BIG Coalition responds to consultancy on evaluating blueprint on wealth distribution and poverty eradication
The Basic Income Grant (BIG) Coalition of Namibia has taken note that the Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare is inviting proposals for the evaluation of the Ministry’s policy framework “Blueprint on Wealth Distribution and Poverty Eradication” 2017/18-2019/20.
While we appreciate that external evaluations of government policies can be helpful to identify successes and shortcomings in their implementation, this particular consultancy raises questions.
Evaluations need to be based on actual programmes being rolled out and we wonder if there are currently any substantive initiatives worth evaluating. When the Ministry was established in 2015, the Minister and some of the leading staff travelled to all the regions to learn about the ideas and proposals there. One of the issues which were continuously raised was the need to introduce a universal Basic Income Grant (BIG).
Following these regional consultations, the ministry then prepared the Blueprint on “Wealth Distribution and Poverty Eradication” but only one new initiative was taken, namely the introduction of the Food Bank. This initiative was controversial from its inception in terms of reach, identification of intended beneficiaries and respect for their dignity. Following what seems an unpublished and internal evaluation of the food bank, it was converted recently into a cash grant for selected households in 2 regions.
In 2019, the ministry presented the draft policy on social protection which strongly argued for the immediate implementation of a universal child grant. However, this has still not been implemented despite the strong empirical evidence that the current targeted child grant fails to reach a large number of children in need.
Contrary to the wishes and proposals emanating from the regional consultations, the draft policy proposed a BIG for the unemployed between 30 and 59 years of age. This does not constitute a BIG at all and is merely an unemployment grant. This proposal is unsuitable for Namibia and is now being reviewed. We urge the ministry to follow the overwhelming evidence of the numerous social-economic benefits of a universal BIG which must be a central pillar of Namibia’s post-Covid recovery strategy.
In light of these developments, we call on the ministry to first roll out substantive programmes like the universal child grant and the BIG and then evaluate their redistributive and anti-poverty impacts. The current call for a consultancy to evaluate a blueprint that has not resulted in visible new programmes seems a waste of scarce resources that could be used in the fight against poverty. It is time to take decisive action, Namibians deserve nothing less!