The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Albert Kawana, Wednesday 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 outright rejected. Speaking in Windhoek, Kawana addressed these Fishrot allegations, foreign ownership of the fisheries sector as well as job security and opportunities.
“It is most unfortunate to allege, without any evidence, that auctioning will result in another fishrot. This allegation must be rejected. 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.
Kawana added that neither the fisheries minister nor ministry staff would ever handle the money. This approach, he noted, is intended to promote transparency and accountability. He continued that all the internationally accepted requirements applicable to the auctioning system will be complied with by the technical committee of officials from different offices and ministries that have been established to implement the Cabinet decision. In early March this year, Cabinet resolved to replace all quota and mineral licensing relating to Namibia’s natural resources with a transparent bidding process.
At the beginning of August, Cabinet further resolved to preserve employment by reserving 40% of quotas for local operating companies. The remaining 60% would then be offered to the highest local or international bidder. Furthermore, the quota reserved for locals will be divided into two streams, namely, wet to be allocated 30% and freezer to be allocated 70%, each with a different reserve price.
Kawana added that the quota to be auctioned to both local and international bidders is “not that significant”. As an example, he cited that out of 154 000 metric tonnes (MT) of total allowable catch (TAC) for hake, only 6 600 MT or 4.3 % will be available to both local and international bidders, meaning that some 95.7% remains for local utilisation. Similarly, out of 330 000 MT of TAC for horse mackerel, only 43 200 MT or 13% will be available for both local and international companies, meaning that 87% is left for local utilisation.
Kawana continued that in order to preserve employment in the fishing sector that government stipulated that only licensed Namibian vessels should be allowed to harvest the fish, thereby resulting in more job opportunities for Namibians.
Said Kawana: “We will never allow foreign vessels to come and operate here while our people, some of whom are well skilled, are without employment. With regard to the vessels which have been operating here when we did not have the local capacity, I will soon engage the industry together with the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation to address the issue.”
The fisheries minister added that government is entitled to generate maximum revenue from Namibia’s natural resources to address a number of socio-economic challenges, such as the provision of decent housing and the impact of Covid-19.
“Once again, I appeal to our citizens to come up with useful proposals on how we can drive optimum benefits from our natural resources, especially the fisheries sector. I will welcome such proposals with open arms. Instead of talking about us, in a negative way all the time, we appeal to you who are always negative to also talk to us,” Kawana urged.
He further explained that because Namibia does not manufacture medicines and medical equipment, these items have to be sourced from the international market, which obviously requires foreign currency which is dwindling much in part due to the shutdown of the tourism industry brought about by international lockdowns.
“It is on this basis that fisheries had to be classified as an essential service so that fish can be sold at the international market to quickly generate foreign currency for our country. It is for this reason that as line minister, I had to coordinate with the industry to ensure that it operates,” Kawana explained.
New Era yesterday reported that the main players in the fishing industry requested that auctioning modalities be thoroughly thought through to provide maximum income to government while protecting jobs in the sector. In a statement released earlier this week, the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations called for the auctioning process to be done without attracting unfair competitors or illegal fishing vessels while ensuring the long-term sustainability of the industry.