Friday 23 April 2021
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Are all the holes plugged, Mr Schlettwein?

If you have a bucket with multiple holes in it and you fill it with water, it is bound to leak even if you plug some of the holes in it. Unless you plug all the holes, you will continue to lose water from one or the other hole. Yesterday’s Mid-Term Budget Review is exactly what our Treasury seeks to do, plug one of the multiple holes and hope there will be no further leakages. The “leaking bucket” concept models a business as a bucket and customers as the water in the bucket.  Therefore, a leaking bucket refers to a business that is losing customers and market share.
In our case as a country, the water in our bucket is our economy. As much as our public purse managers try to prudently manage the country’s resources, there are still far too many leakages in the form of wasteful expenditure, kickbacks, inflated tenders, dubious S&T claims and so on. Therefore, even the proposed taxes might not yield the desired results until we plug all the holes. Central to all, is our public procurement, system which has cost the government billions in the last decade because of its ineffectiveness. Unethical officials, who sit on the Tender Board get good deals for themselves instead of lobbying for a good deal for the country. Perhaps with the advent of the Central Procurement Board things might change for the better.

As finance minister, it is key that Schlettwein ties all loose ends and plug all the holes through which State money leaks, only then should we start thinking of new taxes and other revenue generation methods. In recent years, Namibia has pumped billions into the education sector but the desired results have not been yielded, simply because money was not the problem but rather the manner in which the country’s education sector is being managed. The desperate measures we are currently using to boost revenue generation will not amount to anything if we do not address the manner in which State funds are utilised. When you have a government of less than 100 000 people running on an S&T bill close to N$1 billion then you know you are in for a bumpy ride. It makes it even bumpier when you know that claiming S&T in government is lucrative because the probability of raking in S&T that surpasses your monthly salary is not a distant dream.

Some people applying for jobs in government will even tell you: “I do not care if my basic salary is low, the S&T will make up for it.” It is important that our government adopts strict control measures when it comes to expenditure, through this millions can be saved annually and used for other purposes. Government waste, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, and what is one man’s vital government investment or research project is another man’s non-essential project, the nation’s interest should always supersede anything else. Many Namibians are of the view that corruption within government needs to be addressed while others continue to urge government to ensure that resources are shared equitably among all Namibians. With growth expected to slow down and fiscal space all but disappearing due to increasing public debt – which now stands at N$143 billion. – Namibians will have to tighten their belts if government borrowing and wasteful expenditure continues. But it is not fair to expect taxpayers to suffer while they have done their part, government needs to do its part as well and meet taxpayers halfway.

Wasteful government expenditure makes taxpayers cringe and it is my hope, Mr Schlettwein, that you have finally plugged all the holes in the bucket to end the economic leakage.

*The Patriot would like to thank Deloitte for their inputs on our  special report on the Mid-Term Budget Review.

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