Covid kicks Shiimi in the teeth
21 October 2020 | Ministries
The Covid-19 pandemic has sucked government coffers dry and hit state revenue streams by nearly N$5 billion, thus exerting pressure on finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi’s spending plans.
The virus has been Shiimi’s baptism of fire, having struck right in the same month that the former Bank of Namibia chief was appointed in the finance portfolio.
Announcing spending undertaken by government with the delivery of the mid-year budget review, Shiimi mentioned high execution rates undertaken with the roll-out of funding for healthcare, water provision and sanitation.
A total of N$1.4 billion was channelled towards the health sector, N$500 million to the education sector and N$80 million to the water sector solely in Covid-19-geared funding.
“To date, N$651.4 million or 89.6% of the Covid-19-related health budget was spent on procuring personal protective equipment, testing and contact tracing, pharmaceuticals, isolation facilities and health personnel,” he said.
Regarding spending geared to education, Shiimi announced that N$229 million had been spent thus far.
“Of the N$600 million allocated to the education sector, 38.2% was spent by mid-year, with acceleration anticipated during the remainder of the year, while the allocation to the water sector was fully spent and ensured that water taps remained accessible to the public during these trying times,” he said.
Spending priorities going forward
Outlining government’s spending priorities for the remainder of the 2020/21 fiscal year, the education ministry will get an additional N$326 million.
“The ministry of basic education, arts and culture is allocated N$326.4 million, comprising N$200 million for educational infrastructure in addition to the allocation initially frontloaded in the budget, and N$126.4 million for personnel-related expenditure,” Shiimi announced.
On the health front, the ministry of health will receive an additional N$147 million for the procurement of medicine.
The ministry is allocated an additional N$147.6 million for the procurement of pharmaceuticals, Covid-19 related expenditure and the required optimal personnel.
A further N$157.7 million will be rolled out for the coverage of social grants by government.
For the elections slated for next month, Shiimi announced a N$50-million allocation to the Electoral Commission of Namibia for costs related to the conducting of the regional and local authority elections, while N$75 million will be allocated to the ministry of public enterprises for the maintenance of railways and as well as for Namibia Wildlife Resorts, Shiimi said.
“The ministry of agriculture, water and land reform is allocated N$40 million for expenditure on water infrastructure and the ministry of defence and veteran affairs is allocated N$22.3 million specifically to meet the funding needs for the Veterans Subvention Programme,” the minister said.
Grants rolled out
Shiimi also announced that over 769 000 individuals benefitted from the Emergency Income Grant rolled out by government.
The once-off grant was introduced to help those whose income had been impacted by lockdown measures introduced by government to counter the spread of Covid-19.
“To date, 769 130 individuals have benefitted from the grant at the cost of N$576.8 million, exceeding the estimated target of about 739 000 individuals. As we conclude this programme, the results are now being subjected to data reconciliation against the applications made,” he said.
He also reflected on the Wage Subsidy Programme that government had introduced in conjunction with the Social Security Commission (SSC) to assist employers and employees hard-hit by the pandemic.
A total of N$600 million had been rolled out under the labour programme aimed primarily at the aviation, tourism and construction sectors, which have beared the biggest brunt from the pandemic to date.
“As at the beginning of October 2020, 15 656 affected employees and 4 006 employers have benefitted from the subsidy programme at a combined cost of N$65.8 million. The SSC has committed to accelerating the assessment and disbursement processes,” Shiimi said.