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News Blog

A collection of longer form stories, submitted, sourced, or written by our team, that would not make sense to cover in a traditional broadcast news format, but which we wanted to share with you anyway.

(please note that views and opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect those of Radiowave).

 

Prime Minister's speech at commemoration of International Women's Day

KEYNOTE STATEMENT
 
BY
 
RIGHT HONOURABLE SAARA KUUGONGELWA-AMADHILA, PRIME MINISTER OF THE REPUBLIC OF NAMIBIA
 
AT THE
 
COMMEMORATION OF INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
 
SAFARI HOTEL, WINDHOEK, MONDAY, 7 MARCH 2016 08h30
 
Director of Proceedings
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers present
UN Representative
Fellow Presenters and Moderators
Gender Activists
Researchers and Scientists
Esteemed Invited Guests
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
 
It gives me great pleasure to officiate at this auspicious event where we commemorate the Annual International Women’s Day – this year under the theme of “Pledge For Parity!”.  I thank the House of Women for their kind invitation to me to attend this event, and I also acknowledge the other support partners: Hanns Seidel Foundation, Sister Namibia Magazine, and Namibia Institute for Democracy for their important roles in hosting this event.
 
This week, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women will commemorate the 21st anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which remains the world’s best blueprint for achieving gender equality and empowering women.  The review of this visionary roadmap is an opportunity to celebrate the world’s progress toward ensuring the rights and opportunities of women and girls, and also to renew and reinvigorate commitments to achieve gender equality.
 
What this Day is trying to achieve is to bring together women of all backgrounds to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women in our country – and simultaneously in many other places around the world – and to consider ways in which we can accelerate gender parity by playing a part in the pledge for parity.  This theme reflects not just education or advocacy in support of women, but also the importance of taking active steps to support women across Namibia, through parity pledges expected from the participants today.
 
In 2015, the World Economic Forum predicted that it would take until 2133 to achieve complete global gender parity.  That is 117 years from now – too long for anyone gathered here today to witness.  This is not only worrying, but shocking indeed.  Then, in terms of the Africa Union Agenda 2063, all Member States have agreed that by 2063, all forms of violence and discrimination (social, economic, political) against African women and girls, including sexual violence in conflict situations, should cease to exist and they should fully enjoy all their human rights.
 
I would like to this morning, highlight Namibia’s strides made to narrow the gender gap on various fronts, and its ambition to maintain this progress going forward.  Hopefully, we will achieve gender parity much earlier than the forecast by the WEF and the commitment of the AU Agenda 2063.
 
Namibia has made good progress in creating laws that establish that women and men have equal rights and in ratifying relevant regional and international treaties dealing with the elimination of discrimination against women.
 
Article 10 of the Namibian Constitution protects the rights of all persons including women from any form of discrimination. In order to give effect to this clause, a comprehensive legal framework has been developed, which includes:
 
The Married Persons Equality Act, 1 of 1996, that lays down clear rules to achieve equality between husband and wife within marriage;
The Affirmative Action (Employment) Act, 29 of 1998, that provides for affirmative action measures to achieve equal opportunity in employment for racially disadvantaged persons, women and persons with disabilities;
The Labour Act, 11 of 2007, that, amongst others, protects employees against unfair labour practices and disallows an employment decision based on gender between employees who do work of equal value;
The revised National Gender Policy (NGP) that is designed to create a society in which women and men enjoy equal rights and access to basic services and to provide opportunities for all to participate in and contribute to the political, social, economic and cultural development in the country;
The latest addition being the Public Procurement Act that provides for priority attention to formerly disadvantaged groups including women.  
NEEEF that is currently in the pipeline will give effect to the Constitutional mandate to enact legislation to redress the effects of past discriminatory laws.
 
While Namibia has legislated gender parity in the workplace, this may not fully translate into “Equal Pay for Equal Worth of Work”. We need to learn from best practices around the world where some countries have adopted Codes of Good Practice on Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value.
 
I must hasten to add, however, that the translation of equality before the law into equal outcomes is not automatic.  Entrenched inequalities, discriminatory social norms, customary biases, or plain ignorance of the law, as well as dominant patterns of economic development, can undermine their implementation and positive impact.
 
That notwithstanding, let me briefly take stock of our achievements in narrowing the gender gap.  As at March 2015, female civil servants represented 61% of all employees in OMAs/RCs1.  However, the pace in terms of employing women at management levels is slower with women filling up 42% of management positions.  In the private sector only 40% of employees are females2. The positive thing in all this is that, two years ago the ratio of women at management level in the public sector was 38%.  A rigorous affirmative action drive and giving preferential exposure to female colleagues in terms of management, administrative and functional training has brought about such gradual shift in gender balance in the public service.
 
It is also encouraging to note that 58% of all professionals and 54% of all technicians and associate professionals in the private sector are women3. 
 
Alongside economic policies that can create decent jobs, measures are needed to challenge persistent occupational segregation and gender pay gaps.  According to the Namibia Labour Force Survey for 2013, women’s monthly mean wages (in Namibia Dollar) are on average 16% less than that of men.  This pay gap is experienced in advanced regions as well as such the EU.
 
In its Global Gender Gap Report of 2015, the World Economic Forum measures the Global Gender Gap Index for 145 countries4.  This Index examines the gap – rather than level of parity – between men and women in four fundamental categories (or sub-indexes):
 
Economic Participation and Opportunity,
Educational Attainment,
Health and Survival, and
Political Empowerment.
 
Namibia ranks in 16th position compared to 38th position ten years ago.  This achievement is primarily due to two factors:  Namibia has fully closed the gap on (a) the Health and Survival indicator, and on (b) the Educational Attainment indicator.
 
Namibia is lagging in the 27th position in terms of the Economic Participation and Opportunity Indicator, mainly as a result of its low rank in terms of Wage equality between men and women where Namibia is ranked 57th out of 145 countries. 
 
In terms of the Political Empowerment indicator, Namibia is ranked 33rd mainly as a result of its 10th position with regard to Women in Parliament.  We should persist in our efforts to consolidate these successes and further build upon them.
 
Before concluding, let me once again condemn the vice of violence against women and girls.  Violence against women, disempowers women, but also impoverishes families.  We need to strengthen partnerships at community level to enforce our laws in order to have peace at family level.
 
To enhance socio-economic empowerment and reduce household poverty, we need to promote partnerships between women and men, between employees and employers, between previously disadvantaged and previously advantaged persons.  If we continue to polarise our society along these lines, our nation will fail dismally.
 
Everyone – men and women – can pledge to take a concrete step to help achieve gender parity more quickly.
To this end, it is important to note that gender equality does not mean women ruling over men, but it rather guarantees a level playing field absent of all forms of discrimination that prevail against women.  Women empowerment makes absolute sense, since an ancient Ethiopian proverb suggests that “Where a woman rules, streams run uphill”.
 
On that note, I extend my best wishes to you all for a happy International Women’s Day, and call upon all women and men of Namibia to work together in partnership in order to address the challenge of poverty and move into a transformed and prosperous era.
 
I thank you.

A Belt-Tightening Budget

By Suta Kavari - An Investment Strategist at Capricorn Asset Management, which is an affiliate of Bank Windhoek Holdings.
 
 
Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein will be counting his lucky stars that he does not find himself in Pravin Gordhan’s shoes this week.  His South African counterpart is tasked with the gargantuan task of rescuing South Africa from the brink of the economic abyss it is faced with.
 
But that’s not to say that we don’t have challenges of our own.  Minister Schlettwein will have to guide the economy through the current uncertainty in global markets, falling commodities prices, weak global demand for commodities, the devastating effects of the continued drought, as well as the precarious fiscal position amid the squeeze on the government’s coffers.
 
We don’t expect an austerity budget, but we do expect some fiscal consolidation in light of falling tax revenue receipts and an uncertain outlook.
 
Domestic growth forecast were revised lower by both the IMF and the Bank of Namibia, and we expect the Fiscus to align their projections accordingly.  There will be concerns ringing about the potential impact of lower growth on tax receipts. 
 
We don’t expect any major tax increases, but we do expect modest tax proposals.  Any increases in taxes would have to be approached with caution. 
 
We expect the much talked about (and now largely muted) Solidarity tax to take the form a sort of ‘wealth tax’ adjustment.  This might take the form of an increase in the marginal tax rate of the relatively affluent Namibians.
 
Due to Government’s poverty fighting resolve, we don’t expect to see any VAT increase.  Low income earners are usually hardest hit by VAT increases.  Furthermore, it will have an adverse impact on personal consumption especially in this low growth environment.  
 
Company taxes, which are the most sensitive to business cycles, will most likely be spared. 
 
We could also see substantially higher sin tax increases, higher than the normal inflation adjustments. 
 
The lower global oil prices could also afford the Minister some leeway in hiking the fuel levy.  But we are of the view that the hike would be modest, due to the fact that the weaker currency has eroded some of the benefits of lower global oil prices.
 
Given the projected pressure on revenue, particular attention will have to be given to the expenditure budget.
 
We don’t expect substantial cuts to expenditure, particularly the Government’s wage bill.  But expenditure will most likely be capped, with savings emanating from the operational budget.  Measures announced during the Medium Term Budget Review to control expenditure will be introduced, adding to additional savings.
 
We expect to see cuts to the budget allocations for overtime, furniture and the Government’s vehicle fleet.
 
Government’s debt dynamics have deteriorated somewhat since last year’s budget.  But while the debt-to-GDP ratio remains relatively healthy, it is the increase in debt servicing cost that is of particular concern.
 
The increase in yields on Government debt over the past few months has effectively increased Government’s interest rates.  Coupled with higher inflation expectations and a depreciating Namibia dollar, increasing debt servicing costs do not bode well for the pesky twin deficits.
 
While Government should always be cognisant of the threat of a ratings downgrade, the threat is not as emanate as it is in South Africa.
 
All in all, we expect Calle Schlettwein to announce broad measures aimed at boosting revenue collection, and provide an update on the progress of establishing a semi-autonomous revenue service.  We also expect the Minister to expand on the public private partnership initiatives. 
 
One of the major challenges faced by the Minister of Finance is, undoubtedly, the adverse effects of the drought.  It will take a fine balancing act to find funds for all the Nation’s pressing needs.
 

Understanding South Africa's credit rating and its effects on the Namibian investor

Below is a press release issued this morning that neatly explains credit ratings and the effect they have on the 'man on the street' that was written by Fouché Brand, Executive Officer: Private Clients at Capricorn Asset Management and is definitely worth a read:
 
Just as people and businesses have a credit rating at the bank, so too do countries. Countries are rated by independent credit rating agencies such as Moody’s, Fitch and Standard & Poor’s.
 
The purpose of credit ratings is simply to assist investors to make informed investment decisions.
 
When credit rating agencies evaluate a country they look at the possibility that the country, or its government, will be able to repay its debt. Countries or governments often issue debt instruments such as bonds and treasury bills and investors want to know if this government will be able to repay the debt on the day it expires.
 
This becomes even more interesting since companies, just like countries, also receive credit ratings, but a company’s credit rating can never be better than that of the country in which it is based. Thus, if a country has a low credit rating it follows that companies in that country will also receive a low credit rating score.
 
If you have a low credit rating, investors will be hesitant to invest in your company due to the uncertainty whether they will get their money back or not. If they are willing to invest with you, they will expect a much higher rate of return to compensate for the risk that the company may not be able to repay its debt. The established principle of the higher the risk, the higher the rate of return therefore applies.
 
So, why all the recent fuss surrounding South Africa’s credit ratings and its possible downgrade?
 
South Africa is on the brink of being downgraded in June this year. This won’t be just an ordinary downgrading. If South Africa is downgraded one more level, the country will reach “junk” status. This means that the ability and also South Africa’s willingness to repay their debt will at best be viewed with suspicion.
 
What will be the impact of a downgrade? Simply put the interest rate at which the South African government and companies lend will dramatically increase. Interest rates will also rise for the man on the street. This can lead to an increase in bad debts, insolvencies and even bankruptcies.
 
Another aspect is that a capital flight will occur. Investors are in many cases prohibited from investing in countries with a junk status credit rating and as a consequence will have to disinvest from South Africa.
 
The outflow of capital will over the short term drastically weaken the Rand which will have a knock-on effect with higher inflation and interest rates. Over the long term it will naturally have an immensely negative impact on the South African economy.
 
Likelihood
 
How likely is such a downgrade? If you look at economists’ expectations there is a substantial chance that our neighbour will be downgraded. However, our expectation is that the downgrade will not take place in June this year, but may be at a later stage. It all depends on the market and politics in South Africa.
 
Therefore you should be on the lookout for a possible downgrade and stay abreast of what is transpiring in South Africa, since it can have the effect that your choices as a Namibian investor could drastically change.