Kuzeeko Tjitemisa &
President Hage Geingob yesterday confirmed that his state visit to China is, amongst others, to look at some ‘financial arrangements’, which he said government would consider if they come at good terms.
There have been talks that Namibia was planning to borrow money from China, with fears that this could plunge the country into further debt.
Currently, Namibia’s total debt stock for the 2017/18 financial year is estimated at N$74.5 billion, equivalent to 43.3 percent of GDP and an increase from 42.6 percent in the 2016/17 financial year.
Namibia’s national debt threshold is 35 percent of GDP, although the general threshold for middle income countries, of which Namibia is one, is 42 percent of GDP.
Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein, in his recent budget speech, announced some projects that need off-budget financing, including industrial and logistics hub infrastructure growth stimulus amounting to between N$10 billion and N$15 billion over the next five years. This is to be funded through bilateral concessional loan arrangements, the minister said.
It is not clear if any loan from China would be channeled towards such plans.
Schlettwein also said that N$13 billion would be needed for road infrastructure maintenance and rehabilitation, to be funded through the Road Fund Administration, and project financing in the power and water sectors by Nampower and Namwater as well as PPP investments in public infrastructure.
Geingob yesterday left for China, accompanied by a powerful delegation of government officials, business personalities and executives of various institutions.
“China is a superpower – there are a lot that we are going to discuss that include cooperation in agriculture, industrial parts and many other things and therefore we are going to look also for financial arrangements and if we see the good terms will take it,” he told New Era yesterday before he jetted off.
The president travelled on invitation of his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
“We always say Namibia is a credit worthy country and, as you know, we are going through cash flow problems and therefore to create jobs for the youth, to develop the economy, to ignite the economy we need to kick-start,” he said.
The President described his invitation to China as an honour to Namibia, which is by any measure a small country.
“State visits are the highest orders of visits. You can have a working visit, official visit and then a State visit, [which is] at the highest level. It is normally rare that you can get a small country like Namibia invited by a giant like [China],” said Geingob, in contextualising his visit to one of the world’s most powerful nations.
Geingob said only two African countries get invited to China per year, and Namibia would look to optimise on its opportunity.
Meanwhile, President Geingob laughed off insinuations that his visit to China, which somewhat coincides with the visit to the same country by North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, meant the two leaders would meet.
Namibia has been rapped over the knuckles by some western countries, including the United Nations, over her business dealings with North Korea, which is under economic sanctions over nuclear activities.
“We are friends with North Korea,” Geingob enthusiastically roared yesterday.
“They have helped us but, as you know, we have to apply and implement the UN sanctions which affected us very badly it is a very complicated matter,” he said.
Geingob said he was happy that US President Donald Trump has agreed to meet Kim Jong Un in May, a move that could avert a potential nuclear war between the two countries.
“You don’t make friendship with your friends, and you don’t make peace with your friends. You make peace with you enemies, so if the superpowers have realised that, it’s a good sign,” he said.
Geingob would be accompanied on his seven-day State visit by a delegation of 81 people.