Government to auction developmental quota

Generated funds intended for fight against Covid-19

11 August 2020 | Fishing

Phillip Munenguni; Union leader; “Our leaders are drinking the exact same wine, just from a different bottle.”

Walvis Bay •[email protected]

Government announced its intention to auction its fish quota to the highest bidder.

The minister of fisheries and marine resources, Dr Albert Kawana, said to the fishing industry in a letter dated 27 July 2020, that government is in need of financial resources on an emergency basis with a view to mitigate the effects of Covid-19.

“We do not produce medicines in Namibia nor do we manufacture medical equipment. We are forced to compete for medicines and medical equipment in the international market. The only resource that can speedily give foreign currency is the fisheries. This will allow us to stockpile medical equipment and medicine in this state of emergency,” wrote the minister.

Kawana said that to obtain these items, Namibia must buy them with foreign currency.

“Against the aforementioned background, a decision has been taken to auction the governmental objective quota to the highest bidder. As requested by the industry during the consultation meeting, 40% of the hake and horse mackerel will be reserved for Namibian operating companies with a view to preserve employment. In this regard, local companies will be permitted to compete for the 40% reserved for them.”

The governmental objective quota is usually allocated to the National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (FISHCOR), which is at the centre of the Fishrot scandal.

The minster had already announced in June 2020 that government will auction off the government quota to fund social projects and rural development plans.

"The auction will ensure government collects enough revenue and enhances transparency in the allocation of government quotas as opposed to the old approach," the minister said.

Quota

The quota available for auction is 72 000 metric tons allocated for horse mackerel, of which 40% will be reserved for local companies; 11 000 metric tons for hake of which 40% will be reserved for local companies; and 392 metric tons for monk.

The minister also said that of the 40% reserved for local operating companies, 70% will be freezer and 30% will be wet.

He asked that the various associations inform their members of the decision to prepare themselves.

“This decision took into account the fact that the remaining fishing season is very short, especially for hake which is less than two months. The prospectus for horse mackerel will cost N$1500 and for hake and monk will be N$1000,” the minister said.

Matti Amukwa, the chairman of the confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations, is of the opinion that time is running out for the fishing industry in light of to the decision to auction quotas to local and international bidders.
“We are approaching the end for the hake season, which is the end of September. The horse mackerel season will end in December and the monk season runs from May to April.”

Due diligence

According to Amukwa no modalities have been announced as to the application of the quotas and what the criteria might be.

“How are we going to bring in foreign fishing vessels if borders are closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic? Background checks need to be done on vessels entering our waters, to ensure that it has not been involved with any illegal fishing. There are so many questions about this process and we only have six weeks till the hake season ends. Time won’t stand still and wait for us to set everything in motion,” he said.

Amukwa was adamant that the fishing industry was not properly engaged in terms of the auctioning.

“It was mentioned to us, however there was no action plan put forward. We are trying to Namibianise the industry, yet here we are selling our quotas to the highest bidder. We shouldn’t make decisions which will later come back to haunt us.”

Phillip Munenguni, the vice president of the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUWN), said they are not against the injection of foreign money into Namibia, but are worried about how this process and the funds generated by the move will be managed.

“The problem we have is that quotas were created for certain politicians to receive kickbacks. The way in which it was handled gave rise to one of the biggest corruption scandals in Namibia. This decision creates doubt and we no longer trust the leadership – not even the current minister of fisheries.”

Munenguni questioned how Namibians will know that these quotas won’t be sold to foreigners who will bring their own rules and regulations.

“Once this quota is auctioned to the highest bidder, they can dictate and bring their own workers. We have engineers who still find themselves on the streets with no job prospects.”

Munenguni said that he does not want the industry to fall in the same trap as it did with Fishrot.

“If we needed money so urgently to fight Covid-19, why the delay? Our leaders are simply drinking the same wine, just in a different bottle. We should have learned enormous lessons from Fishrot.”

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