By Alexactus T. Kaure
Urban land will continue to be expensive unless Central Government starts to subsidize the local authority.
The city of Windhoek CEO, Nilo Taapopi, said this in an interview with New Era. He says that land is the city council’s number one money-spinner followed by electricity, rates and taxes.
Taapopi says that the city tries its level best to make land available to as many people as possible and that they use tender, auctions and special projects as ways of selling land. He says that auctions are the best money-making method but unfortunately they leave the poor exposed to the vagaries of the market forces.
Windhoek, Walvis Bay and Swakopmund are the three local authorities that do not get a government subsidy as they fall in category one, according to local government classification. The argument is that these three cities are supposed to be self-reliant. The City of Windhoek, for example, has a budget of about N$1.5 billion which includes both capital projects and operational budgets.
However, Taapopi says that this amount is not enough. Windhoek is the seat of government responsible for so many tasks such as looking after the interests and welfare of its residents and foreign investors and embassies.
But in the absence of central government revenue the city has to depend on the ratepayers for income.
Therefore, some areas of support are needed if the city is to fulfil its functions, says Taapopi. He is not alone in calling for this type of support.
The CEO of the National Housing Enterprise, Vincent Hailulu, concurs, saying that if Government supports these cities, then the price of land will go down somewhat and that would enable the housing agency to build more houses and thus contribute to decent cities and the well-being of residents.
However, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development Erastus Negonga disputes this argument. He says market forces determine the price of land in Windhoek and other cities.
He says that the valuation of land is the main determinant because, according to him, land is just a commodity like other commodities. He says it is not that Government does not subsidize the City of Windhoek. He says the Government provides social services such as the improvement of the Katutura Single Quarters renovation project, among others.
However, he says that the Local Authority Act stipulates that cities should be run on a cost recovery basis in order to sustain themselves. But he says that the local authority can still approach Government for assistance but this has to be seen in the context of the country’s economic status at any given time.
However, Government takes money from the municipality, for example those collected through traffic violations and parking meters.
Negonga reminds the local authority that one of its functions is to collect taxes for Central Government as well.
Taapopi, however, says that they have requested the ministries of Finance, Justice and Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development to revisit the Local Authority Act but no action on this has been taken so far.
In the meantime, residents will have to sustain the City of Windhoek and other towns.