Both the Namibia Press Agency and New Era Publication Corporation have heaped praise on the government for a combined budgetary allocation of N$54.5 million for this financial year.
The entities’ CEOs state that as non-commercial entities, the two parastatals have in recent years struggled making ends meet and executing their core mandates of informing, entertaining and educating all Namibians, irrespective of their economic statuses.
For the current financial year, for instance, New Era received N$27 million, N$17 million more or 37% more than what it received for the past three financial years.
“NEPC will continue to disseminate pertinent information through its daily newspaper, New Era, reporting on community and government-related issues,” information minister, Peya Mushelenga told parliament this week during his budget motivation.
The corporation’s CEO Christof Maletsky said the allocation will come in handy.
“NEPC received $10 million per annum for the past three years. In the past, the corporation used to get a subsidy of around N$33m to N$35m, but we understand why it was reduced by more than 70%,” the veteran journalist said.
Maletsky is not oblivious to the economic hardship the country has faced in general and their shareholder, government, in particular.
“The cut in our budget came when the economy went through a tough time due to various factors. As such, we, as a non-commercial entity, found ourselves in very challenging circumstances and an unpredictable business environment,” he said.
The situation had consequences.
“The high levels of inflation, in our case, led to increased paper and print costs. In fact, our costs more than doubled to unsustainable levels. It was worsened by the adverse continued change in the advertising markets,” he asserted.
He continued: “In that context, the new budgetary allocation will help us cushion the pressure on the operational budget as well as accelerate the process of evolving our business model. The board and management have prioritised diversification of income and the generation of new revenue sources as the route to self-sustainability.”
The soft-spoken Maletsky said the money will also be invested in creating and driving new platforms and membership models that will generate better income.
Nampa, on the other hand, got N$27.5 million for the 2023-24 financial year “to enable them to carry their responsibility of informing, educating and entertaining our nation towards the realisation of our developmental goals.”
The agency’s CEO Linus Chata echoed Maletsky’s sentiments.
“For us, It’s a welcome development. That amount [N$27.5 million] is almost double compared to what we have been receiving for the past few years,” Chata said.
For the better part of the last five years, Nampa’s budget has ranged between N$14 million and N$15 million.
“As a non-commercial entity, we survive heavily on government subsidy,” he noted.
Now that the funding has increased, Chata said some of the funds will be used to upgrade Nampa’s dilapidated IT infrastructure with a view to improve journalist and general staff’s work.
“We also want to beef up staff, especially journalists, whether on a full-time basis or as freelancers,” he said, noting the latter option was more cost-effective.
Nampa “wants to have a footprint across the country,” he added.
Chata will also look to improve employee conditions of service and resolve other existing internal labour related issues.
“Even if we can add a dollar, why not?” he said.
Meanwhile, public broadcaster NBC took up the lion’s share of the ministry’s budget of N$651.4 million.
The broadcaster was allocated N$310.3 million to finance operational costs while N$82 million is earmarked towards its developmental budget to upgrade the remote rural broadcast networks, dilapidated studios and equipment.
Spokesperson Beaulah Boois-Beukes said, “the NBC dependents heavily on its shareholder for funding in order to carry out its strategic intent linked to informing, educating and entertaining the nation. In the 2022/23 financial year, the shareholder (government) contributed 80% of the funding towards the operation of the business and the reminder 20% was solicited from own revenue generation initiatives.”
She also said, “the budget allocation is fairly sufficient as it will propel the institution to achieve its key objectives and priorities.
The NBC will complement the subsidy allocation with its own revenue initiatives, and reduce the operational cost as embedded in the corporation's integrated strategy business plan.”
The ministry also allocated N$67.5 million to enhance the government’s information dissemination drive as well as the implementation of the nationhood and national pride programme (NNP).
The NNP aims to ingrain the spirit of patriotism, nationhood and national pride among Namibians.
Of this amount, N$20 million has been reserved for the establishment of the Information Commissioner’s Office to prepare for the full implementation of the Access to Information Act.
“The access to information legislation will ensure that our citizens have unhindered access to information that will enable them to make informed decisions about their lives and their livelihoods, allow them to participate in the democratic processes, and enhance transparency and accountability which are the cornerstone in building public trust,” the scholar-cum-politician said.
Mushelenga buttressed: “As part of putting mechanisms in place to pave the way for the full implementation of this legislation, the ministry has already started capacitating government communications officers from all offices, ministries and agencies of the State to prepare them for the implementation of this important legislation.”