Namibia’s absolute poverty more than halved, from 41% in the early 2000s to 17.4% of the population by 2015/16 and that extreme poverty reduced to 10.7%.
In addition, Namibia’s Gini Coefficient ratio is now estimated at 0.56, compared to 0.70 in the 1990s but Shiimi acknowledged that the level of inequalities remains high, relative to aggregate income levels and said this requires more concerted efforts to address. He added that life expectancy of Namibians improved to 59 years, reflecting dividends from investment made in various dimensions of Human Development Index. “While unemployment and income inequalities still remain structurally high, we have been able to roll-out an extensive social safety nets programme and improve incomes through growth to propel Namibia into the legion of upper middle-income countries,” said Shiimi. – firstname.lastname@example.org