16 November 2012

Namibia: NCCI Calls for Action On Strikes, Land Issues

LABOUR unrest, Namibia's tarnishing image as foreign investment destination, and land issues were some of the concerns the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) focused on at its recent national council meeting.

As part of its resolutions, the NCCI called on Government, unions and the private sector to start talking to each other “as soon as possible” to put an end to the strikes and labour unrest which have been plaguing Namibia.

The NCCI said the “absence of an effective dialogue among key stakeholders” is “one of the contributors to poor labour relations in the country”. The chamber's council in 2010 already called for an “urgent review and amendment of the labour legislation to make it [Namibia] more conducive to investments”, the NCCI said in a statement this week.

At its meeting in Tsumeb last Saturday, Council also called on Government and the private sector under the NCCI to “work out a plan of action” together to stop Namibia from sliding on global competitiveness indices.

Namibia has tumbled nearly 50 places on the index of Doing Business 2013, released by the World Bank recently.The report ranked Namibia 87th overall out of 185 countries worldwide, a drop of six spots from last year and a far cry from the 39th position it held in 2006.

On the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2012-13 Global Competitive Index, released earlier this year, Namibia plunged nine positions. The index placed Namibia 92nd overall out of 144 countries worldwide, down from 83rd last year. This was the second consecutive year that Namibia nosedived nine positions. In 2010-11, the country was ranked as the 74th most competitive worldwide.

The NCCI Council said the “situation has potential to damage the name and image of Namibia in the eyes of investors and people who may want to do business with us”.

“Council felt that this situation needs to be addressed by improving the areas where Namibia showed poor performance and by engaging the international community to build a better image for Namibia,” the statement said.

Council furthermore urged central Government to be involved “deeper” in the issue of servicing land available for business. It furthermore called for “urgent legislative reforms” in the area of land ownership and proclamation to improve the pace at which land is delivered to business and citizens.

“The unavailability of serviced land is primarily caused by the lengthy and bureaucratic process required for land proclamation and demarcation of plots, as well as the poor financial capacity within local authorities to be able to service land, coupled with the high costs of servicing of land.

“The inability of our local authorities to make land available for businesses has a significant impact on economic growth and job creation,” the NCCI said in its statement.

Council also tackled the thorny issue of land taxes in the new valuation roll of the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement. The 2012 Provisional Valuation Roll, which has seen land values increased by as much as 630%, caused a lively debate at the annual congress of the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) recently.

“The current levels of land tax have proven to be a serious burden to the agricultural sector and if allowed to continue, may have a negative impact on agricultural output and food production,” Council said in the NCCI statement.

NCCI president Martha Namundjebo-Tilahun at the NAU congress invited the NAU to join the NCCI in lobbying for a “zero tax rate”.

“The NCCI and NAU should jointly work out a proposal for a tax incentive regime aimed at stimulating increased food production in the country with a view to achieve self-sufficiency and a surplus in food production and guaranteed food security,” Namundjebo-Tilahun said at the NAU's annual gala dinner.

Council last weekend accepted the NCCI's initiative to join forces with the NAU. It recommended a zero tax rate for farmers and enterprises that invest in primary food production and called on Government to review the increased taxes stemming from the new valuation roll.

“The new valuation roll indicates significant and unsustainable increases in land tax rates which can have dire consequences on the economy in general and the agricultural sector in particular,” the statement said.

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