Minister of Finance, Calle Schlettwein, tried his best to revive the ailing economy in a year in which the country’s credit rating was cut to Junk by ratings agencies,
Fitch and Moody’s. Another setback was announced last week, when the European Union threatened to blacklist Namibia as a tax haven if it did not reform its tax system in 18 months.
Although his actions have reportedly not been popular with his fellow ministers and top Government officials, especially some permanent secretaries, his efforts have won him praise from ordinary Namibians and the business community.
Among some of Schletttwein’s commendable actions, were the implementation of Government efforts to cut spending on travelling, workshops and the halting of some large unproductive construction projects.
Ironically, even the construction industry, which has been hard hit by the spending cuts, praised Schlettwein for his efforts to help Namibia get its economy in order.
The construction industry has performed badly since 2009, with the situation coming to a head last year when growth contracted by 26 percent relative to 2015.
Bärbel Kirchner, Consulting General Manager of the Construction Industries Federation of Namibia (CIF), praised Schlettwein for prudently and persistently holding the purse strings in these tough economic times.
Kirchner also praised the minister for engaging the CIF to explain what was happening.
CIF president, Nico Badenhorst, said apart from cutting expenditure, Schlettwein also focused on greater efficiencies in revenue collection.
Some believe that Schlettwein is unlucky to head the finance ministry at this time in the country’s history, where export earnings are dwindling and the mining industry is performing below expectations.
However, despite Schlettwein’s best efforts, Moody’s and later Fitch, downgraded Namibia’s credit rating citing imbalances of public finances, weak institutional capacity and liquidity vulnerabilities going forward.
Despite the downgrade, Schlettwein maintained that the Government is committed to its pro-growth fiscal consolidation efforts in a bid to stabilise and eventually reduce public debt.
The minister is adamant that without the expenditure cuts; Namibia may have ended up in a Structural Adjustment Programme by borrowing money from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
President Hage Geingob seems to have trust and confidence in Schlettwein’s abilities, as he appointed him as one of his six preferred candidates to the SWAPO Central Committee for the next five years.
The minister had failed to make it as a voting delegate to SWAPO’s elective congress.