Staff Writer

The Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) says government’s N$8.1 billion stimulus package will provide vital support to keep businesses afloat in the wake of the damaging effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which follows four consecutive years of an economic slowdown.

The package according to NCCI Chief Executive Officer, Charity Mwiya, will help ease the cashflow hardships many businesses are experiencing in order to pay bills and to pay staff.

“As the minister of finance Ipumbu Shiimi recognised in his announcement yesterday, businesses keep people in jobs and during these tough times it is vital that businesses are given the help they need to keep their employees and survive until the coronavirus is contained and our economy can rebound,” Mwiya to the Windhoek Observer.

She said although the amounts allocated for various intervention measures fall short of expectations, the funds will go a long way in aiding a struggling economy and businesses.

“We await details on application processes so that those who wish to apply understand how to go about it. The NCCI expects processing to be swift and fund disbursement to be dealt with in a manner that eliminates bureaucracy,” she said.

On VAT refunds valued at N$3 billion, she said the NCCI is very pleased to hear that the processing will be done speedily thereby injecting funds and liquidity back into the economy.

“We trust this will be the norm going forward as NCCI has for many years called for this to be done. The same applies to payment by the public sector for goods and services.

“The NCCI has highlighted this problem ad nauseum. It always fell on deaf ears. Therefore, we fervently hope that delays in the processing of payments will now be a thing of the past,” Mwiya said.

According to her, the package was also silent on steps being put in place to assist the informal sector, which has also been negatively affected by the slow-down in the economy and the coronavirus outbreak.

This comes after finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi announced that government will facilitate a N$500 million loan-scheme for non-agricultural small businesses to be guaranteed by the Development Bank of Namibia (DBN).

“Although the minister’s statement makes mention that the measures offer relief to the formal and the informal sectors, details on how the informal sector will benefit or will be assisted are not included.

“Over the past years as the country’s economy slipped, the informal sector has grown, especially in smaller towns and villages across the country. The informal sector is a significant contributor to GDP and the need for relief must be addressed urgently,” Mwiya said.

“The NCCI has in the past called for these and other measures to be taken to support and save our local businesses and therefore commends government for listening to the private sector.

“In summary, we are pleased that a package has been put in place to serve as a stimulus for the enterprise sector and ushering in relief for households distressed by the fallout from Covid-19.”

Mwiya said she was hopeful that government would also take into consideration some recommendation made through the Private Sector COVID-19 Task. Among those recommendations, is the reduction of the corporate tax rate, from the current 32 percent to at least 22 percent.

“We further look forward to a speedy consideration, hopefully in the next phase, of other proposals we have submitted to government through the Private Sector COVID-19 Task Team. The NCCI is rising to the challenge in its quest to save enterprises across the country and applauds the new minister of finance for his support and swift action in this regard,” she said.