Social sector the sacrificial lamb… as it loses out on N$357 million

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Windhoek

Initially analysts predicted that the social sector would be the biggest winner in the budget reallocation, seeing that government’s focal point is poverty eradication, but it came as a surprise to many when N$357 million was withdrawn from the sector.

Finance minister Calle Schlettwein announced in the National Assembly on Tuesday that funds were reallocated to other sectors that “need it more”.

The original budget allocation for the social sector was N$26.719 679 billion but it has since been slashed to N$26.363 387 billion, according to the revised budget.

The social sector was the hardest hit followed by the public safety sector, which saw N$152 million withdrawn and reallocated to other areas.

The administration sector got a further cash injection of N$290 million, the economic sector N$183 million and the infrastructure sector was further capacitated with N$33 million.

There are numerous items in Schlettwein’s budget review that impact on social aspects. These include the decision to increase the old-age pension to N$1 100 next year; plans to assess modalities for transforming the student financial assistance fund from a loan-based to scholarship grant fund; and perhaps biggest of all, the move to allocate N$121 million for the land servicing programme in the three pilot project towns of Windhoek, Oshakati and Walvis Bay.

The government however said it would continue according the highest budgetary priority to education, health and other social sectors to plug social deficits and address challenges.

There are also plans to “further increase the OVC grants with the objective of lifting the beneficiaries above the national poverty line, and maintain other social safety nets and commitments to increase old age pension grants to N$1 200 over the next two years”, said Schlettwein.

According to government, strengthening the quality and coverage of the old age pension, and OVC and disability grants is the first line of defence against poverty for the vulnerable members of society.

Neckartal Dam
As expected, a huge amount was allocated to the agriculture, water and forestry ministry to avert a looming water crisis.

The finance minister announced that N$458 million would be allocated to fast track the completion of the Neckartal Dam.
Rain prospects have been terrible over the past few months, and towns have already embarked on mass campaigns urging consumers to use water sparingly.

Mass housing
Government has been taken to court by some contractors contracted to build houses under the mass housing development programme. Schlettwein announced that N$166 million was allocated to settle the contracts.

The programme has been a mess since it started in 2013, with aspects such as pricing and basic specifications relating to the sizes of houses, unit costs and target markets not clearly defined from the start.

The programme was suspended earlier this year, but it is expected to return soon after the finalization of some contractual agreements.

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