Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare, Zephania Kameeta, says plans are in the pipeline to expand social protection systems in the new financial year by targeting vulnerable groups such as women and children with the envisaged introduction of the Basic Income Grant (BIG).
Kameeta said this on Wednesday during a meeting with staff members of his ministry.
He said the ministry is committed to increasing the coverage of social grants in order to reach all eligible beneficiaries.
According to Kameeta, the ministry recorded an overall increase in the number of social grant recipients from 204,621 beneficiaries in 2016/17 to 211,447 during the 2017/18 financial year.
The Old Age Grant beneficiaries increased from 165,376 to 170,386 and the Disability Grant beneficiaries increased from 39,245 to 41,061, Kameeta said.
The minister further said the Social Protection Draft Policy is at an advanced stage after the successful hosting of the Social Protection Workshop in 2018.
The policy is expected to create a comprehensive social protection system, which is efficient and effective in addressing risks and vulnerabilities that people face at different stages of their lives.
The document is awaiting stakeholders’ feedback for further consideration in 2019.
Currently, the ministry is distributing food to about 17,000 beneficiaries in the Khomas, Karas, Hardap, Kavango East and Kavango West regions as part of the Food Bank programme which was introduced on 30 June 2017.
Around N$70 million has already been utilised for the acquisition of food parcels and administration of the Food Bank programme in the 2018/19 financial year.
“In 2019, more roll-outs of Food Bank will commence with consultations with regional councils ongoing with the aim that the Food Bank will operate in all 14 regions in Namibia.”
Kameeta said the ministry was faced with many challenges last year such as the fragmentation of the social protection systems in Namibia.
“We are confident that the social protection policy that will address all overlapping issues and make sure that our people are covered comprehensively and make sure that all vulnerabilities will be covered.
“The ministry also noted during the year that the issue of unemployment continues to haunt the nation in general. As long as there is unemployment and no opportunities for people to become employed then the task of eradicating poverty becomes more demanding and challenging,” Kameeta said.
The ministry has not been spared from the effects of the current economic challenges which have affected its abilities to expand its programmes because of fewer resources allocated to it.
“We are hopeful that higher economic growth will return and that the nation will recover from this past economic contraction we have been experiencing as a nation,” the minister said.
He said despite the challenges of budgetary constraints, lack of cooperation from stakeholders and lack of manpower, the ministry was able to execute its mandate to a more than satisfactory level.
“This, however, does not mean that our job is done. The new year lies ahead with even more uncertainty, but with collective effort I am sure we can make 2019 an even more successful year,” the minister said.