An independent economic analyst says the current remuneration packages for public office bearers do not portray a good picture for a country that is already known to have one of the most unequal societies, according the Gini-coefficient measure.
Mally Likukela from Twilight Consulting Services said the unsustainably high wages also place Namibia at a high risk of becoming the most uncompetitive country in sub-Saharan Africa, if not the rest of the world.
According to Likukela, Namibia’s current wage bill which stands at over 40% percent of the national budget is unsustainable.
“Being in government now is more lucrative than being in the private sector. Therefore, we have seen a huge migration of professionals into the public service. Many people have also been poached from the private sector at exorbitant pay packages, the case in point is the President’s team of advisors. People came from as far as mining corporations, SOEs, private businesses, etc. where they were already earning huge salaries at the helm of their respective organizations,” he said.
Likukela’s views come days after President Hage Geingob appointed Nangolo Mbumba as vice president, succeeding Nickey Iyambo who went into retirement.
Critics have warned that the meteoric rise related to the costs of the presidency on taxpayers is not sustainable going forward.
Iyambo retired with full benefits.
This means taxpayers will now have to foot a double bill seeing that Mbumba will earn over N$1. 5million per year in his new position.
Taxpayers were spared the brunt of footing the spousal benefit bill for Iyambo, seeing that he was unmarried . But in Mbumba’s case, it’s a different story.
Mbumba’s wife will be receiving an annual salary topping N$600 000 including perks such as medical aid.
According to the Presidential Remuneration and Other Benefits Act 5 of 2016, the President may on recommendation of the Public Office Bearers Commission grant further benefits to Presidential spouses.
The First lady and spouse of the Vice President receive an annual salary equivalent to a permanent secretary and deputy permanent secretary respectively.
This comes on top of already existing costs for the two former presidents who earn over N$1 million each per year on top of benefits such as transport and housing.
The cost of presidential advisors has also come under scrutiny, especially when considering the fact that the salary scale of presidential advisors range between N$637 000 to N$1,08 million. Geingob has six advisors.
Likukela said despite Namibia’s struggles with grinding poverty, “the country’s politicians are perceived and rightly so to be among the best paid in Africa and possibly the world.
Politicians risk being alienated by the masses as they will be seen to be uncaring and ignorant of the poor masses. Experience elsewhere have shown that when a country is poor, higher general government or politician wages reduce bureaucrats’ incentive to extract illegal incomes. However, as income per capita rises as is the case in Namibia, these higher wages gradually lose their effectiveness in combating corruption,” said Likukela.
There have been claims made that when politicians are paid well they will not be prone to corruption; Likukela views this differently.
“In the past, Namibia was justified to offer their government employees or politicians sufficiently high wages to reduce corruption, thus creating favourable conditions for economic development. However, the economy has grown to be ranked amongst the middle-upper countries of this world and living standards have improved, so these high wages will not help the fight against corruption,” he cautioned.
Analysts have recently been lauding the reckoning efforts by government as ‘steps in the right direction’ whilst emphasising the need for calculable measures to be enforced to ease the public purse.
The reshuffling also entailed doing away with the much-contested double Deputy Minister roles that were introduced in 2014 by the Geingob administration. This resulted in the five Ministries that had two deputy Ministers ending up with only one deputy minister and the three deputy Ministers responsible for special recognition categories such as Marginalized, Disability and Veteran Affairs now falling under the Presidency.
To that end, IPPR’s Graham Hopwood said there is a need to reduce the size of government, especially at the top level.
“The decision to do away with two deputy ministers in some ministries is welcome but something more significant is needed such as the merging of several ministries and the abolition of most special advisor posts. Such moves are very unlikely to take place as SWAPO’s patronage system requires that many of these posts are left open for older comrades. At the same time government is very unlikely to cut jobs anywhere in the civil service with an election due next year. That still leaves us with the problem of paying for all these unnecessary expenses at a time when funds are in such short supply.”
Last year March, the President determined and signed off the remuneration and benefits of Public Office-Bearers, President, Vice-President and former Presidents as provided for by the Public Office-Bearers (remuneration and benefits) Act of 2005 and the Namibian Constitution.
The Act however does not highlight the pension of the Vice-President considering the resignation of former VP Nickey Iyambo. Instead, what is plausible is that, the President can constitutionally institute remuneration provision for the VP from the already limited State resources, which grossly undermine the cost cutting efforts being enforced by government.
Hopwood further stressed that “the post of Vice-President is largely ceremonial and mainly involves deputising the President. There is no need for the spouse of a Vice-President to receive state remuneration. The usefulness of the VP post is itself questionable. After all, we managed for 25 years without one.”
He added: “The problem is rooted in the 2014 constitutional amendments, which were not properly thought through. These amendments created the VP post and enlarged the size of parliament by a third. This has left us with legacy of a top-heavy government which the taxpayer cannot afford to pay for. The fiscal crisis of the last two years has made it abundantly clear that we cannot afford a ‘superstructure’ government.”
The table below highlights the total remuneration packages of the nation’s leaders: