20 February 2013

Namibia: Next Tuesday Is Budget Day

NEWS that Finance Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila will table Namibia's 23rd main budget in Parliament next Tuesday - the second year in a row she managed to do so before the end of February - was welcomed by financial industry players yesterday.

The fact that the 2013-14 budget will be tabled well before the beginning of Government's new financial year on April 1 means that it can be debated earlier in Parliament and that the wheels of implementation could be set into motion earlier than in previous financial years.

Last year, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila tabled her budget on February 28. Before that, the budget was traditionally tabled between the middle and the end of March - except for 2005, when it was only tabled in mid-May, and in 2002, when it was tabled early in April.

Kuugongelwa-Amadhila yesterday informed Parliament that she would table the 2013-14 budget - her tenth as minister of finance - this coming Tuesday. It is the first time Namibia's budget will be tabled before that of South Africa, scheduled for next Wednesday.

According to the existing Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, the new budget will be nearly N$41 billion, up from the approximately N$40,2 billion budgeted for in the current financial year.

"Tabling it in February shows that Government is proactive and is approaching the budget with a sense of urgency," IJG Namibia economist Romé Mostert told The Namibian. FNB Namibia economist Daniel Motinga agreed, saying the early budget shows that Government wants to speed up the implementation of its fiscal plans.

"This means that ministries will be in a better position to plan their spending for the whole 12 months and therefore avoid irregular or unauthorised expenditure," Graham Hopwood, executive director of the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), said.

Economists however urged Government to focus on the execution of its budget plans and ensure that it spends the money earmarked for projects timely.

Slow budget execution has been an ongoing problem. Statistics released by the Ministry of Finance at the end of last year showed that, between last April and September, only 28% of the money budgeted for development was spent.

Although economists welcomed the earlier tabling of the budget this year, they again called on Government to take the surprise element out of Budget Day and stick to a transparent budget timetable to give both the public and private sectors ample opportunity to prepare for the hefty fiscal blueprint.

"The IPPR would prefer that Government stick to a fixed budget timetable each year - with the budget being announced on the third Wednesday of every February for example. This would introduce an element of predictability that would boost planning in both the public and private sectors. The fixed timetable should also include a pre-budget statement and a mid-year report," Hopwood said.

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