Workers Live from Hand to Mouth

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Despite a gradual tangible economic upswing of 3,2 % in the country since independence, workers still do not reap the proper fruits of their daily labour. This was yesterday said by trade unionist Con Karamata at the opening of a two-day workshop in the capital. Representatives from a wide spectrum of the labour market are attending the workshop, which is being conducted by the Labour Resource and Research Institute. “Presently the country is experiencing a boom in the construction and communication sectors, all positive indicators of a growing economy. However, government efforts need to be intensified for greater effect and benefits to the Namibian workers,” said Karamata. He was analyzing an economic review that was conducted over the past few years. “In 2005 the country’s GDP was estimated to grow by 3,2%, a slowdown in growth primarily due to a decrease in mining production. Other sectors that also did well include manufacturing, transport and agriculture due to the good rains received in 2005,” Karamata said. The unionist expressed satisfaction with the inflation rate, which according to him remained well below 10%. “During last year the country experienced its lowest inflation rate of 2,3% due to slower increases in the inflation rates of water, electricity, gas and other fuel, footwear and health products, far below the 1 000% inflation rate in Zimbabwe. Notwithstanding these positive economic indicators, Namibia is still ranked the highest in unequal distribution of wealth in the world.” He also expressed serious concerns over the fact that many Namibians live below the poverty line. “More than 62% of Namibians still live under the international poverty line of US$1 per day. They thus do not benefit from the country’s growing economy the way they should. Income inequality in Namibia is clearly reflected in the gap between high-income and low-income earners in the country, taking into account that the majority of Namibian workers fall in the category of unskilled and semi-skilled workers, earning below N$1 000 per month and enjoying few benefits. “Raising minimum wages can contribute to the alleviation of poverty in the country,” he said. In Karamata’s view the country’s trade unions attained better wage increases of 7,6% in 2005 than the previous year. “The Namibian economy is too much foreign-investor prone and dependent on low wage industries, something the trade unions have a major problem with because over the years wage negotiations by the unions have not improved the situation to the benefit of the workers. ÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚ Trade unions in the region are working on strategies to move away from the present neo-liberal economic system,” said the director of the Labour Resource and Research Institute, Herbert Jauch, in commenting on the economic overview of his organization.