19 December 2012

Namibia: Hefty Raises for Politicians

FOR what they are supposed to do, office bearers' salary packages are "hopelessly inadequate" and should be adjusted by a "one-off" average increase of 31%, costing the taxpayer about N$45,8 million, the Public Office Bearers Remuneration and Benefits Commission said yesterday.

President Hifikepunye Pohamba, who has already received the commission's report, will now have to decide by how much to increase the packages of Namibia's 239 political office bearers (POBs), ranging from Prime Minister Hage Geingob to the leaders of the official opposition.

If he decides to fully implement the commission's recommendations, the total budget for POB packages will increase from the current N$22,9 million to N$68,7 million.

Currently, only the prime minister's annual package is more than N$1 million a year.

The president of the country, whose salary is not determined by the commission, is reported to earn about N$2,1 million a year.

Under the suggested remuneration regime, the following POBs will all get a seven-figure annual package before tax: the deputy PM, the speaker of the

National Assembly, the chairperson of the National Council, the special advisor of National Security, the entire cabinet, the director general of the National Planning Commission, the secretary to Cabinet, the attorney general, the auditor general, the chief of defence, the chief of the Namibian Police and the chief of prisons will all be pegged at the same level.

If fully implemented, the prime minister's gross package, including benefits like housing, an official vehicle which he may use privately, as well as water and electricity, will go up from about N$1,06 million a year to just above N$1,47 million - an increase of 38,7%.

The leader of the official opposition, on the other hand, will get a 61,8% salary increase from N$597 453 to N$966 812 per year .

In line for the biggest monetary increase, provided Pohamba approves it, will be the auditor general. His gross annual package will jump from N$765 861 to N$1,4 million, a hike of nearly 83%.

Judge President Petrus Damaseb, who chaired the POB salary package commission, yesterday admitted that, "at first glance", the salary recommendations "will look bad". However, the millions now needed to align POBs' remuneration packages are the "consequence of [Government's] inaction over years", he said.

There has never been a "serious effort" to bring POBs' packages in line with inflation and market trends, Damaseb said, with the result that they are "significantly worse off than their private [sector] peers".

"The president and Cabinet, perhaps because of political sensitivities, allowed only very modest increases" since independence, he said. The commission is convinced that its recommendations are "fair, reasonable and affordable".

Businesswoman Monica Kalondo, who is the deputy chair of the commission, echoed Damaseb's sentiments, saying that the commission did its homework before coming up with the recommendations. The commission followed an "evidence-based approach, not a thumb-suck approach", Kalondo said.

The commission suggested that each of the 22 cabinet ministers' salary package be increased by 55,7% - up from N$817 937 per year to just more than N$1,27 million. Including benefits like housing, an official vehicle which he may use privately, as well as water and electricity, the increase will translate in a monthly package of N$106 099 before tax, compared to the N$68 161 before tax a minister earns currently.

Not all POBs should expect big increases though. The 23 special advisors to regional government should each only get N$30 470 per year more, securing each an annual package of N$630 535.

The 36 members of regional councils should earn N$489 589 per year each, N$31 384 per year more.

Damaseb said well-paid POBs are necessary to run institutions created in terms of the Constitution.

"We can't wish them away, however expensive we think they are. Without them there will be anarchy and a breakdown of the law," Damaseb said.

"Democracy comes at a cost," he said.

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