Poverty budget does more with less

The bulk of the poverty ministry's N$3.6 billion budget is going towards social grants.

03 May 2019 | Economics

The number of Namibians receiving social grants from the poverty ministry has increased by 3.2% to nearly 220 000 over the last financial year.

In his ministry's budget motivation speech recently, poverty eradication and social welfare minister Zephania Kameeta said of the more than N$3.6 billion the ministry has budgeted for the 2019/20 financial year, N$3.4 billion is allocated to the payment and administration of social grants to old people and those with disabilities.

The ministry has recorded an increase in the number of social grant recipients from 211 447 in 2017/18 to 218 586 during the 2018/19 year, he added.

He said the ministry was able to maintain a reasonable coverage of 97% of pensioners and 70% of disability grant beneficiaries during the year under review.

The N$3.4 billion earmarked for social grants represents 97% of the ministry's budget allocation.

This leaves only 3% for operational costs.

“The government is therefore cognisant of the great contribution of social assistance to poverty eradication,” Kameeta said.

He said the ministry aimed to do more with fewer resources and to focus on the effective implementation of programmes to lift people out of extreme poverty.



Hunger

Under the poverty eradication programme, which includes food provision to some of Namibia's poorest citizens in urban and peri-urban areas, the ministry allocated N$60 million for the provision of food parcels.

Kameeta said N$75.8 million was allocated for activities under the ministry's poverty eradication programme, including coordination and implementation.

The food programme has been rolled out to the Khomas, Hardap, //Karas, Ohangwena, Kavango West and Kunene regions, and the ministry plans to cover the remaining seven regions during the 2019/20 financial year.

Kameeta said during the 2018/19 financial year, the ministry utilised N$62.6 million for the food programme, of which N$4.9 million was paid from the State Contingency Fund.

“The shortfall the ministry experienced under this programme was due to budget cuts, from N$70 million in the 2017/18 financial year to N$62 during the year under review.”

He underlined that due to budget constraints, and the call to do more with less, the ministry has streamlined eligibility criteria for food bank beneficiaries to only include those in dire need of food.

Kameeta said a ministerial donation fund, launched in 2015, stood at N$4.5 million during the 2018/19 financial year. Donations in kind amounted to more than N$1.2 million.

Funds from the donation account were used to help with several projects aimed at poor and vulnerable Namibians, including water infrastructure and community garden projects, as well as the provision of shelter.



Basic income grant

Kameeta said under the ministry's strategy formulation and monitoring programme, the terms of reference for a basic income grant framework have been drafted to help strengthen and expand the country's social protection systems.

He said the terms of reference aimed to guide the feasibility study on the possibility “of introducing a grant system to ensure much more inclusive social protection system for the country”.

Also under the programme, the ministry developed and presented a blueprint monitoring and evaluation template during the 2018/19 financial year, in order to ensure the implementation of the blueprint on wealth distribution and poverty eradication.

Another project included a study of old-age homes and residential childcare facilities to identify gaps and the need for provision for suitable shelter to the poor and vulnerable, he said.

The ministry has allocated N$6.7 million for the activities under this programme.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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