Local economist Mally Likukela says that even though Namibia's investment in social protection is relatively high, assistance is largely geared toward the elderly.

The economist says it's about time the country looked into prioritizing the fastest-growing age group, the youngsters.

Old age, disability, veterans, foster care grants, child maintenance, and vulnerability grants are just some of the more than 30 social programs considered to be instruments of social protection to eradicate poverty and reduce inequalities.

Likukela says that in the 2023–24 budget, more than 50%, or N$3,3 billion, of the non-contributory social protection spending is allocated to the old age grant.

When combined with the veteran benefit, these two accounts represent 65% of total spending, compared to 18% for the child grants.

"We have so many young people in Namibia, and in 2030, we'll have even more young people. Now ask yourself, if there was hunger, which population is more hungry? If there is poverty, which population is poorer? When you budget or allocate your funds, you want to address that. If we are interested in and concerned about the future of this country, we must start investing in the young ones. The more we invest in the elderly, they are our libraries, but I'm saying we need to strike a balance because at the end of the day, we saw the population structure, and in a few years' time, we will have a serious problem," said Likukela.

The recent announcement of an increase in social grants was welcomed by many.

However, the economist questioned whether this would have any impact, considering the inflation.

"What is more important is, can that money buy anything? What is the real value of the expenditure? We know that there are challenges there because of high inflation. For the longest period, we have had N$250 for foster children. Inflation has been growing, and thank God there were some very nice announcements last week that some of the grants will be increased in reflection of the inflation."

Likukela says the composition of the social protection spending is unequal, adding that little of the budget is spent on social care services compared to cash transfers or in-kind services.

The more than 30 social programs fall under the mandate of six key ministries, responsible for other functions.

Likukela says administrative duplication and inefficiencies in the system can therefore cost the government a lot of money.

The economist was speaking at a post-2023/2024 budget analysis and advocacy workshop for the members of Parliament in Windhoek.



Frances Shaahama