The Namibian government will for the first time auction its 60% share of the country’s annual horse mackerel and hake output to the highest bidder by the end of October, as it scrambles to raise funds for equipment and medicines to fight the coronavirus pandemic, according to a government letter seen by Reuters.
The government’s 60% quota is normally reserved for state-owned company Fishcor, which has been caught up in a corruption scandal.
“Government is in need of financial resources on an emergency basis with a view to mitigate the effects of COVID-19,” Albert Kawana, the minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, said in an Aug. 7 letter to the fishing industry, seen by Reuters on Monday.
“We do not produce medicines in Namibia nor do we manufacture medical equipment … In order to obtain these items, we have to buy them with foreign currency,” Kawana said.
Last month Namibia approached the International Monetary Fund for a 4.5 billion Namibian dollars ($254 million) emergency loan to help it fight COVID-19.
Namibia has seen a steady uptick of new infections and has now reported 2,949 cases of COVID-19 and 19 deaths since the start of the outbreak, according to the latest statistics released on Sunday.
Fishing is the third-biggest contributor to Namibia’s gross domestic product, after mining and agriculture, contributing around N$10 billion ($783 million) in foreign currency earnings annually.
The proposed auction of the government’s fishing quota would be the first of its kind in the country.
“The available quota is as follows: Horse mackerel – 72,000 MT, out of which 40% will be reserved for local companies. Hake – 11,000 MT out of which 40% will be reserved for local companies. Monk – 392 MT, all to be auctioned to the highest bidder,” Kawana said in the letter.
Corruption allegations that have hit Namibia’s fishing industry saw two former ministers and four others accused of being involved in a scheme to award fishing licences to an Icelandic firm in return for kickbacks.