Opposition concerned with price inflation amid Covid-19
By Maria Kandjungu
MEMBERS of opposition parties in parliament have expressed their concern with price inflation during the Covid-19 pandemic asking government to put up measures to ensure that businesses do not hike prices and profit at the expense of the public.
Popular Democratic Movement parliamentarian, Vipuakuje Muharukua and leader of the Landless People Movement Bernadus Swartbooi especially expressed their concern with the procurement of products for government amid suspension of the normal procurement process saying that it leaves room for price inflation and corrupt practices.
Muharukua stated that while other countries have put up measures to prevent inflating of prices and left it to the law to deal with those found in contravention, Namibia still had no clear measures in place.
“If you go today at the retail shops, prices have gone up to probably something close to 14 percent and this is at the time when people’s pockets are affected adversely.
We have an emergency of our hand… that goes with the prospect of those who want to benefit from this at the expense of the health of the nation.
I think as a nation we must also holster our approach because, in as much as Namibians are suffering, we also need to ensure that business does not unduly increase the prices for the people,” he urged.
The opposition MP also noted that government must pay extra attention to prices inflation when availing money to procure items during the pandemic, especially to the Ministry of Health adding that there was need to ensure that the goods received are price worthy.
“We must endeavour to do everything in our powers to ensure that the procurement process currently being discussed does not remain silent about the inflating of prices in the public procurement.”
Muharukua added that it does not make sense to set apart millions, for instance, to build toilets, if at the in the end they only get products worth half of the money spent.
“I also hope you will do wider consultations on the formula and the measure [to put in place] because government has a tendency to consult the actual players leaving out the affected community members. If your consultations only end with the ministry and the seller then it does not take in consideration the society.”
Also speaking on the issue, Swartbooi expressed concern with people involved in corruption under the disguise of Covid-19, saying with the suspension of the normal procurement process and other usual proceedings, the regulations and measures of Covid-19 are facilitating corruption.
According to him some of the measures put up by government seem to stretch Covid-19 beyond the appropriate and necessary measure.
The LPM leader who is of the view that the lockdown rules are extreme, stated that the measures are not produced on the basis of thorough consultations for the opposition to vouch for the decision taken.
According to him, in absence of consultations, it is hard for the opposition to say whether the decisions taken in light of the pandemic were rational or objective.
In response Justice Minister Yvonne Dausab stated that a discussion on measures to control pricing are still taking place.
“So, on the table at the moment there is directive from the Ministry of Trade and Industrialisation that is intended to deal with price inflation or limiting price exploitation during the pandemic and deal with unfair pricing during the pandemic.”
According to Dausab there are challenges when it comes to questions around the constitutional text relating to the role of Namibian Competition Commission in dealing with unfair competition and when it comes to price control.
Dausab further added that there is also a proposed formula on how government will put in measures to test whether or not cost and price that is determined is different from what was prior to Covid-19. That discussion is still taking place.