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Speaker opens virtual budget review meeting, 28 May 2020

Speaker of the National Assembly, Professor Peter Katjavivi addressing lawmakers and other participants through video conferencing when he opened the budget review virtual meeting

 

  Story by George Sanzila

Windhoek - As is customary every year, the Speaker of National Assembly, Professor Peter Katjavivi today officiated at the opening of a budget review meeting that is intended to scrutinise the responsiveness of the more than N$72 billion national budget that was tabled by Finance minister, Iipumbu Shiimi yesterday (27/05/2020).

What does not seem to be customary though, is the manner in which the meeting was conducted as it was opened virtually for the first time in response and compliance with the state of emergency regulations due to the COVID – 19 pandemic.

Speaking to participants through video conferencing and quoting the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Katjavivi noted that parliament was not exempted from observing public health measures put in place despite the institution’s critical role. He however added that there was a need to adapt to the new normal.

“Parliaments are currently subject to the same public health and social distancing measures as schools, places of worship or businesses. Yet in a time of crisis, the role of parliament is more vital than ever to pass emergency laws, allocate resources and scrutinize government action. We have had to adapt to the change”, said Katjavivi while delivering his message online.

The meeting, facilitated by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung involved the participation of economic experts who also made their presentations virtually under the theme “National Budget 2020/21. Does it respond towards mitigating the impact of Covid 19”. Members of parliament were equally given a chance to participate in the online meeting.

 

Parliament resumed its business on Tuesday with the Appropriation Bill topping its list of engagements. The first session of the 7th Parliament that begun on the 24th of March this year was halted due to the outbreak of the pandemic.

The debate on the second reading of the Appropriation Bill is scheduled to take place next week Tuesday and Wednesday respectively to be followed by the State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday by President Dr. Hage Geingob.

In continuing to adhere to state of emergency regulations, the National Assembly has further installed hand sanitizer dispensers at strategic places, temperature screenings as well as wearing of masks. Only 50 members of parliament are currently allowed in the chamber for the proceedings while other lawmakers make use of the conference rooms through teleconferencing facilities.

 

George Sanzila works for the Division, Research, Information, Publications and Editorial Services at the National Assembly.

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