More than a billion for NBCBy: JO-MARÉ DUDDY
THE taxpayer will have to fork out more than a billion dollars over the next three fiscal years to “enhance the performance” of the NBC, budget documents show.
Besides the approximately N$1,06 billion subsidy for the NBC, Namibians will also have to finance Government’s other news vehicles – New Era, Nampa and NamZim Newspapers’ Southern Times – to the tune of about N$105,9 million.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is one of the few ministries giving a glimpse of its spending plans for state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in the new Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) – currently the only available document with information, albeit sketchy, on how Government intends spending the N$47,6 billion in its 2013-14 budget.
The Ministry of Finance has been sitting on the budget book which details how every cent of the taxpayer will be spent since Finance Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila tabled the budget on Tuesday afternoon. Numerous attempts by The Namibian to obtain a copy of the Estimate of Revenue and Expenditure, or to have it posted on the ministry’s website, have failed.
The lack of details on public spending has not just frustrated the media, but also analysts keen to get to the bottom of the budget. Of particular interest is how many tax dollars will be pumped into struggling SOEs like Air Namibia.
Kuugongelwa-Amadhila has been skirting the issue of Air Namibia’s bailout since she tabled the budget in Parliament. She merely told the House that Air Namibia would receive money, refusing to divulge how much. Hints from economists at budget events the minister attended this week also fell on deaf ears.
FNB Namibia economist Namene Kalili said Kuugongelwa-Amadhila had a “poker face” during her budget speech. Alluding to Air Namibia, Kalili said he “suspects the minister holds a big card close to her chest”.
Floris Bergh, portfolio manager at the Old Mutual Investment Group Namibia (Omignam), yesterday compared the size of Air Namibia’s woes to an elephant in his budget analysis. “Hard conversation” is needed in this regard, he said.
“It’s like an elephant. Everybody sees it, but nobody talks about it,” Bergh said.
Air Namibia’s bailout will be in the vicinity of half a billion dollars, a source close to the budget said yesterday. This would be in addition to the N$1,080 billion it got from Government last year.
The bailout is likely to contained in ‘Subsidies and Transfers’ under the Transport vote in the MTEF. Although not exclusively for bailouts, lifelines budgeted for often appear under ‘Subsidies and Transfers’. SOEs like Air Namibia, TransNamib and the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) resort under the Transport vote.
Just over N$1,3 billion was budgeted in ‘Subsidies and Transfers’ for operational expenses under the Works vote in 2013-14. From 2013-16, about N$2 billion will be spent on ‘Subsidies and Transfers’ under the Works vote.
In the Macroeconomic Framework 2013-16, the Ministry of Finance said about N$6 billion in subsidies and transfers had been paid to SOEs from 2007 to 2011. This is a “substantive amount which, in terms of opportunities costs, implies the compromise of several social and economic interventions and programmes,” the document states.
According to the MTEF, ‘Subsidies and Transfers’ makes up the second biggest chunk of Government’s total expenditure for 2013-16, preceded by personnel expenditure. At N$42,5 billion, subsidies and transfers constitute 28,1% of total expenditure over the MTEF period.