• May 29th, 2020

Voluntary citizen donations a global practice

The American government officially began accepting gift donations in 1961, in part to control its soaring debts. 
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, one of the greatest ever Americans to occupy the Oval Office, was president when America officially endorsed accepting gifts from willing citizens. 

To date, the US Bureau of the Public Debt is tasked with accepting gifts meant to contain the national debts. It’s called shared sacrifice.

The US Treasury says Americans gave about $47 million dollars to “reduce the debt” between 1996 and 2016. For a nation owing trillions of dollars, this might seem a drop in the ocean, but it says a lot about the Americans’ love for their country.

In Namibia, government came in for fierce criticism this week after a leaked letter from the Office of the Prime Minister showed that government is seeking for voluntary donations from mainly public servants.

Those willing to participate in the scheme are being asked to shed a once-off two percent of their net salary to Treasury, in order to help government fend off the advances of drought.

On 17 April, President Hage Geingob, during his State of the Nation Address (Sona), remarked: “During these trying economic times, political office bearers are agreeable to a once-off, voluntary salary contribution of two percent of net [salary], for this year.

If parliamentarians, who are being consulted, are agreeable, contributions will be deducted as a payroll deduction, with the potential to raise the sizeable amount of approximately N$3.2 million. The funds will be channeled towards identified social programmes, as a demonstration of our personal commitment.”
It was obvious there and then that government will pull out all the stops to generate much-needed funds, in order to help the citizenry.

By using the words “these trying economic time” the President was being honest to the nation that state finances are not exactly at a desired level, hence the initiative by bleeding-hearted politicians to donate a portion of their earnings.
The reaction to the leaked letter this week sounded as though the nation was not aware of the financial challenges government is facing.

With a drought state of emergency declared two weeks ago, and with regions such as Khomas experiencing their worst drought in 90 years, it is obvious that the country is enduring extraordinary times. 

Conventional wisdom would dictate then that extraordinary circumstances can never be resolved through ordinary action, hence the extraordinary request for volunteers to come forth and embark on their own version of “shared sacrifice”, like the Americans are doing to deal with national debts.

Shared sacrifice forms a huge chunk of what makes patriotism. Patriotism include asking the tough questions on how we got into the situation we find ourselves in, but also helping getting us out of it.

Importantly, government is not imposing a mandatory deduction of two percent from anyone’s salary. There are patriots who have waited for an opportunity like this, so that they may share with others the little they have. And that’s humanity.
In Rwanda they have Umuganda - a practice that takes root from Rwandan culture of self-help and cooperation. In traditional Rwandan culture, members of the community would call upon their family, friends and neighbours to help them complete a difficult task. 

It is one of the reasons Rwanda is one of the most fast-growing countries on the continent and arguably the cleanest. 
With the two percent voluntary donation to fellow citizens, Namibians are kick-starting an Umuganda of their own - and we are excited about what the amazing result of this patriotic deed would be. It’s voluntary, after all!

New Era Reporter
2019-05-24 09:36:44 | 1 years ago

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