… Opposition moves in with austerity motion
By Kelvin Chiringa
Namibia’s former Presidents, their spouses and children continue to reap big from prescribed benefits despite frantic efforts to reign in on expenditure overruns amidst a controversial request for voluntary salary donations to state coffers from ordinary citizens.
The ongoing economic recession has eroded consumers’ purchasing power, wiped out a number of companies who have massively retrenched and has curtailed the state’s ability to fund an estimated 12 000 first year students.
Prospects for economic growth, according to the Bank of Namibia’s calculations are dim, estimated at a measly 1% or below that if rapid transformative interventions are not rolled out.
Although treasury has ballooned the capital budget to breathe life in the struggling construction sector which takes in a huge number of semi-skilled Namibians from informal settlements, real economic recovery is anticipated only in 2023.
As the situation remains grim for both government and ordinary Namibians, fresh calls to relook and adjust huge benefits afforded to former Presidents have surfaced.
Official opposition president, McHenry Venaani disclosed to The Patriot that he will be bringing a motion on government austerity this week in parliament.
“Readjustment is key as there is no justification to pay someone a salary who doesn’t work! More importantly it is tax-free and free houses to (the tune) of millions. (This) needs a redress,” he said.
A look at pensions for ex-Presidents and their spouses/children
While sitting vice-Presidents get almost everything for free under the presidential remuneration and other benefits’ law, presently benefits for ex-vice Presidents are not clarified under the same law.
This puts to question how the state has paid the now late Dr. Nickey Iyambo. The Public Office Bearer’ Commission did not provide an answer when The Patriot requested them to, despite asking for written questions.
However, as per the Former Presidents’ Pension and Other Benefits Act 18 of 2004, a former President must be paid a monthly pension equal to the monthly basic salary that he or she received immediately before he or she ceased to hold office as President or 80% of the incumbent President’s basic monthly salary.
He or she is also entitled to be paid perks in an amount equal to the annual salary which was payable immediately before he or she ceased to hold office as President for each term of office served as President of the Republic.
The Act provides that all expenditure incidental to the payment of pension and gratuity and the provision of other benefits must be paid out of the State Revenue Fund from money appropriated by Parliament. While treasury is on a mission to widen its tax base to harvest increased tax revenues, the amount of any pension or gratuity paid, and the value of any benefit provided is also exempt from tax on income.
Benefits for ex-Presidents are also extended to their spouses, children, either biological or foster.
According to the Act, upon the death of a former President, the surviving spouse or dependent children are paid a monthly pension in an amount equal to 75% of the monthly pension that would have been payable to the former President. An ex-President is further heaped with other benefits in the form of Security personnel: as may be determined by the Cabinet, but not less than 10, which may be increased as may be determined by Cabinet as the need arises. Other benefits are: three drivers; two private secretaries; two personal assistants; and two office attendants as well as office and equipment, office accommodation, telephones and computers. Independent analysts who commented on the subject were conflicted on their views as to whether a possible cutting of former Presidents’ benefits in line with economic structural readjustments would be a popular move in the upper echelons of the ruling party.
However, associate researcher at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Frederico Links submitted that there are still “people with common sense who will welcome the move.
Everybody would agree that up and down in society there is need for downsizing. You can’t just expect downsizing from some. At the moment conditions are hard for everybody. At least for the vast majority of people who are cutting back on their lifestyle.
So it should be expected of those who get these benefits from tax payers to cut back as well in terms of what they are getting.
This is just right, ethical and just. And (look at) the issue of Presidents not paying taxes, at a time when others are being called on to pay even more.”