Fishing quota auction storm grows

As Namibia sails into the unchartered waters of auctioning fishing quotas, observers have come out swinging against the idea while the government is calling for cool heads.

14 August 2020 | Fishing

OGONE TLHAGE

WINDHOEK



Government's decision to auction off its fishing quota, and then use the proceeds to finance its efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic is continuing to be met with scepticism and a growing sense of trepidation.

The fisheries ministry this week announced plans to sell its fishing quota meant for government objectives to the highest bidder.

The fishing quota meant for government objectives has been the centre of the biggest corruption scandal in the fishing sector to date, which has led to the arrest of, among others, former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau and former justice minister Sacky Shanghala.



Practice unheard of

Popular Democratic Movement parliamentarian Nico Smit questioned the delay in the announcement of new fishing rights holders and also asked why quotas were being sold in spite of the government allocating N$8.1 billion to fight the pandemic.

“The information we have is sketchy.





“We want to know how this is going to work and whether all the good promises will follow through,” he said.

According to Smit, the move was questionable.

“Government has the sole right to decide on how to use the money. What will the fisheries money be used for? They are just gathering money and we do not know what it will be used for … to me, this is not cosy at all,” he said.



Be transparent

Rally for Democracy and Progress parliamentarian Mike Kavekotora also said the time was ripe for the minister to announce the recipients of new fishing rights. The ministry of fisheries received about 5 200 applications in 2018.

“The public needs to know who was successful. This is a national asset, they are dealing with national assets,” Kavekotora said.

“Transparency in the ruling party is hard to come by; they are dealing with national assets,” he said.



Fishrot fears dismissed

Kawana dismissed any notion that the auction could result in another scandal.

Kawana said the auction was the most viable option proposed by President Hage Geingob's High-Level Panel on the Economy.

Kawana added that the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the tax revenue shortfall from the tourism sector, motivated the need for the sale of the quotas.

“Tourism, which used to bring foreign currency at short notice, all but dried up. It is on this basis that fisheries had to be classified as an essential service so that fish can be sold in the international market to quickly generate foreign currency for our country,” he said.

Explaining the allocation, Kawana said the portion reserved for locals would be divided into two streams, namely a 'wet' quota allocation that would make up 30% of the total allocation and a 70% frozen component.

“The 60% open to both local and international applicants will have a different reserve price,” he said.

According to him, it is common practice for high-value commodities to be auctioned in the international markets. Kawana added that the proceeds would be paid into government coffers.

“The money generated will be paid directly into the State Revenue Account as per the requirements of the State Finance Act of 1991,” he said.



Quota auction allocation small

Kawana said the quota allocation to be auctioned was not that large.

“I must also state here that the quota that is to be auctioned to both local and international is not that significant. For example, out of 154 000 metric tonnes (MT) of total allowable catch (TAC) for hake, only 6 600 MT or 4.3% will be available to both local and international bidders,” he said.

“Ninety-five percent remains for local utilisation. Out of 330 000 MT of Total Allowable Catch for horse mackerel, only 43 200 MT or 13% will be available for both local and international companies. This leaves 87% for local utilisation,” he said.

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