Affirmative Action Fund Proposed

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By Francis Mukuzunga WINDHOEK The Namibia Employers Association (NEA) has added its voice to the national debate on Affirmative Action (AA) by calling for the setting up of a training and development fund to enhance the skills capacity within the country’s workforce. Debate on the issue of Affirmative Action has been long running and has caused much anxiety to employers and employees alike, as has been the issue of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). Many sectors of industry have often argued that it is pointless to promote Affirmative Action in the workplace when the labour force is ill trained and lacks the requisite management and entrepreneurial capabilities. With this in mind, the NEA has recommended that Government mulls the process of setting up a special fund that it has coined “the Affirmative Action Training and Economic Fund”. Secretary General of the NEA, Eric Luff, told New Era that the organisation had sent a proposal on the issue to the National Assembly in a bid to see the matter debated in parliament and was still waiting for a response from the speaker’s office. “In line with the holistic approach, this association (NEA) views the Affirmative Action objectives, as envisaged clearly in the Constitution, that Government should resolve to coordinate its Affirmative Action redressing policies, plans and practices that incorporate and extend to all vital economic, educational, training, financial and natural resources development factors that underpin the restructuring of imbalances,” said the statement addressed to the Speaker of Parliament, Theo-Ben Gurirab. The NEA is proposing that Government itself through its own resources and also through support from taxpayers, investors and corporate bodies set up the fund. The NEA further says that Article 23 of the Constitution should be used to authorise a minimum tax on capital investment to be used for the fund. The NEA proposes that the starting off tax rate should not be less than 8 percent of the regulatory internal investment requirements of all new investments in Namibia. “Financial institutions profited in the pre-independence era,” says the NEA in the document. “It is only good and prudent that they contribute to re-balancing the capital requirements of the nation, which are to be properly managed and accounted for.” The employers’ association says that financial institutions such as the Namibian Development Bank, Bank of Namibia, the National Planning Commission and representatives of financial and business interests or their nominees should become part of the project. It hopes that the all-encompassing proposal, once turned into policy, would help ease the problem of unemployment and lack of skilled labour in the country. Luff however said that by last week the NEA had not received any feedback on the document from the Speaker’s office. A secretary to the Speaker confirmed that Gurirab’s office had indeed received copies of the proposal and that it had been forwarded to the Parliamentary Committee on Human Resources, led by Nico Kaiyamo. The secretary also confirmed that the committee, through its clerk, Chippa Tjirera, was compiling a response to the NEA’s proposal and this would be made public as soon as it is compiled. New Era contacted the National Planning Commission (NPC) yesterday in an effort to get its view on the issue, as it is one of the institutions mentioned as the architects of the proposed fund in the proposal. The National Planning Commission Director General, Helmut Angula, said the proposal was not copied to his office. He however promised to make the Commission’s view known as soon as he had received a copy of the document.