By Dr Ngarikutuke Tjiriange
I read with interest an article in one local newspaper regarding land tax. Although the article to which I am referring is dealing with the issue from a different perspective, I was always convinced that the imposition of a land tax on all and sundry was a shortsighted and counterproductive measure. We are sometimes our own enemies. I am saying this on the basis of the following:
(a) Agriculture is one of the backbones of our economy. A country that does not feed itself is likely to be dictated to by those who are feeding it. Agricultural development must be one of the priorities among the priorities of our country. There is no one in the country that does not benefit from agriculture in one way or the other.
(b) Having the above in mind the developed countries in Europe and elsewhere are subsidizing their agriculture. The idea and efforts of subsidizing their agriculture is to help and enable farmers to produce enough food for other citizens and surplus produce for export, as well as storing such surplus produce for unforeseeable eventualities. Our government must seriously consider programmes for subsidizing agriculture to enable our farmers to produce more food.
(c) What is really worrisome is that instead of subsidizing agriculture our country has decided to impose and subject farm owners to a land tax. There is, indeed, nothing wrong to impose land tax on farm owners. But such land tax should only be applied to those who own either excessive land or multiple farms. Those who are owners of farms, which are of the size regarded as within the reasonable and economically viable carrying capacity in a given region must not and should not be subjected to land tax. On the contrary they should be helped to produce more food on such farms, as is the case in Europe and other developed countries.
(d) The situation whereby foreigners are allowed to buy land in Namibia must also be urgently revisited. This is, among other reasons, because foreigners are coming with foreign currency and when they convert such currencies into Namibian dollars the price of land becomes cheap and affordable to them, whereas Namibians are not able to compete with them. As a result the farm prices are continuously and artificially going up and Namibian citizens are increasingly and rapidly finding it difficult to compete with such foreigners and can no longer afford to buy farms in their country of birth. This situation is created by ourselves, who allow foreigners to come and buy land in our country. With the amount of money available to our citizens and our small population we are creating a situation whereby Namibians will be like foreigners in their country and the foreigners well off and rich at the expense of Namibians.
(e) Absentee landowners who own land must also be targeted for expropriation.
It is therefore a good and welcome move, which Hon. Alpheus !Naruseb, the Minister of Lands and Resettlement is intending to take as reported in the local press. The lick, medicines, vaccines, body building supplements, fencing wires, fencing poles, seeds, fertilizers, diesel and petrol, electricity etc. are not so cheap and are making farming a difficult undertaking for Namibians who are trying hard to make ends meet. Periodical droughts and scarcity of water are also other challenges that make farming difficult and these are catastrophes that are difficult to overcome. These issues are serious and need serious consideration and action.
Dr Ngarikutuke Tjiriange the former Swapo Party secretary general currently serves as the Special Advisor to the Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration.