Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) Member of Parliament Mike Kavekotora says the government must privatise Air Namibia to lessen the burden of its continued dependence on State funding for survival, which has been the case for more than a decade.
Kavekotora, in his contribution to the 2016/17 national budget debate in the National Assembly on Tuesday last week, said the national airline is a non-essential commercial State-owned enterprise (SOE) that is milking government to the bone.
The national airline is set to receive N$695 million in State funding for this financial year, compared to the N$579.8 million it received in the last financial year.
“With regard to Air Namibia, although its subsidies have not been reflected in the national budgets before 2007, the cumulative bailouts since Independence up to the projected funding in the 2018/19 financial year exceed N$10 billion,” he noted.
Kavekotora added that Namibians should ask themselves how to privatise Air Namibia successfully, instead of whether or not to privatise the airline.
He noted that many oppose the privatisation of Air Namibia, with some citing political justification, as opposed to economic and financial considerations. He advised that government could retain Air Namibia in a cost-effective way by having a minority shareholding in the airline.
“It simply does not make economic sense to continue allocating more government resources to Air Namibia in comparison to other SOE’s like TransNamib,” he said.
Further, he said the argument of retaining the airline to bring tourists does not in itself hold water, saying many developing nations’ with renowned tourist destinations, such as Costa Rica, Peru and the Dominican Republic, do not have national airlines.
Getting out of the airline business, he said, would free up limited government resources to focus on social needs and developing local products and services for the tourist market.
However, Minister of Land Reform Utoni Nujoma accused Kavekotora of being politically motivated in his proposal.
“Your speech is politically motivated. Your speech is hollow. What government is doing is to try to address challenges inherited from apartheid,” he reacted.
Kavekotora also took issue with the state of Namibia’s railway network, saying it faces avoidable problems, notably the maintenance backlog and lack of investment in rail system since Independence. According to him, the little investment in rolling stock did not make any significant impact on Namibia’s capacity to move freight by rail, resulting in the burgeoning of trucks on national roads. This, he says, led to a rapid decline in the life cycle of the national road network.
“It is against this [background] that a higher allocation to Air Namibia compared to TransNamib is highly questionable,” Kavekotora said.
Meanwhile, United People’s Movement (UPM) leader Jan van Wyk took issue with the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), saying corruption is high and widespread. He said the allocation of funds to the ACC is a complete waste of public resources, as the body only concentrates on low profile cases, while cases involving the misuse of State funds are only made known when newspapers report on it.
An amount of N$49.9 million has been allocated to the ACC for the 2016/17 financial year, compared to N$39.8 million last year.