By Kuvee Kangueehi
Various political leaders in the National Assembly continued to congratulate the Minister of Finance, Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, on Monday for tabling a good budget. Taking the floor on Monday, Michael Goreseb from the United Democratic Front (UDF) congratulated the Minister for adjusting the threshold of taxable income from N$24 000 to N$36 000 and said it will relieve the tax burden for low-income earners. He claimed that the proposal, which was initially his, would increase the purchasing power of many Namibians.
Goreseb said the introduction is pro-poor and is a step in the right direction for alleviating poverty. He also applauded Government for investing hugely in education but remarked that it is an open secret that the country has invested in a school system with drastic shortage of basic literacy and numerical skills. He added that while he welcomed the money budgeted for building more schools, there is a need to renovate the existing old ones.
“It is disappointing that schools recommended for urgent attention in Omaheke Region and Daures Constituency did not figure again under schools in line for renovation and building.” He warned that effective learning couldn’t take place under such harsh conditions.
On his part, Swapo Party MP, Chief Ankama, said he is convinced that the Finance Minister together with the staff and all other contributors to the budget have done everything in their power given the scope of scarce resources. He said reducing poverty, creating jobs and facilitating equitable opportunities for all remains central to all Government activities. Education remains among the priorities but there is need to increase the student loans and grants for tertiary education and training. He noted that last year close 12 000 students applied for study loans and grants but only a total of 3 905 were granted loans.
“My appeal is that review of the fund be made to ascertain that more students receive loans, especially those doing critical courses that Government list as priorities in accordance with the national development plan at hand.”
Ankama added that the financial input into education should be equitable to its medium and long-term output.
“When we invest in education, we must as well be able to translate our work into visible dividends and our products must be of the best quality and marketable.”
The Swapo MP further noted that a number of people are dissatisfied with the way electricity supply is run in many parts of the country. He said many people, including himself, are not happy with the services of the recently established regional electricity distributing (Reds) companies.
“They are a middleman between NamPower and customers and their services are exorbitantly higher and unaffordable for poverty alleviation and economic growth purposes.” He added that their services of continuous power supply and customer-ship are pathetic and unreliable.
Deputy Minister of National Service, Youth, Sport and Culture, Pohamba Shifeta, echoed the sentiments of Ankama and said the budget is well-balanced and is coupled with well-disciplined fiscal policies.
“This national budget is aptly aimed at addressing socio-economic challenges facing our people, especially the indigent members of society.” He said the increase in capital projects is indeed a welcome move, as this is essential for economic growth. However, he was concerned with the implementation of the development projects, as the country has experienced under expenditure. He complained that 50 percent of the money appropriated for development returns to Treasury unspent and Government should seek for an ultimate solution.
“Effective implementation of capital projects means accelerating economic growth and infrastructure development which in total means creating employment.”
The budget debate continued in parliament on Tuesday with Asser Mbai from Nudo making his contribution.