WINDHOEK, 28 MAR – As long as parliamentarians are sidelined in the preparation of the national budget, it is pointless for them to debate it in the National Assembly (NA), United People’s Movement representative Jan van Wyk said on Tuesday.
Making his contribution to the N.dollars 65 billion 2018/19 national budget in the NA, Van Wyk said opposition parties’ call to be part of the budget process has fallen on deaf ears.
“Debating our national budget is a waste of time as the debate and inputs will not have an influence on the budget table,” said Van Wyk, adding that opposition parties are compelled to approve the budget without pointing out its shortcomings.
Even though he acknowledged Government’s precarious financial situation, Van Wyk is dissatisfied with budget cuts meted out on parliamentary standing committees.
“We understand that the country is facing various forms of difficulties, but such difficulties should not have been used as an opportunity to paralyse Parliament,” he said.
Over the last three years, he said, Parliament has been unable to fully exercise its oversight function due to the cuts.
The criticism comes a week after Rally for Democracy and Progress secretary general Mike Kavekotora lambasted NA Speaker Peter Katjavivi for allegedly not standing up for the interests of Parliament.
Kavekotora said the committees’ budget was slashed from N.dollars 14 million in the 2015/16 financial year (FY) to N.dollars 5 million in the current FY.
Katjavivi, however, dispelled this notion, stating there was no way he could be sabotaging or conspiring against the interests of Parliament.
Furthermore, Van Wyk expressed satisfaction over the N.dollars 50 increment to the old age pension grant, taking it to N.dollars 1 250.
But he urged Government to revisit other social grants, such as the disability grant, that have remained static for years.
Van Wyk also cautioned that the introduction of the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF) will negatively impact direct investment.
The draft NEEEF Bill has caused a stir due to, among other things, the clause that made it mandatory for white-owned businesses to sell a 25 per cent stake of their business to black Namibians.
According to media reports, this has deterred investors from investing in Namibia, however, Government is determined to implement the NEEEF in its quest to address inequality.