Poverty Eradication Minister Zephania Kameeta yesterday asked parliament to approve his ministry’s N$3.2 billion budget, 99 percent of which would go to social protection programmes administered by the ministry.
This is in sharp contrast to many other ministries, of whose budgets the largest chunk goes to salaries and staff remuneration packages.
With President Hage Geingob approving the N$1,200 monthly social grant for senior citizens – who now total 164,832 countrywide – it was almost inevitable that the Poverty Eradication Ministry would need billions of dollars to successfully fulfil its mandate.
Kameeta told parliament yesterday that 99.7 percent of eligible senior citizens are currently on the social grant scheme, while 71 percent of citizens with disabilities are receiving monthly grants.
There are slightly over 39,000 citizens living with disabilities, who benefit from government’s social grant scheme.
The ministry also takes care of nearly 80,000 residents in Khomas Region, who receive dry food items as part of the foodbank pilot project, which was initiated last year as part of Geingob’s declared war on poverty.
Food worth N$9.5 million has been donated towards the foodbank initiative, while N$2.1 million was donated in cash.
“I’m equally happy to inform this august house of a certain individual from the Kunene Region, who has been contributing N$500 monthly to this donation account through a stop-order,” the minister told fellow parliamentarians.
Last year, government allocated N$495 million towards drought and emergency relief, of which N$402 million was spent on food provision and N$93 million on water provision, as well as seed and livestock marketing incentives.
In total, 560,000 Namibians benefited from the drought relief assistance programme through the distribution of rice, mahangu and tinned fish.
Another strategy to arrest hunger poverty is the school-feeding programme, into which government channelled N$104 million last year, reaching 320,000 schoolgoing children.
The Poverty Eradication Ministry has also assisted the Oshikoto Regional Council by drilling two boreholes worth a combined N$364,000, sourced from the ministry’s donation account.
In total, the ministry received N$3,276,826,000, of which N$3,234,000,000 – or 98.7 percent – was allocated towards social assistance, food provision and special programmes implementation and coordination.
“It is evident from this budgetary allocation to social protection of the commitment of government to socio-economic development,” Kameeta said.
N$3.3 million has been allocated to the ministry’s strategy formulation and monitoring activities, while N$39 million is geared towards policy supervision and support services of the ministry.
Bridging the income gap remains a major challenge for government.
According to the Namibia Statistics Agency, the income of the top 1 percent of Namibians is equal to the combined income of the bottom 50 percentile of the population.
President Hage Geingob, during his State of the Nation Address last week, said the situation is not sustainable and underscores the need for the introduction of the mooted solidarity wealth tax.