Alively discourse on the budget has started with particular concerns about how national budgets are compiled, for the electorate only to speak a different language the year after.
A faction states that the peo- ple-centered budget is tailored to buy the ruling party votes when the country heads to the polls this year, while economists and analysts say the repercussions will only be felt the year after the elections, accompanied by the true intentions of politicians.
In a country as divided as Na- mibia, the guns have been fired for the next general election and if it looked rough until now, it is about to go nuclear.
When the minister of finance tabled the National Budget for the 2019/20 financial year last week, there has been many questions with no answers, the current eco- nomic slump posing questions as to where the billions will come from.
Analysts have weighed in on the discussions with many pointing out that the current monetary allocations have a lot to do with swinging the upcoming elections in the favour of the ruling party, while they highlight the continued ‘skewed’ priorities such as money pumped into the Defense force and State Own Enterprises that continue to nosedive into debt.
Youth activists have taken note of what they have termed an ‘elec- tioneered hand-out’ to the youth entity National Youth Service (NYC) which has been operating on a shoestring budget since the year after the last election, only to be generously provided for this year.
The youth entity last year re- ceived a mere N$10 million from treasury, with which it could not undertake any activities as per its mandate. This year, NYC will receive N$24 million, more than twice that amount.
The ruling party uses the suc- cess stories from the beneficiaries as part of its campaigning notes towards the elections. Sadly, such youth empowering programs were suspended the following year as the budget allocated to NYC can not sustain grants for youth em- powerment any longer.
“The fact that the NYC got N$24 million this year after only getting money enough for salaries the previous years says a lot about the government under the leadership of Swapo. They only care about the youth when it is election year and after they have their votes, they become bosses that don’t care for anyone else but their families,” said a youth activist. “Watch, you will soon hear NYC announce that they have money to empower the youth with income generating projects or some social programs for affiliated organisations. And then you will hear Swapo towards the end of the year point to the program and tell the nation that they care about the youth.
A year or two after the elections, NYC will tell us that there is no longer money.
We know that this is lip service just for the elections, so govern- ment should stop thinking that we are stupid. Swapo cannot be buying votes like this every election year.
We see what you are doing,” said the youth activist who prefers anonymity for fear of victimisation.
People close to the corridors of power tell The Patriot that mil- lions will be used to restructure the 121 constituencies and to garner votes for both the ruling party and in support of whomever will be running for the top chair at the NYC’s general assembly this December.
“So it is clear that the ruling
party will benefit more from this year’s budget because they will actually be putting their campaign notes to work,” said the source.
While the ruling party has been accused of being partisan on State affairs, its Executive Director Austin Samupwa has shot down all allegations that the budget is doctored to favour Swapo in the coming elections.
“Those are sentiments of the opposition. For the past three years, we have been trying to re- cover from the economic slump. Now we are on the right track so it is just a continuation of what we have been doing. So I don’t see anything that is electioneering in that budget,” said Samupwa.
Plagued by party infighting and surfacing tribal divisions, remnants of the party have long put Swapo under scrutiny for its methods of delivering to its people.
The country has over the years observed an unequal spectrum of living standards with those politically-connected continuing to buy new belts while advising those on the periphery of poverty to tighten theirs.
“The ruling party’s thinking is far from that analogy. As a coun- try, we have been managing our budget so that we can recover. So I don’t see why the current tabled budget would be called that; an election budget.
Personally I have not picked up the said trend that the budget changes for the people during elections years. What I know is that the Swapo Party Government
continues to deliver whether there are elections or not,” said Samupwa.
Political analyst Nico Horn maintained a balanced view on the discourse saying while the current budget is not a bad budget, it continues to carry misplaced priorities.
“It’s not much of a bad budget, but some of the bad habits are still there.
If I was the minister of finance, I would not allocate so much money to the defense ministry. It is almost ridiculous that we spend so much when we are not fighting anything and leave out the real issues. Plus there are also not so many big cuts in the public service especially with the bloated cabinet,” said Horn.
“Problem areas like Air Namib- ia, nothing is being done there and defense is still high up. I wouldn’t say that it is a people’s budget be- cause the problems are still here. The budget does not look bad but we also do not know where the money is coming from.”
Economist Mally Likukela who also termed the budget ‘an elec- tion piece’ said the electorate will have to open their eyes and vote wisely.
“The budget ought to be an elec- tion budget and we see the change; that it is this year more focused on the social sector.
For the voters, they must under- stand that their votes will be their investment into the leadership that will take care of them for the next five years so choose wisely,” he said.