Okakarara Constituency councillor Vetaruhe Kandorozu says the decision by Central Government to reduce its 2016/17 financial budget by N$20 million during last year’s mid-term budget review was a major setback in terms of the implementation of critical capital projects in the constituency.
During a brief interview recently, Kandorozu revealed to The Patriot the construction of a kitchen at the Okakarara State Hospital and sewerage system for Okondjatu are among the many projects that were put on hold due budget cuts during the 2016/2017 financial year.
“The first project is the hospital kitchen at Okakarara State Hospital and a laundry that were under construction which was put on hold, so for the last financial year, nothing has happened for those projects,” lamented Kandorozu.
In the same way, a feasibility study for the much-needed Okakarara Sport Complex which was supposed to cost government around N$1 million was also put on hold.
“Another project was the feasibility study for the construction of Okakarara Sport Complex under the Ministry of Youth and Sport,”
“The feasibility was budgeted for around N$1 million in order to find the viability of the project, so the project was also frozen,” added Kandorozu.
To add onto Okakarara’s woes, the replacement of a sewerage system at Okondjatu village which is aimed at creating an “enabling” environment for residents has also had to wait due to lack of funds in government coffers.
“The services (sewerage system) that have been done at Okondjatu was not well designed to provide an enabling environment for residents,”
“As a result, the oxidation ponds were constructed within close proximity of the houses so the smell and leakages of pipes of these oxidation ponds is affecting the residence,” he noted.
Kandorozu said, had the funds been available, the oxidation ponds at Okondjatu were to be moved for about 1 kilometre south of the village, said Kandorozu. Similarly, one more project worth around N$4 million which was intended to add value to serviced ervens at Okondjatu was put on hold as a direct result of last year’s budget cuts. In addition, land servicing activities worth around N$4 million and N$3 million at Okamatapati and Coblenz respectively were also put on hold.
Moreover, another issue of concern in the constituency is the establishment of staff members at various ministries which forces residents to travel long distances for basic services which could easily be provided to them in Okakarara.
One such ministry according to Kandorozu is the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration which has a satellite station in Okakarara but with no “staff members” to operate the machinery. “The Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration bought a camera in order to provide printing services for identification cards. But there are no staff members to operate these machines, so due to the budget cuts, that has been negatively affected.
“So people still have to travel to Otjiwarongo between Monday and Wednesday to go and get documentation services from the Ministry even though we have a satellite office at Okakarara,” bemoaned Kandorozu.
In a recent interview with this paper, Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana revealed that over 300 vacancies in her ministry were frozen last year alone due to the prevailing economic meltdown. This could be the reason why Okakarara and other towns do not access to the basic services of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration.
Justifiable budget cuts
The year 2016 was characterized by a massive slowdown in economic growth which was accompanied by a decrease in government income; an increase in Namibia’s budget deficit and state debt. As stated by the Ministry of Finance, “the Namibian economy found itself in a precarious situation which was never experienced in the country’s history.”
When put in numbers, the development budget was reduced by N$2.7 billion, the operational budget by N$2.8 billion while interest payments on national debt were reduced by about N$1 billion.
When responding to questions put to him by fellow Parliamentarians last year, Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein said the budget cuts were “inevitable” hence the economic slowdown that hit Namibia and the word over.
At the time, Schlettwein was quoted by state-owned daily newspaper saying: “Hence, the emphasis on spending cuts with least impact on growth and accelerating implementation of structural reforms to support growth and mitigate the growth-reducing impacts of fiscal adjustment. “In some instances we have to find better and alternative means of conducting our operations, while doing more with less,” Schlettwein was quoted.