During a consultative meeting in Oshakati last week with finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi and National Planning Commissioner (NPC), Obeth Mbuipaha Kandjoze, the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) recommended that commercial public enterprises (PEs) enter into partnerships with private sector firms. This, said the chamber, is a strategy that would improve operational efficiency and help parastatals run profitably.
The call by the national business representative body comes amidst concerns about the never-ending subsidisation of PEs by taxpayers.
“NCCI suggests PEs go into partnerships with private companies. Then they will also pay tax, which government needs to fund social programmes such as building and resourcing schools and clinics,” said Victoria Joel, vice chairperson of NCCI’s Ondangwa branch. “A good starting point is the green schemes. Also, TransNamib and other PEs including NBC, NHE, NWR, and the waterfront companies in Katima Mulilo and Lüderitz,” added Joel.
She went on to cite the success story of MTC as an example to emulate. “MTC was listed on the Namibian Stock Exchange and government remains the main shareholder, but Namibians were given a chance to buy shares. Recently MTC declared a dividend against profit, making it a win-win for all,” Joel emphasised.
Tax matters, including compliance and failure to make payments, remains a concern for the chamber. At the consultative session, NCCI recommended that minister Shiimi and his team, supported by the NPC, launch a national taxation educational exercise in all 14 regions to encourage tax payment and compliance.
The NCCI leadership underscored that such an educational campaign should not only be in Namibia’s official language, English, but should also be presented in indigenous languages spoken in respective regions to have maximum impact.
“The proposed campaign should also be run on local radio stations, newspapers and for younger Namibians on social media platforms,” Joel said.
Other contributions from the NCCI concerned high customs and excise duties set against the importation of vintage clothing. The chamber suggested that government reviews the charge per kg and as motivation, attention was drawn to the fact that selling vintage clothing is the only income of many micro enterprises.
Joel also bemoaned what she called too many business-unfriendly rules and regulations. As such, the NCCI requested the finance minister to direct his officials to work closely with other ministries in the economic cluster when drafting policies before enacting them.
As for invitations by government ministries and departments, NCCI’s previous request was restated: “It now seems to be the habit by officials to change times and venues of consultative sessions and important meetings at short notice. This must stop as chopping and changing dates, times and venues results in low attendance,” said Joel.
At a similar consultative engagement in the Kavango regions, the business community raised concern about sluggish assistance from government.
As an example, it was pointed out that farmers suffer and become vulnerable when there are animal disease outbreaks. Also, the Kavango business community noted that the response to a request for assistance with tractors for distribution in the Kavango regions is taking long.
Farmers in the Kavango regions asked the finance minister why government stopped the equipment assistance scheme under the trade and industrialisation ministry.
Concerns were also raised about the Procurement Act, with claims from the Kavango community that it prejudices local enterprises. Business owners in the Kavango regions charged that government resources are misused with impunity by some civil servants because tenders are shared among staff of regional councils who use firms owned by their relatives as fronts.
The community also expressed frustration about ministers who conduct consultative sessions, but charged there is never any feedback provided following such engagements.