Independent trade unions affiliated to the Trade Union Congress of Namibia (TUCNA) have accused government of short sightedness in light of a recent directive by the Bank of Namibia urging government to freeze all wages and new appointments in the public sector.
The central bank, last week, called on government to address the causes of the increase in the colossal public wage bill through structural reforms.
Yesterday, during at an emotive press briefing, Secretary General of the Teacher’s Union of Namibia (TUN), Mahongora Kavihuha, maintained the idea of halting all the new appointments in the public sector was depressing and deprived of any shred of logic in the prevailing economic realities in Namibia.
He thus called on Namibians to denounce the idea.
Speaking on behalf of both TUN and the Namibia Nurses Union (NANU), and accompanied by Public Service Union of Namibia (PSUN) Secretary General, Victor Kazonyati, the firebrand trade unionist denounced the perception that everything that is wrong within the Namibian economy starts and ends with the bloated staff complement of the public sector – more so its huge wage bill.
“The paramount solution, according to the proponents of this philosophy, is contained on a two-fold strategy: stagnate and suffocate GRN employment figures and stifle salaries and benefit adjustment to the said GRN employees and bliss will be the ultimate result,” Kavihuha said. He added that, in this regard, Namibia is being compared to countries whose economies ended up in the doldrums because of huge staff complement in their public sectors.
“It is ironic that we depend so much on socialist countries such as Cuba and China and a host of other countries that have followed the same trend of huge public sector employment to the extent that their success not only supports their people but us as well,” Kavihuha stressed.
Citing the Ministry of Finance and that of basic education, as well as the Office of the Prime Minister as examples, Kavihuha hinted that the freezing of vacancies would further worsen the current state of disrepair that many a government infrastructure is found to be in.
“If we (now) resolve not to employ personnel to take care of this once massive and impressive infrastructure, does it mean we have resolved to let it all rot and decay? Is that what the economists, among them the BoN, are advising government to do?” he queried.
He questioned whether the central bank is staying true to its mandate, which is, among others, to exercise control over the supply of money as per Article 128 of the Namibian Constitution.
“One of the modes in terms of which money is supplied is the pay as you earn (PAYE) and value added tax (VAT). If you advocate for a reduction in the employment figure, are you not advocating for a reduction in both the PAYE and VAT sources of your revenue?”
The trade unions collectively called on the powers that be to make Namibia a working nation, adding that if the approximately 700,000 able-bodied Namibians are employed within the country, the estimated N$26 billion that government forks out as its wage bill will be a negligible fee.
He maintained that Namibia is now evolving into a state of brutal capitalist imperial exploitation and poverty, which advocates for the very downsizing of the public sector – sugar-coated as structural adjustment.
“That structural adjustment policy brought us the RCCs, Air Namibias, TransNamibs and basically all the dysfunctional parastatals that depend so heavily on government subsidies,” said.
Meanwhile, Namibia’s current public sector wage bill amounts to 50 percent of revenue and is one of the highest in the world. Budget allocation for this financial year indicated that government would spend N$28, 9 billion on personnel expenditure.
The bulk of the government’s money is allocated to personnel expenditures with a reported N$28 billion spent last year – out of the N$62,5 billion national budget – on approximately 119 000 civil servants’ salaries and benefits. Personnel expenditure showed a 15 percent increase over the N$24. 4 billion of the 2016 financial year.