18 April 2019

Namibia: 'Insane' Public Wage Bill Concerns Geingob

Windhoek — President Hage Geingob says the bloated public wage bill that is currently at N$29.3 billion is an issue of concern that needs to be addressed.

Geingob raised this concern in his fifth State of the Nation Address (Sona) yesterday. "The public wage bill has increased and become, rightly so, an issue of concern to all of us and I am on record having stated that it needs to be addressed," said the Head of State matter-of-factly.

According to a recent analysis by First Capital Namibia, government can save N$670.5 million annually if 40 percent of civil servants aged between 55 to 59 years were instantly placed on early retirement. In 2017, government announced it was looking at offering early retirement packages to civil servants who wished to retire before the age of 60 as one of the solutions to cut the wage bill.

According to First Capital Namibia, civil servants in this age category constitute about six percent - or just 5 478 people - of the total composition of 91 295 civil servants.

Geingob says the wage bill that is comprised of political office-bearers, civil servants and uniformed personnel is due to annual inflationary adjustments, the filling of critical vacant posts, an increase in public entities and job evaluation and re-grading conducted in government.

He warned that while government is currently the largest employer, in an environment characterised by high levels of unemployment, attempts at downsizing should be treated with utmost care.

The President says in some countries, teachers and uniformed personnel are excluded from the public service wage bill.

"It would be unreasonable to downsize overnight, as rapid reductions in the public service would only exacerbate the already high unemployment rate in the country," said Geingob.

However, he said contrary to popular belief, the total wage and benefits of political office-bearers represents N$160 million out of the N$29 billion wage bill.

"Said differently, this is 0.06 percent of the public service wage bill, including both houses of parliament," he said.

As a measure to lead by example, Geingob said during these trying economic times, political office-bearers have agreed to a one-off, voluntary salary contribution of two percent of net, for this year.

An ordinary lawmaker in the National Assembly earns around N$693 000 per year, or N$57 750 per month, meaning that each MP will contribute roughly N$3 465 towards Geingob's proposal.

"If parliamentarians, who are being consulted, are agreeable, contributions will be deducted as a payroll deduction, with the potential to raise the sizeable amount of approximately N$3.2 million," he said.

The funds, Geingob said, will be channeled towards identified social programmes, "as a demonstration of our personal commitment".

"We are aware that the salary of civil servants cannot be adjusted without mutual consent," he said, adding that to this end, the Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila is tasked to spearhead these consultations and eventual implementation of this intervention, if agreed.

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