No sympathy with govt over tight finances …solidarity with civil servants

Tujoromajo Kasuto

Analysts have recommended that the government restructure their expenditure budget, pointing to a lack of efficient planning and execution in central government as the root cause of civil servants feeling the pinch of rising living costs.

According to Herbert Jauch, a labour expert, for the last five years since the last raise, civil servants’ wages and benefits have remained the same despite inflation eroding their purchasing power by nearly 30%.

‘’When you consider that their wages have lost nearly 30% of their purchasing power, what they pay for with their wages is far less than what they could have paid for five years ago.

Given the country’s high employment rate, we must remember that each civil servant has an extended family to care for, which puts them in a difficult situation,’’ he said.

He opined that, despite claiming that there is no money, the government has been ‘’spending on unnecessary expenditure such as new ministries that are then closed down, unnecessary positions such as some of the deputy ministers.’’

As a result, he asserts that civil servants have been very patient and that he expects them to vote for a strike.

Meanwhile, in in terms of government’s response to the matter, it’s a situation of weighing up what would be the damage of such a situation where the civil servants go on strike, and can they not at least accommodate to some extent as the union has been very modest and asking for a nine percent as the first increment after 5 years, he said.

‘’The increase is far less than what inflation has taken away in the last five years, so I believe that once the outcome of the voting is known, the government should quickly show leadership and accommodate some of the demands while keeping in mind the financial situation and also understanding that if the strike occurs, the damage to Namibia’s economy, labour relations, and the public sector could be enormous, and thus the government should then act to settle a portion of the conflict,’’ he said.

He underscores, however, that the government has proposed a few adjustments, such as housing and transportation, but that a general increase of 5 to 8% is possible, and that this is achievable as long as negotiations are conducted in good faith.

‘’You can’t tell the unions for the past five years that there is no money and that they should expect nothing. A drawn out strike would be disastrous, as we have seen at NBC and other places in the recent past, and how even after returning to work, there is so much tension at the workplace, which is counterproductive, and I hope the government is learning some lessons from that,’’ he emphasised.

Political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah expressed similar sentiments, stating that while he sympathises with civil servants, the strike will exacerbate further suffering, particularly among vulnerable groups and in education.

He goes on to say that it should teach the government and politicians that excessive spending without proper planning has disastrous consequences.

“Very bad news for a country that just emerged from a devastating Covid-19 and a country that is still battling with economic stagnation. The strike will push the country in further economic doldrums. The reason why civil servants haven’t seen an increase for such a long time is and can be linked to bloated government, duplicated ministries and ministers, and corruption,’’ he said.
The more than 150 polling stations across country in places such as local constituencies, hospitals, military bases, and 98 mobile teams have been swamped by civil servants eager to cast their votes.

However, from observations the majority of voter turnout happened to be teachers.

The transparent balloting process which commenced yesterday July 28th, ended today at 17h00 and the results are expected to be announced next week Tuesday or Monday.

According to Teachers Union of Namibia (TUN) secretary general Mahongora Kavihuha the overall turnout has been great despite a few hiccups along the way.

‘’The counting process of the votes will commence over the weekend and depending on how fast the team process, the results might be released either on Monday or Tuesday next week. In terms of the voter turnout it is looking very good, although we have had instances where people who went to other regions were not allowed to vote but this has been ratified,’’ said the SG.

This comes as the government, the two main trade unions representing employees, NAPWU and NANTU, have reached a deadlock over salaries, with the government claiming that it has no capacity to offer any increases, while the unions are demanding raises in line with rising cost of living.

Despite the government claiming a lack of funds, President Hage Geingob, appointed three new deputy ministers, increasing the size of his cabinet to 21 ministers and 20 deputy ministers, despite earlier vowing to work with a leaner cabinet in his second term.

The salaries for the three deputy ministers will cost taxpayers an additional N$2,3 million per annum, bringing the total costs of all deputy ministers to N$ 15.8 million per year.

Maureen Hinda-Mbuende was appointed Deputy Finance minister, Veno Kauaria Deputy

Higher Education minister and Heather Sibungo Deputy Environment, Forestry and Tourism minister.

These appointments and various other expenditures of government has received national castigation as citizens believe that some of these expenditure could have been utilised wisely.

By Observer