Wednesday 21 April 2021
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SMEs finance intervention no election gimmick- Schlettwein, Uutoni

… as both breath life into the comatose Harambee Plan


By Megameno Shikwambi

As the ministries of youth and finance this week launched finance models meant to benefit small to medium business enterprises, both Calle Schlettwein and Erastus Uutoni said this was not a means to attract the youth vote.
The ministers together with the Development Bank of Namibia (DBN) announced the official take off of the SME Financing Strategy, Skills Based Lending Facility and the 121 Rural Youth Enterprises.
The intervention is meant to assist young people who continue to face challenges in accessing capital due to limited or non-existent collateral.  Given the timing of the launch and considering that it is a few days away from a make or break election where Swapo is gunning for a second tenure of its president, speculation wafted around that the party was out to attract young people.
Although Schlettwein did indicate that the plan was coming a long way in the pipeline, he took the occasion to campaign for his party.
The finance minister invoked the “Harambee Prosperity Plan” which has not been on the lips of President Hage Geingob for a good part of 2019, due to its failure to realise many of its goals that were thwarted by an economic melt-down.
“It is not an electioneering. It is a couple of years old. We believe that the cry of entrepreneurs and SMEs was loud and clear. We put it in NDP5 (National Development Plan), we put it in the financial sector strategy.
This is now bringing us to the de facto implementation of the strategies to respond in an impactful way to that need of the economy.
Of course if you want to have some electioneering arguments, of course we will say that Swapo party is a responsive party.
We are the party that is responsive to the youth, is responsive to the needs of SMEs and is that a fault? No I think it is good. If we wouldn’t have been that would have been a way to vote against us.
But this shows that we are in for the long haul. We started work on the strategy a long time back. We are now implementing is. So vote for Swapo. It’s a good thing because you will have the benefits,” said the minister.
The finance minister did indicate that this SMEs intervention was coming from the promises of the Harambee Plan, which has also suffered savage attacks from opposition forces in the campaign trail.
“Have you read the Harambee Plan that was published in 2016? Have you read that? In that plan all these facilities were mentioned with targets. So it is not a replacement (of the SME Bank), it is just a response to the need of SMEs that has always been there,” said the finance minister.
On the other hand, Uutoni took a more non-partisan stance, and chose to remark that the timing of the launch was rather “unfortunate”.
“It’s not a question of electioneering as he said. Harambee Prosperity Plan has stated very clearly the programs that we have concerning the youth people. Early last year June we started moving with that plan more especially when it came to 121. We started going to the regions.
That was the starting point now. That was the action. Now that you are saying it’s electioneering, no! We started already. We started registering these young people. This year end in June we took these young people to register their businesses in Ongwediva.
It’s a process. We put for ourselves a target. It is only unfortunate that this is the month of the elections and that is the month that we also put for ourselves a target. That’s unfortunate,” said the youth minister.
Uutoni said he was not aware how many jobs that undertaking would create, saying he was adopting a wait and see approach.
Meanwhile, Martin Inkumbi of DBN said the bank, which is acting as an implementing agent, was opening its arms to the rescue packages.
“ We fully believe that improving access to finances and in particular to young entrepreneurs can help tackle unemployment, improving prosperity for families, communities and the growth of the economy,” he said.

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