Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not a policy; it is confusion

In May, fisheries minister Albert Kawana announced that the government will allocate certain horse mackerel and hake quotas to six companies. To get these quotas, companies were supposed to hire about 1,300 fishermen who lost their jobs due to the Fishrot scandal. In addition, the government has buckled to pressure and awarded quotas to new rights holders from the over 5,000 submissions that were received during the national casting call for applications for fishing quotas two years ago. To satisfy these situations, the government has decided to rob Peter to pay Paul. This has made matters worse.

To spread the available quotas further, the government has taken quotas from some companies to give quotas to others. As a result, companies that banked on a particular level of quotas, are caught short without warning.

In addition to business turmoil due to the pandemic, companies with newly reduced quota levels have business models which have been rendered irrelevant. Loans taken on the basis of the promised quotas remain payable, but the income expected has vanished.

Those companies with quota grant letters who are now unilaterally cut short will probably sue. And, most likely, they will win. You cannot make a contract with someone (written or verbal) and abrogate it for your own reasons. When will cabinet learn this?

Seaflower Pelagic Processing at Walvis Bay just fired 600 workers. They join other fishing companies that are retrenching workers or cutting salaries for a variety of reasons.

Once again, workers lose out. Where is the labour ministry in this situation that is besieging workers at the coast? Instead of making unconstitutional regulations, they should be in Walvis Bay managing the labour fallout from haphazard government actions on fishing workers.

The labour minister, instead of being worried about Facebook reports on his public asset disclosure forms, should be in cabinet hounding the fisheries minister about the poor solution of shifting jobs from one company to another.

Minister Kawana is running around applying band-aids to an amputee patient. Fishrot and the pandemic have wounded the sector. One minute he talks about auctions of fishing quotas. Then there are calls to shift quotas to regions. He has cut quotas for Seaflower Pelagic amidst accusations that he is confusing it with Seaflower whitefish processing.

Companies with contracts for 10 years of 50,000 tones are cut to less than half with no warning and no contract negotiations. The list of confusion in the sector is long.

All of this is occurring against the backdrop of a global pandemic and economic depression in Namibia. An entire industry rethink is needed.

Use the courts to slam every single person who benefited from fishrot in any way. The rule of law must be coldly applied without fear or favour. The lesson must be learned from severe oversight failures. There must be a governmental commitment to fix them.

There should be a ban on anyone in public or civil service being a part of a company or entity holding a fishing quota. It is a blatant conflict of interest. Members of Parliament including the Speaker, have personal interests in fishing companies as fishing industry-related legislation is before the house for a vote. This must not continue.

The government must open the debate on returning a percentage of the fishing quotas to the ministry. These funds can go into a trust that will benefit fishing industry workers. When economic disasters hit, this independently managed trust fund could assist.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not a sustainable government policy. It is a signal that there are no new ideas. The government seems to have to end-goals, but no viable, well-researched plan on how to get there. What is going on in the fishing sector is not working; find another formula.

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