The cushy life of Namibian diplomats could soon subside, with government planning to review their packages as part of its on-going cost cutting measures and review of its bloated civil servant wage bill, the Windhoek Observer can reveal.
Diplomatic postings are one of the most sort after positions in government because of their financial benefits and had seen those in government jostling to be selected for a positing.
Currently civil servants posted outside the country as diplomats receive two payments from government, one being their salary from their previous job which is deposited locally and a foreign currency component availed to them as an allowance in the country posted.
Besides providing accommodation to the 165 diplomats posted outside the country, government also contributes towards school fees of the diplomat’s children and annual flights to Namibia.
“I am still concerned about a bloated wage bill and I am of the opinion that overly generous salary packages, wherever they exist must be reviewed. This may include the areas that you have mentioned,” Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein said.
“We must review the entire wage bill and all its facets.”
Executive Director of the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation, Selma Ashipala – Musavyi said the ministry had already implemented its own cost cutting measures, which include reducing embassy staff and reducing travel by diplomats accredited to more than one country.
“As a Ministry we are very aware of the tough economic condition we are facing and as a Ministry we have also made some reviews to cut costs,” she said.
She said the allowances paid to diplomats was meant to cushion them during their diplomatic posting.
“It’s not a double salary, but they paid an allowance in the currency of the country they are posted and this is to cushion them and this is because of their special circumstances and this varies depending on where one is. It’s called a cost of living allowance.”
Of the N$941.3 million allocated to the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation in the 2019/2020 financial year, N$587.2 million has been allocated for the operational costs of Namibian missions and posts abroad, with part of funds being allocated towards the opening of an embassy in the United Arab Emirates and a general consulate in Lubumbashi, DRC .
The Ministry has announced plans to acquire its own diplomatic mission premises instead of renting in host countries, to curb costs.
The package review plans by government comes as it battles to contain its huge wage bill, with policy interventions by the Finance ministry aimed at reducing the government wage bill as a proportion of GDP from the current 15.5 percent to about 12.5 percent over the medium to long-term.
According to Namibia Fiscal Policy Analysis for March 2019, governments implementation of early retirement could reduce about eight percent of its budget deficit and save N$670.5 million in personnel related expenditure if it moves ahead with plans to retire civil servants between the ages of 55-59 years.
President Hage Geingob in his state of the nation address, has also raised concern over the bloated public wage bill that is currently at N$29.3 billion.
The issue of diplomats posting and perks , comes as the Development of Namibia was forced to defend its decision to freeze the post of its Senior Communications Manager , Jerome Mutumba following his appointment as Deputy Chief of Mission of the Namibian embassy in Washington DC in the United States.