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By: Andrew Kathindi

Politicians have urged finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi to focus on job creation and the current basic needs of the country in his national budget.

Shiimi will deliver the much-anticipated budget for the next fiscal year (2022/2023) in the national assembly tomorrow.

PDM president McHenry Venaani said the budget should ensure enough resources tailored for start-ups for small and medium enterprises to address jobs.

We are having a youth bulge of our population who don’t have jobs. The budget must address job creation in this country,” Venaani told The Villager.

Namibia’s unemployment rate was expected to reach 36.80% by 2021.

He further said that the budget must address agricultural mechanisation and modernisation.

“It has been 32 years after independence. Europe modernised in the 19th century. [In Namibia] people in the villages are farming with cows and donkeys. There is a lack of proper tractors and seeds. Agriculture must receive a major boost and major investment so that we can create necessary jobs and address the question of food sustainability and food security in our republic.”

He also said the budget should address the lack of universal health care.

Moreover, Venaani said the budget should address the issue of housing and infrastructure in the country.

“How do we narrow the gap between the rich and the poor if many of our populous live in shacks? There are currently 287 shack townships in the country, and 235 000 Namibians live in lack of decent housing.

We want a budget that is people-centred and addresses the current needs of the developmental challenges that are facing the country. We don’t just want a budget that says we have borrowed more, but we are spending this money in areas that do not create jobs, and we are spending this money in areas that only empower the rich and the poor remain poor.”

“A budget must not be about figures. It must be about the stomach of people. How many stomachs can we lift out of poverty? We don’t want a budget just about Harambee and sloganeering.”

Venaani further took issue with the fact that Shiimi held no consultations with MPs before the expected tabling of the budget.

“Parliamentarians are representatives of the people in the country should have insight in terms of budgeting.”

Last year, parliament approved the creation of a budget committee that Venaani argued should construct the legislature’s budget.

“In terms of consultation, Shiimi is wanting. Treasury needs to do more to consult widely. It has to do with the politics that we have.

Of course, the budget is an instrument of the ruling party. It is their purview. But as it affects the lives of so many, there is a need to partner with the rest of the country going forward. But our democracy is not deeply entrenched in the areas of consultation.”

RDP president Mike Kavekotora agreed with Venaani’s sentiments, stating that the budget is prepared from the beginning to the end and cannot be tampered with when it comes to parliament.

Kavekotora said the upcoming budget must speak to the people’s basic needs and aspirations.

“The nation looks for the necessities that have not been provided. We are seeing people surviving on dumping sites, sleeping under bridges. We have seen people lining up for health facilities, which indicates where the budget’s direction should go.”

“The budget should speak to food security, health, housing, education for the youth and employment creation.”

According to Kavekotora, those sectors are critical to the nation and the only way to grow the economy is by creating jobs and making sure that the economy can cater and back up more people.

“Instead of the minister saying that it’s a pro-poor budget, they must adhere to what they are saying. If it’s a pro-poor budget, the bulk of resources should be allocated to alleviate today’s poor’s problem: food, housing, health, and water sanitation.”

He said that as the economy has not been performing and growing since 2015, which has affected employment opportunities, government should initiate a structural adjustment for the economy to grow.

“All these big projects that the government is allocating to China and North Korea is causing liquidity problems. We must move away from that. The budget must start empowering Namibians, making it easy for us to get into small-medium enterprises to start those businesses and ensure that our industry is generating funds. Not to be exported, but to remain in our economy so that the money circulates in our economy,” Kavekotora told The Villager.

LPM second in charge, Henny Seibeb, said he was not hopeful of the upcoming budget as no MPs were consulted.

“Maybe they will budget for the green hydrogen project. But the things we need to focus on are agriculture, land reform, water and energy. I hope he will increase the budget funding for those key things. 

Especially land reform and agriculture, because agriculture employs over 200,000 people and you don’t need a high-level degree to be a successful farmer.”

Last year, Shiimi tabled a N$67,9 billion budget for the 2021/2022 financial year.

Of this, N$8,5 billion was reserved for debt servicing interest payments. This represented 16,3% of the country’s revenue. N$59.4 billion was left for the national budget, of which N$53,9 billion was operational, and N$5,6 billion was developmental.

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