Tucna slams spending cuts

Mass meetings will be held soon by trade unions in Namibia regarding the “humiliation” of civil servants.

05 April 2019 | Labour

Trade unions are planning mass meetings across the country to decide on a response to what they describe as the government's continued “humiliation” of public servants.

Trade Union Congress of Namibia (Tucna) secretary-general Mahongora Kavihuha claims that this year's budget speech is proof that the government does not listen to workers.

He has urged independent trade unions to engage all workers, especially those in the public sector, through mass meetings.

Kavihuha said the first of these meetings would take place in the Khomas Region next week.

The planned meetings will discuss the doubling of civil servants' medical aid fund contributions, among other things.

Tucna also objected to the classification of compensation for work rendered as “wasteful expenditure”.

Kavihuha said that included subsistence and travel allowances, “which were unilaterally terminated by the government”.

He said finance minister Calle Schlettwein did not even mention salary increases for civil servants in his budget speech.

“It means he did not give it a thought one way or the other,” the unionist claimed.

He said Tucna agreed with economists who described this year's budget as electioneering.

According to Kavihuha, billions of dollars will be spent on “ill-defined, unplanned grand projects” aimed at stimulating economic growth and reducing the budget deficit.

He said that was no different from the billions spent on mass-housing projects, the Neckartal Dam and numerous other “grand schemes that resulted in nothing”.

“How are we to be assured that these billions, like other billions before them, will not end up in the pockets of a few oligarchs, only to be syphoned off to some offshore tax haven in the Caribbean again?”

Kavihuha further said if the government really wanted to boost development that would improve people's lives, it should not spend money that the country doesn't have and then call it a development budget.

“In actual fact it is nothing short of a knee-jerk reaction in an election year meant to buy us votes that we incidentally already have anyway.”

He said wage-led growth was the way forward for Namibia, and not the “economic morass” that the country found itself in.

“We have noted a slight reduction in unemployment by 0.6%, however we have serious reservations about that reduction [based on] the contradiction between the preliminary national accounts and the 2018 Labour Force Survey.”

Kavihuha said the preliminary national accounts that were released on the same day as the Labour Force Survey clearly showed that both the secondary and tertiary industries had recorded declining growth rates, while the primary industries grew by 22%.

“The national accounts show an unequivocal report that the primary sector and water and electricity in the secondary sector performed better, however the employment performance contracted,” Kavihuha said.





ELLANIE SMIT

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