Hopes high for BIG with new ministry

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WINDHOEK – With the creation of the new Ministry of Poverty Eradication, hopes have been revived that with vigorous debate the Basic Income Grant (BIG) would be implemented as a means of fighting poverty.

Uhuru Dempers, a development activist who campaigns for BIG, told New Era yesterday that a ministry for poverty eradication is a positive development.

The fact that Bishop Zephania Kameeta, one of the pioneers of the BIG initiative, was appointed as minister of poverty eradication fosters hope that BIG might be a step closer to becoming a reality.

President Hage Geingob, during his inaugural speech on Saturday, vowed to fight poverty head-on as a matter of urgency.
Civil society believes Geingob, who previously spoke in favour of BIG, might be the right man to implement the much-debated and controversial measure.

“We hope that with the coming on board of Kameeta, there will be a debate on BIG as one of the models of addressing poverty,” said Dempers.

He said debating BIG as a model that would contribute towards fighting poverty will be good as BIG has the potential to sustain people who live in abject deprivation – the poorest of the poor .

Dempers noted that the experience from a pilot study done in Omitara showed that BIG can help people who are suffering severe impoverishment to survive daily as opposed to swimming in a pool of destitution or dying as a result of hunger.

“BIG gives an opportunity as one of the models to be used for poverty alleviation,” said Dempers. He added that President Geingob was known to be pro-BIG but one of his concerns was that BIG should not be given to all members of society but rather the poor.

Dempers however noted that BIG will not solve poverty. Rather, it is a strategy to “make sure that people survive and don’t die of hunger. There are Namibians dying of hunger.”

“The Ministry of Poverty Eradication should not just initiate programmes aimed at alleviating poverty,” Dempers added. “Instead, it should also monitor government programmes in the various ministries to ascertain that they are pro-poor.”

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