When budgets are cut, services die …pay attention to what is happening in Zambia right now!

Jackie Wilson Asheeke

It seems obvious to say, but when the budget for an office is cut, there is no way to expect that the services previously on offer, will still exist. Let us stop the “tighten our belts” and “do more with less” euphemisms and face the truth. If you cut the budget for any office, then what was being done before is dead.

I like what NSFAF did. They have a lower number of loans available because they must match their cash with their expenditures. I believe building their ridiculous office space in the middle of an upper-class residential neighbourhood was an extremely poor decision. But, the fact is that less young Namibians who qualify for tertiary studies are able to get NSFAF funding. It is painful. But, when you are broke, you’re broke.

The financial crisis in Namibia has been raging for years. I beg our party candidates to never tell the lie that COVID is the reason Namibia is in financial trouble. COVID is not the deficit bogey-man. There is no doubt that while we were sinking economically BEFORE the pandemic, the measures taken to battle the disease made us sink even faster. But, Namibia has been in financial trouble for years.

When you cut a budget for a clinic that serves, let’s say 1,000 people. You now can serve only 500. The clinics trying to manage the problem, cut the available medicines, staff and resources to still serve 1,000 but the patients only receive half of what they need. In medicine, receiving half a prescription or half of the bandaging needed for a wound means pain, further illness, or even death. These are the real stories about budget cut impacts on service delivery that are not being told.

If you cut a budget, then face the music. There is something substantial, tangible and REAL that will no longer be available. Tell the people the truth behind budget cuts.

People scream about corruption in government as the reason the country is broke and budgets have to be cut. There is some truth there. But, I am not convinced that is the main problem.

There are outside problems with falling global markets for products we export. There are difficulties in South Africa that negatively affect the Rand. But, these aren’t the culprit either.

I see the little corruptions amongst everyday ordinary people as the reason the country is broke.

One scam like Fishrot that lined the pockets of a cabal of thieves and the dozens of unindicted co-conspirators, leaked hundreds of millions out of Namibia.

But, I submit that the little corruptions are the main holes in the country’s financial water bucket. Nameless, grasping officials by the thousands on a local level demand money from the public to do their regular jobs.

Police accept a few hundred dollars to not write a speeding ticket. People’s municipal documents get ‘lost’ until a fee is paid and suddenly, they are found. Allegedly, Nampower officials use their access to people’s land to poach animals and sell the meat for profit.

There are people who ‘know someone’ to get things at NATIS, Building Compliance Certificates, or Certificates of Fitness. People don’t talk of these daily ‘gratuities’ that are demanded very quietly.

Ask around – every single one of us has had to submit to it at one time or another (unless you are ‘connected’).

Another major corruption is that most people are not reporting all of their income to the tax hunters. They do second jobs in the informal market and take the cash. There is significant money changing hands for which no taxes are paid. This is an unrecorded leakage and there is nothing to be done about it.

I submit that the big corruption losses, ala Fish Rot or KORA or SME Bank work together with the little corruption losses done by the majority of Namibians to destroy the economy. That is why there are such drastic budget cuts.

I find it amazing that the same people who are doing their little ‘stuff’ under the table and not paying taxes are the first people to scream when the budget cuts mean some service they want is no longer available. Hypocrisy stinks.

Everyone needs to man-up to the serious financial situation Namibia faces. Look over at ZAMBIA and see their current default crisis. That can be Namibia very soon if we continue not deeply cutting sacred cows like the civil service wage bill.

When I read about flood warnings for certain parts of the country, I shudder. How will this country that is living on deficit spending and loans, help the thousands who will lose everything if it floods as predicted?

Something MAJOR has to give before it’s too late.

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