27 February 2013

Namibia: Lukewarm Reception of Budget By Opposition

Photo: http://www.newera.com.na
A confident Minister of Finance Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila increased government spending to a record N$47.6 billion for the 2013/14 financial year.

Windhoek — The national budget tabled by Finance Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila yesterday was met with a lukewarm reception by opposition parties with some even saying the budget is disappointing and not "impressive at all".

The Finance Minister tabled the N$47.6 billion national budget, which has increased by over N$7 billion compared to last year's budget of N$40.1 billion. New Era spoke to some of the leaders of the opposition parties to solicit their views on the budget. All People's Party (APP) president Ignatius Shixwameni welcomed the budget, calling it balanced, but was very cautious in expressing his views saying he needs time to go over the numbers.

"I hoped for more, but it was well read. We however expected more on job creation and poverty reduction, but it seems there is so much room for improvement. I will look at the figures proposed properly," he said.

Shixwameni welcomed the tax reductions, especially the income tax for people in the middle-income bracket. Kuugongelwa-Amathila said those earning below N$50 000 will be exempted from paying income tax, while those earning N$50 000 to N$100 000 will now pay only 18 percent in income tax. Anyone earning N$100 001 to N$300 000 will pay 25 percent; those in the N$300 001 to N$500 000 income bracket will pay 28 percent, while those earning N$500 001 to N$799 999 per year will pay 30 percent in personal income tax.

Further, those groups earning N$800 000 to N$1.5 million will pay 32 percent in personal income tax and those earning over N$1.5 million will shoulder the highest tax burden of 37 percent.

"We are too lenient to the rich people who earn more than N$1.5 million per year. We need to create another bracket for them so they pay more taxes than the ordinary people," Shixwameni reacted, giving the new tax provisions the nod.

He was however disappointed that the old age pension was only increased from N$550 to N$600. "N$600 is nothing. It is what I spend on fuel and food. Considering pensioners who are taking care of the entire family, including children dumped by their parents, N$600 is peanuts. I would have expected government to increase it to at least N$1000 to help buy a bag of maize meal and relish," he noted.

Meanwhile, DTA president, Katuutire Kaura agreed with Shixwameni saying an old age pension of at least N$1000 would have been preferable. "But it is now N$600, we accept it given the economic circumstances," he said.

Usutuaije Maamberua the president of Swanu had no kind words insofar as the budget is concerned. "It is not impressive. It is business as usual. Allocation to the Regional and Local Government Housing Ministry does not take poverty on board at the grassroots level. Rural needs are not addressed. I am not talking about big roads and building government offices between towns. I am talking about agricultural projects and housing schemes to help people in rural areas. I would have expected a 10 percent increase for agriculture.

"For me agriculture has been a stepchild and that is disappointing, because unemployment won't be solved by more roads but by sustainable interventions," he said.

He further said there is a need for government to move quickly and to devise ready interventions to fight the looming drought in the country.

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