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Saturday 19 January 2019
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Opposition parties ‘saw it coming’

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Opposition parties in the country are not surprised by Namibia’s economic outlook that was recently rated as negative from its previous stable ratings by the London-based Fitch Ratings agency, a global leader in credit ratings and research.  Since independence, Namibia has enjoyed fairly good economic outlook ratings but recent economic woes on the international markets and a poor revenue stream landed Namibia in trouble.  The revised ratings caused quite a stir nationwide and opposition leaders are certain that the negative ratings do not come as a surprise because government expenditure this year alone has been alarming among other contributing factors and the ratings are testament to the fact. The Ministry of Finance is adamant that the negative outlook reclassification is mainly brought about by activities on the international markets instead of those on the domestic front. The official opposition party, DTA, attributed the situation on the absence of long-term sustainable employment creation and insufficient effort to establish a thriving small and medium enterprises (SMEs) sector as well as Namibia’s sensitivity to international market fluctuations in commodity prices as an indication that the SWAPO Party government has failed to transform the economy beyond an unhealthy overreliance on the primary/mineral resources sector. DTA’s finance secretary Nico Smit maintained that “in broad terms the downward revision of our country’s economic outlook is a reflection of Namibia’s worsening fiscal position”. “Thus while we agree with the assertion by the Minister of Finance that this revision is by no means similar to an investment grade nor is it a sovereign credit downgrade, however it cannot be overlooked as no cause for concern because it is indicative of the likely direction of future investment grade as well as sovereign credit rating rankings,” Smit said.
While the Presidency also communicated lack of surprise on the ratings, maintaining that Namibia’s economy is expected to grow in the current financial year hence the revision does not altogether mean the economy is crippled. Other opposition party leaders also revealed that they were not surprised by the reclassification of the country economic outlook. All People’s Party secretary general Vincent Kanyetu said: “It was expected because with all the downs and falls we already had as a country at domestic and international levels and also looking at the standard of life in Namibia.” He said as a small country it was highly irrational to increase expenditure such as the number of parliamentarians, deputy ministers and special advisors to the Presidency.  “These expansions are now counting against us. Who are we trying to fool with all these costly activities? Government has to learn from this situation because these expenditures were never supposed to be a priority…hence we only have ourselves to blame,” he said. Kanyetu added: “It is an early lesson that as leaders we cannot just do things to please our personal agendas at the expense of the national economy and taxpayers. We should learn from this as we are now in the desert and should try to survive.” Rally for Democracy and Progress secretary general Mike Kavekotora echoed similarly and called on government to be honest and in future not make political but economic decisions. Kavekotora said during the mid-term budget review last year, all the economic indicators were negative and that in itself presented ample cause for concern.
“We were warning the government that the economy is not as healthy as the government is putting it. This is now a manifestation of what we have been saying all along” Kavekotora underscored. Another party represented in Parliament, NUDO, also made public its stance on the recent Fitch developments. “We should [not] act surprised, we all knew something like this was coming all along, especially considering our increasing deficit rate in recent years,” said NUDO’s deputy secretary general Vetaruhe Kandorozu. Kandorozu also blamed Namibia’s soft stance during the negotiations on the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) on the revenue sharing formula for the recent economic predicament. “South Africa employed bullying tactics and we fell for it by not putting our stance across.” Kandorozu also hit out against the Anti-Corruption Commission for “failing to control corruption in the country”. “Our procurement system is in a sorry state and the fact that Chinese are allowed to leave the country with so much money from the tenders they get makes matters worse because this is where we should maximise our tax collections,” he said. The Okakarara constituency councillor also called on the finance ministry to revise its tax collection policy to maximise tax collections.
“We need to change our approach. Most of the companies that get tenders do not pay tax. The same goes for parastatals and ministries that do not fulfil their tax obligations,” he said. He also blasted the ruling party for prioritising non-essential capital projects. “The ruling party pretends as if it is the only party that can run the country and therefore it does not want to take advice. We must forget about projects such as the new parliament and prime minister’s office,” he said. Kandorozu also called on President Hage Geingob to reshuffle his Cabinet, halt the appointment of Namibian ambassadors to other countries and do away with the concept of two deputy ministers in some ministries. The opposition parties nonetheless are hopeful that government will adopt the necessary policy actions to ensure that Namibia once again enjoys a stable economic outlook as has been the case for the past 25 years. Efforts to get comment from other opposition parties represented in Parliament proved futile, as some were not available while others refused to comment claiming they are yet to fully acquaint themselves with the Fitch developments on Namibia.




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