The DTA’s deputy chief whip in parliament, Vipuakuje Muharukua, says the once-ambitious N$14.5 billion Targeted Intervention Programme for Employment and Economic Growth (Tipeeg), launched during the 2011/12 financial year, only succeeded in creating overnight a few millionaires, rather than reducing unemployment and poverty.
Muhharukua, who made the remarks in parliament last week, said Tipeeg and other policies and projects, such as the mass housing project, failed to provide the much-needed boost to the economy.
“Tipeeg only succeeded in creating overnight millionaires and tenderpreneurs. Nepotism, corruption and the self-enrichment of the well-connected elite denied Namibia an opportunity to create a self-sustaining permanent industry that would continue to create job opportunities after the initial capital injection from government,” he charged.
Tipeeg has been criticised by many for failing to reach its blueprint aim of creating 104 000 jobs, and for poor execution of the programme budget.
In 2011 government promised to create 104 000 jobs over three years with a budget provision of N$14.5 billion. However, only N$11 billion of Tipeeg funds were spent during the duration of the programme, which ended in March 2014.
Tipeeg was also widely criticised for creating mainly short-term jobs, despite the huge budget. The programme created only 83 000 jobs, which included a meagre 15 829 permanent jobs, over the last three years. This is 20 percent below the target of 104 000 jobs initially announced in 2011.
Former finance minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila at the time said an estimated 83 315 jobs were created under the programme, which was primarily initiated to address the country’s growing unemployment problem. These included 15 829 permanent jobs, while 67 485 jobs were temporary.
Members of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) have in the past also alleged favouritism and nepotism in the awarding of tenders under Tipeeg. Recently, NCCI’s northern branch chairperson Thomas Koneka Iindji said Tipeeg should not be used to benefit only a select few individuals. He said Tipeeg was created to reduce unemployment and to fight poverty, but certain individuals are using it selfishly to increase their wealth by misappropriating resources meant to benefit the poor.
Muharukua said whilst its expansionary economic policy shielded Namibia from the worst blows of the global financial crisis, poverty, economic inequality and unemployment still remain the order of the day.
Muharukua, who was responding to the N$66 billion State budget for 2016/17, noted that government did not take certain decisions required, nor did it prioritise investment in key sectors and industries that today would have enabled Namibia to mitigate the economic slowdown and thereby reduce the effects on the ordinary Namibian of budgetary cuts under the new consolidatory fiscal policy.
He noted that over the years government continued to spend on non-productive items, adding that Minister of Finance Calle Schlettwein “appears to have admitted that continuing to waste public resources on non-productive and unnecessary consumptive expenses is no longer sustainable.”
Muharukua said, as a result, one would expect further cuts to all low-impact expenditure that would have minimal positive effect on economic growth. Highly consumptive – but non-productive – expenditure should have received more attention, he said.
“More remains to be done to alleviate the pressure exerted on government coffers by the bloated public service. This will go a distance in reducing the government’s operational budget from its current level of 86.2 percent of the total budget,” he maintained.
Rapid expansion of employment opportunities requires a fast-growing economy, capable of absorbing more labour, he said. According to him, the answer lies in strengthening small and medium enterprises and the private sector.
He also took issue with the proposed funding allocation for the ministry of defence. Defence received N$6.6 billion for the 2016/17 financial year.
Muharukua said government should have paid more attention to agriculture and the energy sector, as the country faces looming food insecurity and energy crises.