Today New Era continues with our coverage of the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) with a closer look at Pillar 3: Social Progression. The focal point in this pillar is hunger and poverty.
The Social Progression pillar within the HPP states that development must be people-centred and outcome-oriented. Namibia has made good progress in reducing poverty since Independence, with official statistics showing the percentage of poor households classified as extremely poor declined to 10.3 percent in 2009/10 from 13.8 percent five years ago. The child poverty rate declined from 43.5 percent to 34.4 percent over the same period. When compared to 1990 when poverty statistics were first taken, the situation is even more encouraging. It is estimated that more than 600 000 Namibians have been lifted out of poverty since Independence.
However, government is aware that there are many dimensions to poverty and that the war on poverty must be multi-faceted. One of the most visible manifestations of poverty is in the form of hunger. While all dimensions of poverty will be addressed under long-term plans, the Harambee Plan prioritises three dimensions of poverty, namely hunger poverty, housing and sanitation. On hunger poverty, the message of government is that over the Harambee period and beyond there should be zero deaths in Namibia due to a lack of food.
Hunger poverty affects Namibians differently, depending on where they reside. Therefore, in addressing this important goal HPP differentiates between the rural and urban poor. Accordingly, the following strategies and actions will be deployed to ensure the prevalence of zero hunger:
Implementation of the Poverty Eradication Blue Print:
Following a successful national dialogue on poverty and wealth redistribution, government developed a robust blueprint to eradicate poverty in Namibia by 2025. This blueprint will form the basis for Harambee interventions with regard to poverty eradication in Namibia.
Many Namibians still derive their livelihood from agriculture, especially subsistence farming. We also know that climatic conditions in Namibia are quite volatile. During some periods, like 2015 and 2016, we experienced drought, while in other years we experienced floods. These natural disasters impact on agricultural output and food security at household level. Therefore, one of the ongoing activities will be to provide humanitarian assistance through ongoing food distribution to affected households. The Namibian government had been very effective in providing assistance to citizens in times of external shocks, such as floods and droughts, and this will continue.
Improved Agricultural Output:
Efforts at improving agricultural output in communal areas to support food security at household level will continue. These will include subsidisation to purchase farm implements and seeds and strengthening of agricultural extension services. The Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry will release the details of revised subsidies and enhanced extension services support during the next mid-term review of the budget, slated for October 2016.
In addition the expansion of the Green Scheme to improve food security at both household and national levels will continue to be supported. The white-maize triangle presents an enormous opportunity for crop production [maize production in particular] and will be incorporated into the national Green Scheme initiative through targeted incentives for eligible farmers. Proposals in this regard will be released during the mid-term review of the budget for implementation in Year Two of the HPP.
Debushing, as a strategy for increasing grazing land in order to improve productivity and create employment will continue to be encouraged and supported. To support increased crop production, government will establish fertiliser/mixer plants in Namibia during Year Two of HPP to make fertilisers available to farmers at affordable prices.
Food Bank for Urban and Peri-Urban Hunger:
When it comes to urban and peri-urban poverty one of the key strategies will be the introduction of food banks that will to a large extent be run and managed by the unemployed youth in the form of street committees, thereby also contributing towards youth employment. The unemployed youth will receive nominal monetary and in-kind remuneration for work rendered. In this sense this particular activity will constitute a conditional income grant and not a free grant, as contemplated under the Basic Income Grant.
Private sector retail outlets and producers of food will be actively encouraged to participate through voluntary donations. The first food bank will be commissioned in Windhoek in the second half of 2016, while six more branches – two each during the remainder of the Harambee period – will be rolled out countrywide. The community involvement in the form of street committees should also address security.
Administration of Targeted Social Safety Nets:
The administration of social nets, including improved coverage will continue. For example, in the next fiscal year the old age grant will be increased by an additional N$100 per month. This will represent an increase of 100 percent in old age grant, compared to the initial figure of N$600. Empirical evidence shows that the old age grant has a huge and positive effect on poverty reduction, especially on childhood poverty. During the town hall meetings of President Geingob in 2015, senior citizens in all regions attested to the positive impact of the increased old age grant on household income.
Namibia has a number of social safety nets. These include grants for orphans and vulnerable children, grants for people with disabilities and grants for war veterans. This fragmented approach to social safety nets are not effective. The Ministry of Poverty Eradication will, therefore, investigate the feasibility of consolidating these grants into a more effective, coordinated safety net during Year One of HPP.
Establishment of a National Pension Fund:
Many employed Namibians are currently excluded from pension/retirement fund arrangements. We will, therefore, operationalise the National Pension Fund during the HPP period. In this regard, regulatory amendments will be taken through relevant governance structure in Year One of the Harambee Plan.
Government will investigate the feasibility of establishing a State lottery during the Harambee period. Revenue collected through the State lottery will, like the Solidarity Wealth Tax, be directed to poverty eradication activities under the supervision of the Special Tax Committee. Winning proceeds will be paid partly in cash, as a compulsory investment in housing and pension, and a cash payment. Government has the dual responsibility to take care of those most needy and to create an environment where those with ability can prosper, each according to their needs and abilities. This is the Harambee way.
Other measures under consideration include the re-introduction of the food-for-work programme, improved coverage of the foster care grant, improved coverage and reach of the school feeding programme and to investigate the feasibility of a national minimum wage. It is important to note that the above strategies are aimed at preventing Namibians from dying due to of lack of food. There are also other longer-term measures aimed at addressing broader poverty.
For example, one element of poverty is the lack of decent shelter and the Harambee Plan will present strategies and plans on how to improve access to affordable housing and how to improve sanitary conditions in the country. Over and above, HPP recognises that more must be done to grow the economy and create decent job opportunities for all. The latter also enjoys attention in the Harambee Plan’s Pillar 2 on Economic Advancement.