BIG speaks out about poverty blueprint

26 September 2021 | Social Issues

The Basic Income Grant (BIG) Coalition of Namibia said that it has taken note that the Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare inviting proposals for the evaluation of the Ministry’s policy framework “Blueprint on Wealth Distribution and Poverty Eradication” 2017/18-2019/20.
In a media release, the coalition said that while they appreciate that external evaluations of government policies can be helpful to identify successes and shortcomings in their implementation, this particular consultancy raises questions.
In the media release, spokesperson Rinaani Musutua said that evaluations need to be based on actual programmes being rolled out. “We wonder if there are currently any substantive initiatives worth evaluating. When the ministry was established in 2015, the minister and some leading staff travelled to all the regions to learn about the ideas and proposals there. One of the issues which was continuously raised was the need to introduce a universal Basic Income Grant (BIG).”
Musutua said that following these regional consultations, the ministry then prepared the Blueprint on “Wealth Distribution and Poverty Eradication”, but only one new initiative was taken, namely the introduction of the Food Bank.
“This initiative was controversial from its inception in terms of reach, identification of intended beneficiaries and respect for their dignity. Following what seems an unpublished and internal evaluation of the Food Bank, it was converted recently into a cash grant for selected households in two regions.”
According to the media release, in 2019, the ministry presented the draft policy on social protection which strongly argued for the immediate implementation of a universal child grant. “However, this has still not been implemented despite the strong empirical evidence that the current targeted child grant fails to reach a large number of children in need,” Musutua said.
“Contrary to the wishes and proposals emanating from the regional consultations, the draft policy proposed a BIG for the unemployed between 30 and 59 years of age. This does not constitute a BIG at all and is merely an unemployment grant. This proposal is unsuitable for Namibia and is now being reviewed. We urge the ministry to follow the overwhelming evidence of the numerous social economic benefits of a universal BIG which must be a central pillar of Namibia’s post-Covid recovery strategy.”
The coalition said that in light of these developments, they call on the ministry to first roll-out substantive programmes like the universal child grant and the BIG, and then evaluate their redistributive and anti-poverty impacts. “The current call for a consultancy to evaluate a blueprint which has not resulted in visible new programmes seems a waste of scare resources which could be used in the fight against poverty. It is time to take decisive action, Namibians deserve nothing less!”

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