By Petronella Sibeene
While the general perception is that diplomats live in luxury, Namibian diplomats heading foreign missions want the Government to raise their allowances.
They want the Government to come up with a new rate to enable them to defray the high cost of living.
The Dean of Namibian Diplomats and also Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of the African Union and Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Wilfried Emvula, told New Era that diplomats serve Namibia in different countries that have different costs.
This being the case, the cost of living allowance as provided by the Government when converted to the currencies where diplomats are working, is in some cases inadequate to cater for all their needs because of the high cost of living in those countries.
He said some of the countries’ currencies are on one-to-one with the Namibian dollar and yet the price of commodities in such countries is much higher than in Namibia.
“Benefits matter because we operate in different circumstances. Some serve in developed nations while others in under-developed countries,” he stressed.
Though the Chief Human Resource Officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Joseph Kavetu, could not disclose the average annual salary for diplomats including of allowances they are entitled to, some people say they are well-looked after.
Namibia has 24 heads of missions.
Namibia’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ringo Abed, confirmed that some diplomats are struggling to meet the cost of living.
“The market is flooded with goods but the prices are too high,” he told of the situation in DRC.
Claudia Grace Uushona, Namibian Ambassador to Cuba shared the same sentiment. She added that a country like Cuba faces an economic blockade as imposed by the United States for more than 50 years. Because of that, she said living costs in that Island nation is high.
Diplomats further want Government to consider providing an upkeep allowance for diplomats’ spouses especially since they are not allowed to work in countries where their partners work.
Ambassador Emvula argued that some spouses would have been working before leaving Namibia to accompany their partners abroad.
During the time they are away, benefits such as pension and social security stop growing until they resume work, he added.
He revealed that, currently there is no system where spouses are employed in a mission.
An official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday told New Era that the issue was brought to the attention of the ministry and is likely to be discussed at the next Cabinet meeting.
Meanwhile President Hifikepunye Pohamba during the 5th Namibian Heads of Mission conference held early this week urged diplomats to sharpen their skills and serve the country as expected.
He said they should be effective representatives of the country and should be able to identify opportunities in possible areas of cooperation, market Namibia and attract investment to the country.
He said the Heads of Mission must be equipped with the necessary skills to be able to deal more effectively with governments, international organisations and the business communities in those countries.
The President said the Government was aware diplomatic service is a demanding task in terms of hard work, dedication and patriotism.
Pohamba said through hard work, they could make their postings successful.
He reminded the High commissioners and ambassadors that diplomatic environment is not static and that requires them to be in a position to adapt to the changing circumstances.