The President of Nambia, Hage Geingob, yesterday launched poverty eradication campaign. He plans to build 20 000 houses, service a minimum of 26 000 plots, build 50 000 rural toilets in the next four years and eliminate the bucket system by 2017.
Delivering his second State of the Nation Address in parliament yesterday, President Hage Geingob also said government has not yet finalized the details on the solidarity tax initiative, but that there are plans to widen the tax base and to establish a state lottery.
He also launched the Harambee Prosperity Plan, which he said is based on five pillars, namely effective governance and service delivery; economic advancement; social progression; infrastructure development and international relations and cooperation.
Expected outcomes from the Harambee plan are a more transparent Namibia; a high-performance and citizen-centred culture of service delivery; significant reduction of poverty levels; a reputable and competitive vocational education training system and a spirit of entrepreneurship and enterprise development.
In addition, the plan is expected to create broader participation in the Namibian economy; improve access to serviced land, housing and sanitation; guarantee the energy supply as well as sufficient water for both human consumption and business activities.
As part of the plan, Geingob said government will conduct annual Citizen Satisfaction Surveys in the public and private sectors to measure, inter alia, turn-around times, professionalism and accessibility.
“The attainment of prosperity may sound overly ambitious to some. However, when we speak of prosperity, we are not speaking of opulence or excess,” he stated.
Geingob admitted, however, that the Harambee plan does not pretend to be the universal panacea which will resolve the numerous causes of poverty within the remaining four years of his presidency.
According to him, Namibia will continue to consolidate its fiscal position to safeguard fiscal sovereignty and build up buffers for counter-cyclical policies during periods of economic downturns or global recessions.
“To achieve our target of reducing the debt-to-GDP ratio to less than 30% by the end of the Harambee period, we will introduce a range of expenditure, revenue and structural reform measures,” he noted.
The President furthermore promised to be strict on expenditure control and prioritisation since government does not benefit from discounts attributed to economies of scale, despite being a dominant procurer.
The finance ministry will be tasked to ensure that government gets value for money when it comes to the procurement of goods and services.
Together with the economic planning ministry, finance will also be tasked to review the country’s expenditure priorities, while legislation on public-private partnerships will be adopted by December to enable the private sector to play a key role in the construction of government infrastructure.
“Our state-owned enterprises sit on valuable assets, which, in many instances, represent dead capital. We will, therefore, this year investigate how to better leverage these assets to reduce the burden on the national budget,” he said.
Geingob also said when the draft New Equitable Economic Empowerment Bill was released, it was meant as a consultation framework, but that he was disappointed to see the Us versus Them formations.
As a result, the consultation period has been extended to allow for meaningful inputs, which will be fairly evaluated.
He said the farming, fishing and business community should join hands to provide decent housing for workers, particularly seasonal workers at the coastal town of Walvis Bay.
The rural youth will be helped through an enterprise development scheme which will provide access to finance and information, as well as targeting the establishment of 121 enterprises for the rural youth to create income-generating opportunities.
“We also plan to consolidate the various government funds, grants and schemes targeting the youth into a single, ring-fenced Youth Enterprise Development Fund to focus on entrepreneurial youth start-ups with innovative funding mechanisms such as venture capital and collateral-free lending,” he stated.
Declaring that no Namibian should die of hunger during and after the Harambee period, Geingob said a number of actions such as emergency relief, improving agricultural productivity and introducing food banks will be implemented.
“In the true spirit of Harambee, these targets will be achieved with the full support and collaboration of the private sector, the Government Institutions’ Pension Fund and development finance institutions that have pledged to support government’s housing efforts,” he continued.
The tax base will be widened to include the informal sector, while the establishment of a state lottery will be investigated.
“We will improve tax collection through the operationalising of the independent revenue authority in 2016, while the state lottery will be to supplement State revenue and ring-fence income for poverty eradication and social developmental programmes,” he said.
Geingob said the payment threshold for solidarity wealth tax will be finalised after consultations.
“For the sake of clarity, it will not be N$78 000 per annum,” he said, adding that he has set up a task team under the finance ministry to draft a white paper on the modalities of the Solidarity Wealth Tax for public consultation.
He also said a Special Tax Committee comprising experts from the public and private sector will be established to ensure that tax collected is separately audited, ring-fenced from government expenditure and wisely invested in targeted programmes.
To achieve all the set plans, the President said, the Investment Promotion Bill will be finalised before September, while the Business and Intellectual Property Authority Act will also be passed before the end of this year.
While he admitted the urgency of delivering land, Geingob said during question time that he agreed with the Affirmative Repositioning movement to service 200 000 plots but did not say when this would be achieved.
Although he warned those grabbing land that the government will not condone illegal activities, Geingob also said he will not tolerate the slow implementation of agreed upon strategies to resolve land issues.
A task team, he said, will be set to deal with the water crisis, while infrastructure such as the aging railway network, and energy shortages will be tackled.