Namibia clears SACU debt

Namibia has managed to finally clear its N$2.96 billion debt from Southern African Customs Union (SACU) Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein has revealed to The Villager.

In his previous financial year budget speech, Schlettwein said that Namibia had to repay a total of N$2.95 billion to the SACU Common Revenue Pool due to the deficit experienced in the pool. “Monies that are due to them (SACU) because of over-payment are immediately subtracted from the revenue that is paid to us so we have not paid directly but we have forfeited it.

The answer is yes we have paid, we are not in debt, it’s all done,” he said. The Finance Minister said that, overall, he is satisfied with the national budget recently tabled in parliament amidst a barrage of serous criticism of it from other quarters of government.

“It’s a budget that has its twin objectives, one of consolidating the fiscal macro-economic situation and align it to our macro-economics and bring it back onto sustainable levels. On the other part, it offered us the opportunity to realign expenditure to where it maters most. By and large, in most of the aspects we managed to either maintain or slightly improve expenditure in priority areas,” said the Minister. Schlettwein also said the current budget will breath some life into the contracted construction sector.

“The capital budget was increased so we believe that the construction sector will at least be able to survive and recuperate from the very bad situation of last year,” he also said. While the increase in SACU revenues came by surprise IJG Securities analyst and Head of Research, Eric van Zyl, says they come in time to bring about a positive rating from sovereign rating agencies like Fitch.

“On the revenue side the budget exceeded expectations, I don’t think we were expecting that substantial increase in SACU revenues which should lead to a smaller deficit this year. This will be looked on very positively by the rating agencies,” he commented. Zyl differs with the Finance Minister on the possibilities of a turn around in construction this year given the size of the current capital budget as compared to that of the previous fiscal year.

“The construction sector set a really high base in 2014/15 with all the government expenditure in that space. We did expect a contraction for the construction sector in 2016, I do not think 2017 is going to be a great year for the sector as the capital budget is smaller than what it was in 2016/17,” he opined. South West Africa National Union (SWANU) President Usutuaije Mamberua however stressed that the budget does not adequately address the con cerns of vocational education given the budget allocation for the Ministry of Higher Education Innovation and Training.

While DTA’s Nico Smit lauded the money given to the Anti-Corruption Commission amounting to N$ 5 million as coming in time to address and neutralize rampant corruption, he decried the wage bill as way too high.

“We can’t pay 50 percent of our income on wages and then we have only 50 percent left for spending on the rest. It does not make sense; government keeps promising that something will be done but nothing is actually done,” he told The Villager. Meanwhile the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare’s flagship Food Bank program has been allocated more funds to it, backing up the president’s war effort on poverty. The old age pension has been increased by a further N$ 100/month totaling the annual monthly grant to N$ 1 200 per senior citizen