By Eliaser Ndeyanale
RALLY for Democracy and Progress [RDP] parliamentarian, Mike Kavekotora, says the Lotteries Bill in its current form, amounts to an introduction of hidden tax on the poor, and once passed, will effectively nullify the efforts being undertaken by the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare.
Kavekotora was speaking in the National Assembly, where Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta has tabled the Lotteries Bill, which once enacted will regulate the creation and operation of a national lottery. The idea behind the lottery is that it will be a way for the government to raise revenue – specifically for fighting poverty under the Harambee Prosperity Plan.
However, Kavekotora said that a State lottery would prey on those who could least afford it – the poor.
He said further that the State lottery will effectively redistribute wealth from the poor to the rich, in terms administration costs and commissions to the stores selling the lottery tickets.
“You are directly encroaching on their take home income, thereby reducing their disposable income. This piece of legislation, once approved in this August House, will prey on those who can least afford to play the lottery. This is a clear indication that we have run out of ideas,” he said.
“The side-effect is that the gap between the rich and the poor will widen, thereby repudiating and nullifying efforts undertaken by the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare. In essence, this contradicts the notion of poverty alleviation,” Kavekotora continued.
“It is on this basis of the above that the RDP does not support such a piece of legislation. I suggest the honourable minister goes back to the drawing board and assesses the socio-economic impact of this legislation on our low-income earners.”
DTA MP Jennifer van Den Heever said that the bill takes advantage of the poor, and could lead to an increase in gambling-related addiction.
“As we know, the chances of winning are very slim. This means that they (the people) will keep playing and playing… it is this behavioural pattern that will cause addiction,” she said, while also proposing that the bill should contain provisions that make it compulsory for the administrator of the State lottery to run anti-gambling educational awareness campaigns.
Elma Dienda, also from the DTA, asked if people, especially underprivileged, will not be pushed into deeper poverty.
“How many success stories are there to share of poor people, who not only become rich through lotteries, but actually maintain their new standard of living?” she asked.
Dienda further suggested that the State lottery should be implemented with financial literacy programmes, in order to educate people about how to manage their money efficiently, and avoid the gambling addiction trap.
A report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), titled ‘The State lottery comes to Namibia’, also raises concerns about the lack of detail in the Lotteries Bill, saying this could lead to the proceeds of the lottery being spent on undeserving causes.
“It is worrying that a handful of people will decide on spending all this money, with so little guidance from the law, as to what counts as a good cause,” the IPPR said.
According to IPPR, the draft bill is very vague on how the money will be distributed.
“While the Harambee Prosperity Plan speaks of ‘poverty eradication’ projects, this wording is not in the bill.”
The bill gives the minister the power to appoint a Lotteries Board, to run the lottery and control the State Lottery Trust. The board either decides to run the lottery by themselves, or to give a licence to a company to run the lottery. The lottery is played with the board setting the rules on how and where tickets are sold, and what they will cost, what the prizes will be, how winners are drawn and how the prizes are claimed.
Swapo MPs have, however, defended Lotteries Bill in the National Assembly.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, said that the bill was not drafted yesterday, and that it will also control the “mushrooming” of lotteries in the country. She further urged legislators not only to focus on the disadvantages of the bill, but to pay special attention to the draft legislation, as it has many advantages.
“It’s not a bill that was drafted yesterday or last year, it has been lying on the table (for many years)… when it comes to lotteries, we have to accept that this bill is going to control the mushrooming of lotteries in Namibia. If you look at our TV, all these SMS competitions, like Winna Mariba, are not regulated.
Swapo Secretary-General Nangolo Mbumba said, “We must not kill the bill, because of the advice we got from our forefathers.”
Explaining his comment, Mbumba said that he had been advised by his grandfather not to gamble.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015