Swanu president Usutuaije Maamberua has welcomed the recently tabled budget for the 2017/18 financial year, although he raised concerns over issues such as land that do not feature prominently in the budget.
He applauded Schlettwein for managing to reduce the budget deficit to 3.6% in 2017/18, which represents an improvement of 6.3% and 8.3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2016/17 and 2015/16, respectively.
Speaking to this paper shortly after the annual budget was announced this week, Maamberua said the finance minister did not take the “far future” of Namibia into account.
“The Minister did actually not take the far future so much into account, he’s just concentrating on the pressures of the day,” Maamberua said.
Maamberua said there are certain issues of serious political and economic concern that he would have liked to have featured prominently such as the “land question”, which is a threat to potential investors.
“For example, the land question, if you don’t address it through budgetary allocation and also including resettlement issues then no investor will be interested in coming to a country where land is still under dispute,” Maamberua noted.
Furthermore, the Swanu president said although massive urban land servicing features in the budget it is not the “solution to the land question”.
“Massive land servicing is simply to build houses for the people, but that is not addressing the land question.
“The land question has political, historical and social-economic dimensions to it and that is what scares investors from coming to Namibia,” said Maamberua.
Moreover, another element lacking in the 2017/17 budget that could speed up the eradication of poverty and wealth distribution is “nationalization” of mines.
Despite Schlettwein mentioning the distribution of wealth downwards to the poor people, Maamberua question how this would be done. “Is it through the handouts to the elderly and the vulnerable children; are those the kinds of wealth distribution that we are talking about?” Maamberua asked.
Maamberua said wealth distribution means that the majority of the populace is participating in the economy.
“We have to talk about serious participation of the people in the mainstay of the economy, in mining and other sectors then we are talking about trickling down wealth to the poor people and not these handouts that we are talking about,” Maamberua concluded.
Echoing the words of Maamberua, Rally for Democracy and Progress secretary general Mike Kavekotora said future Namibian generations will carry the debt burden that government continues to accrue presently.
“He (Schlettwein) also mentioned one thing that our children should never be worse off than we are but the pace at which we are borrowing is actually impacting the generations to come.
“When do we come to a point of us living within our means? Because the more you borrow, the more liability you can carry in the long term and the more your children will have to pay,” bemoaned Kavekotora.
However, Kavekotora praised government for finally realising that the civil service wage bill was unsustainable but believes it is something that should have been done earlier.
“That should have been done a long time ago but I think government just turned a blind eye on the salary payment that is 50 to 60 to 70% of the total bill of the government’s total expenditure and that is a clear indication that it is unsustainable.
“I am glad that the Minister came to the realization that maintaining such a high bill; we will not be able to sustain it in the long term,” charged Kavekotora.
For the 2017/18 financial year, the Ministry of Basic Education, Arts and Culture received the biggest share of the budget (N$12 billion out of a total budget of N$57.5 billion). An additional N$3.3 billion was allocated to the Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation, taking the total allocation to education to N$15.3 billion.
The second biggest receiver from the budget was the Ministry of Health and Social Services with N$6.5 billion, followed by the Ministry of Safety and Security with N$5 billion.
Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare also received a high allocation of N$3.3 billion. Of this amount, N$2.4 billion will cater for the old-age pension grant, which increased by N$100 to N$1 200 per month.
An additional N$2.5 billion was injected into the cash-stripped Public Service Employees Medical Aid Scheme (PSEMAS) that owes medical service providers close to a staggering N$300 million, according to reports.
According to statistics availed by the Finance Ministry, the public debt stock is expected to stabilize at 41.9% of GDP in 2017/18, which is a marginal fall from the previous financial year which stood at 41.2% of GDP.
Total public expenditure for 2017/18 is projected at N$62.5 billion, which is a 1.7% increase from the revised 2016/17 budget of N$61.5 billion. Similarly, the expenditure is expected to remain flat in the following years – in 2018/19 it will be N$61.9 billion and N$62.7 in 2019/20.
Lastly, public revenue for 2017/18 is projected to reach N$56.4 billion, which represents a growth of 9.7% from N$51.5 billion. The improvement in public revenue is expected to result from the stronger-than-anticipated receipts from the Southern African Customs Union.