Tsumeb — Government is unable to give in into public demands and requests for an immediate increment in the social grant benefits, mainly due to lack of resources and the financial slump the country is experiencing, Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare Doreen Sioka has said.
Sioka gave assurances that government sympathises with the public that social grants ought to be increased. However, at present the country's limited resources make it impossible to effect any signficant increase in the amounts paid to beneficiaries. Instead, she advised the public to be patient and learn to live within their means.
"There are a lot of poor people in this country, which government is trying to cater for, in addition to the disabled, orphans and pensioners. That's the reason why we cannot increase [the amount of the grants], because the number [of beneficiaries] is a lot... So, once everyone is catered for, we can consider increasing [the amounts], depending on the availability of resources" Sioka said on Friday, during the commemoration of the Day of the African Child in Tsumeb.
"I don't want to hear and see any complaints in the media regarding this issue from now onwards. We have been inundated with complaints enough, and it's time to understand," she told the gathering.
Government provides monthly grants in the amount of N$250 each to 287,627 children. The money is intended for children in foster care, those eligible for special maintenance and those eligbile for disability grants.
In addition, government provides a social grant of N$1,200 per month to Namibian pensioners, who number 159,315.
Last year government provided social grants to a total of 194,532 people, including pensioners and those with disabilities.
"I should remind you that we, Namibians, are lucky because not all African countries are doing this for their people. Hence we should be very grateful for these efforts by government. We also initiated the income-generating activity projects, which aim to uplift the lower income group through providing equipment to them in order to conduct business, which in turn can enable us to reduce poverty as they will generate an income," Sioka stated.
Speaking at the same occasion was UNICEF country representative Micaela Marques de Sousa, who said the child welfare grant programme is a good initiative by government, as it aims to address child poverty and social exclusion.
"Currently [many] Namibian children grow up in a household that depends on social grants, especially old age pension as a primary source of income.
"Foster grants reduce poverty by 1.4 percent and the pension grants by a further 34 percent," de Sousa said, while commending government's efforts.