Swanu president Tangeni Iijambo has requested President Hage Geingob to consider replacing the food bank programme with the universal Basic Income Grant (BIG) to fight poverty in the country. The food bank initiative was established in 2013 by Geingob to assist needy and vulnerable community members with food rations as a way of cushioning them against hunger.
According to Iijambo, the replacement of the food bank will help the Geingob administration to introduce a minimum wage for retail sector workers, while more money would be freed up to fund students at institutions of higher learning. He said government will also be in a position to raise corporate income tax by introducing a new tax on all financial transactions.
“Introduce a wealth tax immediately, reduce personal income tax, create stimulus package for the agricultural sector with special focus on communal and small emerging commercial farmers,” Iijambo proposed this week. Iijambo added the introduction of a BIG should not only come as an immediate response to the coronavirus pandemic but as a lasting measure towards eliminating poverty in Namibia. “The introduction of a BIG is not only advisable and sound policy but must be extended beyond the current period of economic and social upheaval,” he sustained.
The member of parliament emphasised that an income grant would move the nation a step further in liberating labour from the clutches of capitalist control and exploitation, allowing people for the first time to choose to change jobs without being threatened by poverty.
“We must reject the principle that people have to work to earn their income and move towards the idea that people deserve to be able to live even if they cannot work,” he claimed. The BIG Coalition of Namibia, spearheaded by the Economic and Social Justice Trust, has proposed a monthly grant of N$500.
However, the ministry of poverty eradication and social welfare believes the proposed BIG for unemployed Namibians between the ages of 18 and 59 is indeed feasible, albeit at a less than N$400 a month.
The ministry’s executive director, Esther Lusepani, last year said this was concluded after the finalisation of the government feasibility study meant to determine whether the country can introduce an income grant to benefit roughly 1.2 million unemployed people.