KAE ON FRIDAY
IT is really gratifying to see the Government taking a bold step and scrapping Value Added Tax (VAT) on foodstuffs like beans, cooking oil, fat, bread and cake flour.
Not only this but it has also decided to extend the school feeding project to non-boarding schools in rural areas and townships.
Certainly, the Government needs to be given the credit due in this respect. It’s common knowledge that constant hikes in the price of fuel that the country has been experiencing have unleashed a chain reaction in terms of hikes in the price of basics, making them spiral beyond the means of the ordinary person. As a result households, especially those of people of meagre means, are finding living a tough act.
During a recent trip to the Omaheke region, I was not just confronted with the stark reality of the hikes in the price of basic commodities, but also with naked poverty, especially among the San community in Otjinene. One such stark reality is that a senior citizen had had nothing to eat for days.
In fact, it would be a miracle if by the time of writing this column he may not have succumbed to hunger, neglect and frailty. This is how serious the situation is.
For some of our citizens, the problem is not just hiking prices. Simply, some of them just do not have the means. Thus, for them the scrapping of VAT may be meaningless. Certainly, we also need to attend to them. I was made to understand that these people were registered last August for food rations but to date nothing has come their way.
The other stark reality that confronted me is a family cooking maize in a cup on the fire. This would be the first meal for this family for days, and the only one for this day for a family of five, not to speak of the last time they ever had anything to eat. Yes, what the Government has just done is commendable but it also pleasing to hear His Excellency admitting that this is not enough.
Certainly, it is not enough while we have some of our people literally rotting away from hunger and poverty in our backyard, as the situation I just alluded to regarding the San community in Otjinene testifies. For some reasons, some basic commodities like sugar and milk are not mentioned, not to mention the killing cost of transport. Perhaps, these may still be considered in view of the fact that the scrapping of VAT that has just been announced is only a measure to kick off a continuous campaign to counter the effect of hiking prices.
According to His Excellency, consultations are to continue between all the players in this regard. This is crucial, especially to ensure that the measures that the Government recommends are of practical meaning to the person in the street and businesspeople do not hijack them to their own benefit.
That is why it is imperative for the business community to embrace this national initiative if Government’s efforts to ensure that every one has at least a piece of bread on her/his table are to succeed in these difficult times.
Talking of food production, this is something that the San community that I alluded to earlier has been trying to do by cultivating a piece of land to grow vegetables.
However, their efforts have been run aground by lack of water. Water! Water! Water! Is the cry of many communities trying to eke out a living and reduce their dependency on the Government. In fact, many a times, such projects are aborted because of lack of water. This, obviously, is a matter that needs the serious attention of the Government, especially in view of the erratic rains in the country.
All in all, it is commendable that the Government has at last jumped into action. As His Excellency points out, this is only the beginning. It is a process that needs constant monitoring and review. Importantly, in this the Government needs the cooperation and help of each one of us.
One understands that many lag behind the inflation rate in terms of their wages and salaries. However, we must be cautious that our demands for higher salaries and wages do not exacerbate the run-away inflation.
Consumers, therefore, have a great role to play in helping to keep inflation in check by prudent spending.
Lastly, the Government’s push for widespread fish consumption is welcome but the question remains – to what extent is fish affordable to John Public?