Geingob’s BIG not enough

14 September 2021 | Social Issues

JEMIMA BEUKES

A mere 42 000 out of the 800 000 starving Namibians are likely to benefit from President Hage Geingob’s plan to change the existing food bank and feeding schemes into a basic income grant (BIG), leaving thousands of Namibians on the periphery of food security.

According to Rinaani Musutua from the Namibia BIG Coalition, Geingob’s plan goes completely against his promise to eradicate poverty and even if the food banks are transformed into grants, it would only happen in 2022, which would be too late.

The Namibia BIG Coalition therefore urged Geingob to instead introduce an unconditional BIG programme that would provide Namibians aged between 19 and 59 with a monthly income of N$500.

According to Musutua, this is the best way to ensure that all vulnerable, deserving and intended beneficiaries are covered.

“Many people have lost their jobs, and the informal sector which employs 52% of the Namibians people was the hardest hit as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns.

“Financial stress is the main cause of suicide in Namibia. And the government only wants to help a handful of people while the widespread suffering is clearly evident?

“What will happen to the rest of the Namibians who are struggling to survive on a daily basis? Is the government inhumanely going to stand by and watch the rest of the Namibians suffer while struggling to survive?

“The conversion goes against the president’s promise of eradicating poverty and his promise of ‘nobody in the Namibian house should be left out’ as it will not benefit many poor Namibians,” he said.

Suicidal

The coalition also cited the country’s rapidly increasing suicide numbers as an indication of just how urgently this intervention is needed at a time when Namibia is rated as the country with the second highest unemployment rate in the world.

“It is best to give people cash to decide for themselves what they need the most. People have been strategically selling Foodbank and Harambee food in order to get money for other urgent matters such as school-related expenses, transport and hygiene products.

“The BIG should be implemented in a similar way as the old-age pension, which has worked well in terms of ease to access and reducing the daily struggle for survival for pensioners. The Emergency Income Grant (EIG) has shown us that implementing social protection programmes is not a complicated matter,” he said.

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