Windhoek-Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein has refuted claims made by DTA president McHenry Venaani that the government is “hiding the truth” and remaining silent on the current state of the Namibian economy.
Responding to statements Venaani made in the weekly Windhoek Observer newspaper on Friday, Schlettwein said government has been consistent in its commitment to openness and transparency and is continually improving in this regard.
He noted that the introduction of an annual Mid-Year Budget Review in 2015, for example, has been a major step in improving transparency and accountability in public expenditure and pointed out that Namibia ranks third in Africa for accountability of public officials, according to the Ibrahim Index of African Governance.
“While I have endeavoured to keep the public informed on economic developments, it is beyond my control if Honourable Venaani closes his ears and remains unwilling to make use of this information. Fiscal transparency requires active participation from all stakeholders, and cannot be accomplished when budgets are announced to empty seats,” said Schlettwein.
The finance minister noted that President Hage Geingob has held regular press conferences and has frequently engaged with the public via social media. He recalled that just one month ago, President Geingob’s New Year’s message acknowledged the “unprecedented headwinds” encountered during 2016, while reaffirming the government’s commitment to achieving its goals of poverty eradication and development.
“President Geingob’s administration, through the Ministry of Finance, has consistently and frequently informed the public on the issues affecting the Namibian economy. As minister of finance, I have continually engaged with the media, the public, the business community and members of parliament on economic and fiscal affairs in Namibia.
“I have taken seriously my responsibility to update the public on important developments for the economy, by addressing various fora. In total, I have spoken publicly on economic issues over 20 times since the tabling of the 2016/17 Budget, when the process of fiscal consolidation was begun in earnest,” said Schlettwein.
Among Schlettwein’s public engagements on the economy this financial year were the Budget and Mid-Year Budget speeches, post-budget events in Windhoek, at the coast and in the north, three ministerial statements in Parliament and press conferences following the visits of representatives of Fitch, Moody’s and the IMF Article IV mission.
Most recently, this included press conferences in December and January, as well as a public address to staff of the Ministry of Finance on January 31.
“This government has been frank in saying, at the tabling of the Mid-Year Review of the Budget in October 2016, that the Namibian economy has never before been in such a precarious situation, and that this calls for a well-conceived, timely and resolute response.
“This response has been laid out in the Mid-Year Review and the budget outlined therein is fully funded to the end of the financial year, as I have recently stated.
“Honourable Venaani may not be aware of the contents of the Mid-Year Review, however, as he and several of his colleagues walked out of Parliament before it was presented,” Schlettwein noted.
“The Mid-Year Review aligned the 2016/17 budget to the current economic climate and we are confident of reaching the targets set out in that document. Moody’s, in its recent report on Sub-Saharan Africa, commended the introduction of fiscal consolidation measures by the government of Namibia.
“The government has reaffirmed its commitment to honouring its contractual obligations and steps have been taken in recent months to accelerate payments. It is irresponsible to claim, as Honourable Venaani does, that government is not paying, when obligations continue to be honoured.
“All this information has been available, indicating that the government is managing in the face of the current economic headwinds, and is implementing appropriate measures in response,” he said.