Comments by Landless People’s Movement (LPM) leader Bernadus Swartbooi calling for monthly $750 income grants for two years are unnecessary. Such pronouncements offer no solution, they only increase the drama.
The new voices in the Parliament are the will of the Namibian people as democratically expressed at the ballot box last November. That vote was for increased debate and new ideas. The voters wanted competent challenges to the status quo of Swapo dominance in law-making that was not working. In light of the Finance Minister’s recent budget speech and statistics, anyone seriously demanding two years of N$750 per month payments to possibly 1 million Namibians is unreasonable.
Tax revenues are down by 20 percent. The national debt is over 68 percent of GDP. The known deficit (it could end up being worse) is 21 percent. Let us not forget that there was a N$9 billion Eurobond maturation in 18 months. With these ugly realities, how can anyone throw kerosene on the smoldering embers of people’s worries and demand monthly payments that are financially impossible? Swartbooi knows his demand is unaffordable, or should know it. That dramatic statement during a state of emergency where a nervous public is reaching for straws to find food for their tables is not helpful.
Making flamboyant, generalized demands is a great campaign tactic. It grabs headlines and attracts attention. But, those days are over. As an elected law-maker Swartbooi, a distinguished and honourable member of parliament, and a highly intelligent and passionate leader, must accept that the bar is raised. There is a need to consider the country, its needs; its possibilities and develop policies from an LPM perspective that can help the Land of the Brave.
People are uncertain about rising unemployment and COVID-19 (ask those in Walvis Bay). They are unsure because entire industries are closing down, salaries are cut or they (or their loved ones) might be retrenched. They cannot buy the food they used to and they may not make their bond payments next month. This is the time for leaders to roll up their sleeves, read the documents, analyse the figures, and present viable options.
We need the brightest minds among us, like Swartbooi, to hold the government accountable. We need to see the alternative budget for all suggestions they propose.
Has the LPM costed the demand Swartbooi made? We used simple math to take the 1 million applicants for the EIG x 750 x 24. Honourable Swartbooi – where will the N$18 billion for your program come from?
The LPM leader speaks about ‘sending soldiers home’ as a way of paying for his idea. Did he compare the two budgets? If there were no military allocation, the amount ‘saved’ (if using the current budget) is still below what is needed for his proposal.
Did he analyse the impact of Namibia having no army at all as we struggle to protect our borders from those who would enter with COVID-19? Did he then analyse the sociological and security impact of thousands of former soldiers, sailors and pilots trained to fight, kill, and blow things up angrily sitting at home?
To finance his plan, what about cutting his own salary as an MP? What about cutting the number of seats in that bloated parliament? What about cutting the civil service jobs including those held by LPM members? What about another tax on an overburdened rate-paying public? How about begging more money from the Chinese? We await Swartbooi’s plan to find N$18 billion for his two-year EIG.
We are certain that the fiery, well-meaning MP knows that some who applied for the current once-off N$750 have not received it yet. Some of them may not ever receive it for various reasons. Why not work on fulfilling that which has been promised already before raising the ante?
The new normal is still unclear. This country is on its knees. Leaders must work for all the people and make sure the ‘solutions’ being offered make sense. People are scared, worried, and looking for help, not more pies in the sky.