Businessman Harold Pupkewitz was the executive chairperson of the Presidential Economic Advisory Commission (PEAC) before it was dissolved two years ago. Following last week’s revelations by The Villager that since the disbanding of PEAC in 2009, President Hifikepunye Pohamba has been operating without an independent economic adviser, Harold Pupkewitz has weighed in saying that PEAC can only work if Cabinet publicly declares it vital. To start with, Harold Pupkewitz has said he does not know who put his name forward as a member of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC) but maintained that the President needs advice from ‘serious salted business people’ on the economic front.
PEAC was formed in 2006 with Pupkewitz as the executive chairperson leading more than 30 members but was disbanded in 2009 for non-performance.
PEAC was supposed to advise the President on economic issues. “I don’t know who decided that I should be a member of PEAC,” said Pupkewitz, adding, “From my point of view less and less people attended the meetings of the various committees and finally no meetings were called. So it died a natural gradual death like the first (Council).”
Under the current circumstances, Pupkewitz is of the opinion that the President needs to know the thinking of serious salted business people from various sectors of the economy.
“The President is handicapping himself unnecessarily and unduly by not having at his back and calling, the opinions of the people who are the leading lights in the private sector.
“But I may be mistaken as I have no network and don’t occupy since some years any public position,” he said.
For PEAC to work, Pupkewitz suggested that the “President or Cabinet should declare publicly that they regard its input as vitally important to enrich the debate about national challenges; for instance, faster economic growth, education and job creation”.
“Also that they make it clear that PEAC will be used as a sounding board for important matters before they go to the Cabinet.
There should be a small number of leading members of the PEAC who form a round table for meetings with the Government periodically as circumstances require or dictate. Perhaps the members of the PEAC should be sworn in the same way as MP’s,” he said.
Pupkewitz’s sentiments comes amid questions over whether Government extensively consults on economic matters, this after, the Ministry of Finance was forced to backtrack on proposed tax policies in the mining sector.
Cabinet at its 14th ordinary meeting on August 16 considered the concerns raised by the mining sector relative to the proposed tax amendments and directed the deferment of the proposed abolition of VAT zero-rating of raw material exports and the institution of different levy rates ranging from 0% to 2%.
The intended tax broadening move was meant to supplement the dwindling revenue collection driven by the shrinking Southern African customs union pool which has in the past financed 30% of the country’s public spending annually.
The Ministry of Finance mooted different tax regimes including a five percent taxation on raw exports, 155 tax on exportation of crude oil, gas, fish and livestock, introduction of withholding 25% tax on management fees paid to non residents.
This met local and international market resistance from players in the mining industry, forcing Government to backtrack.
Currently, the National Planning Commission (NPC) is the sole Government advisor on economic matters and has been tasked to reconstitute PEAC.
Argued Deputy Minister of Finance, Calle Schlettwein this week,
“I do not agree with those that say we did not consult with industry before these measures. Government still remains the most tolerant and open to consultations in key decisions. We would be surprised sometimes when we call for tax reliefs, no one complains but when introducing tax then people complain. It is obvious that no one wants to pay more tax but we will consult,” said Schlettwein.