Can the State Afford BIG?


By Hendrik Christian and Jacobus Josob The debate around BIG has taken significant proportions in the press, on the chat shows and more widely within the potentially affected communities. Its detractors, in Government circles mostly, argue more or less that it will most certainly induce various degenerative tendencies such as sponsored idleness, drunkenness, loitering, and dependency, in short a vanishing will to self-improvement. Its proponents base their arguments on the sorry state of the nation and the need to at least alleviate the plight of at least the estimated 600 000 unemployed. We say the following under correction. The Lutheran Church and its allies (associates) seek the implementation of the BIG within the greater context of the actualisation of the liberation of the Namibian people, that is seizing their property and democratic rights gained at independence, and which remain largely on paper only, that is, in the Bill of Fundamental Rights. If this is the church’s pro-gramme, as we understand it, we unequivocally support it. For this reason we contribute as follows to the issue. While for many it may be essentially a moral question, for ourselves the ultimate test is an economic one. Is the BIG economically viable? That for us is the question. It is our view that if the present social-economic order cannot even deliver BIG, then it is obvious that it has no right to exist for the following reasons: The first question is can we afford it? Time and space will not allow us to address this issue extensively, but for our present purposes we believe that the fact that Namibia to public revelations lost at least N$2 billion in corruption and mismanagement – as the tip of the iceberg – is enough to answer the question. An estimated N$1.4 billion infusion of money into the Namibian economy by way of a grant of N$100 to Namibian persons will have amongst others the following effects: Families of seven persons say will have N$700 to cater for their most basic needs for most of the month as a stepping stone to seek income for further improvement in standard of living. The entire nation’s standard of living will be improved by one giant leap. An Englishman, Robert Owen, has proven nearly 200 years ago in England that the rise in living standards of a people leads to greater productivity and generally a qualitatively higher life. Robert Owen housed workers in good surroundings with adequate health and educational facilities around his factory and immediately obtained better results in productivity and social beha-viour and conduct conducive to enhanced cultural standards. Numerous social psychologists, sociologists and other authorities have produced authoritative works showing that an improvement in living standards brings down social maladies such as crime (petty) while a decline in living standards causes crime and disease, for example, to rise exponentially. A world authority in psychology, Maslov, pointed out the hierarchy of needs of the human person as starting with food, clothing and shelter. And only when these are satisfied can the person pursue education, health and employment and lastly what is termed aesthetics, that is, moral and sensual ful-filment such as in art, music, and spiritual accomplishment. We believe that what holds for an Englishman or American holds for a Namibian, contrary to the apparent view of BIG’s opponents. Economic expectations are much. Petty and even serious crime can be expected to drop significantly as its most fundamental cause of utter desperation would have been alleviated. An expected drop in crime will for example undoubtedly tend to swell such industries as tourism and one may expect many millions more flowing into Namibia and into state coffers. It can be expected that many millions lost to petty crime each year will be saved if the crime rate drops significantly. Furthermore, N$1.4 billion per year more in circulation in the Namibian eco-nomy can be expected to offset secondary economic activity which may produce significant numbers in employment. At least 15 percent in VAT can be expected to return to state coffers of the N$1.4 billion. The entire prospects of returns on such an investment is more desirable than the yearly billions lost in terms of corruption for want of an understatement. Needless to say, the effective curtailment of petty corruption will easily pay for BIG with billions to spare. Last year, the nation caught a glimpse of at least N$2 billion lost through corruption and/or bad investment. For example, N$30 million Avid; N$100 million ODC; N$800 million GIPF; N$800 million oil; etcetera, etcetera. The NamPower CEO has a discretion of N$20 million, while Harry Oppenheimer (or any other billionaire who we know of) did not have a N$50 000 one. These losses in our view are avoidable with a genuine anti-corruption drive, none of which is visible to ourselves. We are convinced that if a person such as Judge Brian O’Linn with not only the necessary career history and integrity, but also with the necessary knowledge and expertise, authority and personality had been assigned the task to lead the anti-corruption campaign, credible results would have been obtained and even billions per year might have been saved. It is a historic and universal fact that corruption can be curtailed only by social organisation and employing your tested and competent elements to direct the mechanisms against corruption. It is our opinion that the lack of attempt to enlist the services of a person like Judge O’Linn raises a concern whether the anti-corruption drive is a serious one. A further concern is that in our view petty corruption solely is targeted and not the insidious and institutiona-lised corruption of large companies and in particular financial companies which siphon off billions from state coffers and the economy yearly. These go largely undetected, because persons appointed in key positions requiring protection of the fiscus, the economy and state expenditure are either grossly incompetent or bribed, by all signs. It is known that a council building in the north evaluates at N$800 000, but is inflated by quantity surveyors and engineers to N$4 million, reflecting a country-wide situation in which pricing, tenders and contracts are conducted at a multiple of their values perfectly legal because the bill of quantities, the tender pricing and the contract had been done through all the usual procedures. However, price control cannot be exercised, because the officials are either not capable or are in on it. The financial companies, especially those based in South Africa, the former colonial master top the list of conducting illegal operations actively sabotaging the economy and the fiscus. Unregistered retirement funds, for example such as the Master Adaptor Retirement Annuity Fund conduct business illegally tapping Namibian tax incentives and exemptions causing in total with others billions of dollars to be lost and corrupting the prudent management of the fiscus, by amongst others, forcing Namibian citizens to pay tax to South Africa. In one case a member of this fund paid N$43 000 in tax to the South African tax collector. Elementary calculations will show that the financial institutions cause this country to lose moneys, which pales into insignificance the petty corruption which continues to hit the headlines due to the almost comical ineptitude of our nouveau black mobs while the arrogant disregard of law and order by the big companies is simply taken as normal procedural practice. In other words, they are a law unto themselves. The supervisory and regulatory authorities are in the service of these financial houses by way of incompetence and all signs point to what can be termed institu-tionalised bribery to maintain the country as a third rate colony to South Africa. The general populace are at the mercy of these companies and most families lose their life savings in particular their retirement insurance running into hundreds of thousands of dollars at retirement, adding to the deep desperation widespread amongst working families. Stemming this tide through a credible effort to stem corruption will not only fund BIG but will create the potential to create vast development, promote health and education amongst others. But, only if this tendency to sell national assets worth a billion for a kickback of a hundred thousand subsides amongst Namibian functionaries or this tendency is curtailed by compulsion by adequate and competent me-chanisms. In conclusion, if the state denies BIG, it renounces its own purpose. – The Khoisan Social-Political Movement