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The time bomb keeps ticking

10 April 2015
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Judging by the recently proposed national budget for the 2015/16 financial year one can be forgiven to think that Government is not taking the shortage of urban land very seriously.

While the ministry of land reform will get close to a billion dollars to buy commercial agricultural land this year alone, government has set aside only N$1.25 billion in the next three years for the mass housing programme, a programme that has been beset by funding challenges since its inception last year.

The money set aside for the mass housing programme translates to just over N$400 million per year, a far cry from the N$45 billion needed to successfully implement the programme over the next 15 years.

Given all the noise that has been made regarding the artificial shortage of urban land over the past few years, there is a feeling that government is not being sincere in addressing this problem.

From an outsider’s view, it seems there is no clear strategy or urgency from the side of government to address the shortage of urban land.

The N$2 billion guarantee provided under the budget to the National Housing Enterprise (NHE) is simply not enough for the mass housing programme.

Besides, all indications are that it will be difficult for the NHE, the custodian of the mass housing project, to get a buy in from investors given the sorry state of NHE’s own financial position and the chaotic implementation of the project thus far.

With all the pressure coming from landless Namibians, not least from Job Amupanda’s Affirmative Repositioning movement, government should have done more to use the budget to address the shortage of urban land in the country.

With hundreds of thousands of our people living in informal settlements across the country because of the unaffordability of urban land, government is sitting on a time bomb.

While the time is ticking, the proposed budget shows that Government would rather play Russian roulette instead of addressing the issue once and for all.

Spending more money on buying farms and N$7.75 billion on the Green Scheme, government is showing that it is out of touch with the needs of the masses.

This is not to say buying commercial agriculture land and the Green Schemes are not important. They are, but providing affordable urban land has become urgent, and should be treated as such.

With no clear strategy from the government to address the shortage of urban land, unfortunately most of our landless citizens will have no choice but to join Amupanda’s movement for in that movement, they seem to have any hope of getting their needs addressed.

Amupanda set the tone this week by saying he has an army of 30,000 landless citizens who are willing to work for free to service urban land.

It will be interesting to see what government’s response to this proposal would be.

In the meantime, its tick tock.

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