No to BIG Brotha’ Jauch

Jackie Wilson Asheeke

Namibia is drowning economically. The IMF is on the way to strangle our fiscal free will. Many of our industries have suffered major collapses. People are on half salaries or furloughed with no salary. Now, here comes the demand for BIG yet again. This baffles me. I feel like the ship is sinking and someone in the boat is demanding that everyone must have free shoes.

Herbert Jauch, Chairperson of the Economic and Social Justice Trust has consistently supported BIG. Bravo for this principled position. But, on the issue of BIG, we part company. Handing out free money to the able-bodied is more negative than positive.

I have read an argument that VAT from the increased expenditures with BIG funds can off-set part of the hand out. Reality check: people in the ‘hood mostly buy fruits, veggies, meat, second-hand clothes and shoes largely from informal venders. Those living on the margins, buy from informal product providers who serve them. There is no VAT involved.

Financing BIG must never add a single cent to the already out of control income tax rates in Namibia. People earning a salary already have PAYE deductions. We are being killed by municipal fees and mandatory funds. We pay taxes and fees on fuel at the pump and of course, we pay VAT along with everyone else. Enough already!

Those who cna work, must get off their butts and get work, one way or another. Let that be the demand for state funds – employment programs not BIG.

The state must assist the infirm, vulnerable children, the unemployed (only temporarily) and the elderly. But, the able-bodied must earn their keep.

In the US (in my unscientific view), people on welfare in the 1970’s, raised kids who were welfare in the 1990’s. They had kids who are welfare in 2010. And that group has kids that will be on welfare in 2030. This is what will come of Namibia if there is a BIG.

Consider this reality: a young woman goes work at a take away place flipping burgers for low wages. Her childcare costs and taxi fare each day (minus PAYE and Social Security deductions) nets her less than N$500 per month. From that stingy amount she has to give money to relatives, pay housing expenses, buy pre-pay electricity or water, and maybe pays rent. She then has to cover medical needs; clothing costs, and buy food. Half way through the month, she is broke.

BIG offers N$500 per month for doing nothing. And, she gets money for each of her kids. That means she doesn’t have to withstand gruelling nine hour shifts over a hot stove dealing with rude customers. She has no taxi fees. She has more money NOT working, than working.

Human nature is what it is. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

Of course, there will be those that continue their gruelling domestic cleaning jobs and use their BIG (and that of other adults in their home and their kids) to do the right thing. But, I suggest that this will not be the norm. People will quit their low-income jobs, take that money and sit down. Within a year of receiving N$500 per month, recipients will scream that the money “is too little.”

I believe the BIG will increase social tensions. Men will punch their wives in the face and take her N$500 to go drink at the Shebeen or use the funds according to HIS goals. Kids receiving the child-grant will have greedy care givers getting Brazilians or paying for a family wedding while the kids are left with no benefits from their own money.

Social selfishness is a REALITY. Do BIG’s projections factor that into effectiveness calculations?

Read the children’s book, The Little Red Hen by Mary Mapes Dodge (1874).

Namibia is bordering on becoming an economic failed state if we cannot tackle our growth problems fast enough. We must recover from the recession, drought and pandemic impacts. Government is swimming upstream to manage this disaster. Is this really the time for another financial burden? I think not.

BIG is unaffordable. Instead, we should be agitating for job creation and living wages.

No Brotha’ Jauch, we need to get to shore in this sinking ship as fast as possible, shoes or not.

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