14 November 2012

Namibia: NBC Begs for More

THE Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) has requested a bailout of between N$40 and N$50 million from the government to survive until the end of the current financial year ending March 31, 2013.

The NBC has no money and will not be able to survive beyond December 1, its director general, Albertus Aochamub, told The Namibian yesterday. Aochamub said the matter was discussed by Cabinet yesterday, but this could not be independently confirmed. “Government has undertaken to ensure that we don’t close shop. We have confirmation that we will be able to function and pay salaries.”

Stanley Simataa, the Deputy Minister of Information and Communication Technology, yesterday said: “The issue is still being considered. There is a solution that is being pursued.”

The money requested is over and above the N$108 million subsidy for the NBC which was budgeted for in the current financial year.

The request comes hot on the heels of a warning by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) this week about Namibia’s public debt and the ballooning government salary bill.

“Why should the taxpayer pay for salaries when they already receive a subsidy?” was the response of the Deputy Ministry of Finance, Calle Schlettwein.

Schlettwein did not mince his words about the request. “If you receive a subsidy from Government, which the NBC does, your highest priorities should be funded.” This, he said, should include paying your employees.

He said the money had not been budgeted for. “There is no authority from Parliament to fund this. The Ministry of Finance and additional money should not be the first option.”

Aochamub said the corporation needs Government to fund its entire operational budget from December 1 to the end of March.

In August, a six-day countrywide strike over salary increases crippled the radio and television services of the NBC.

During the August strike, Cabinet instructed the NBC to redirect close to N$9 million from its own government-allocated budget to fund the salary increases demanded by the strikers.

A request for a Government bailout fell flat.

Aochamub yesterday again attributed the NBC’s financial woes to historical and chronic underfunding.

The NBC made a loss of N$42,6 million during the financial year ending March 31 2012, it was reported earlier.

This loss excluded depreciation – the annual decrease in value of assets – which means that the deficit is in fact more.

The N$42, 6 million loss came about after the NBC generated N$63,4 million on its own and Government pumped N$105 million into it, while expenses amounted to N$211 million.

During the previous year, the loss amounted to about N$36 million – N$6,6 million less than this year.

On Friday, Lamin Leigh, the IMF mission chief for Namibia, warned that Government’s wage bill is too high.

He said that keeping public debt sustainable would require strict adherence to Government’s medium-term fiscal plan, aimed at delivering fiscal surpluses by 2014/15.

“The Government’s expenditure envelope (above 40% of the gross domestic product), including the wage bill is high by international standards, thus warranting a thorough assessment of possible savings and ways to increase labour productivity with the public service in the near and medium term.”

Leigh added that “the mission welcomes Government’s efforts to improve the efficiency and financial viability of state-owned enterprises which would enable them to contribute to the broader national development objectives of the country”.

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