Bon Must Investigate Commercial Banks [opinion]

While we face a housing backlog of epic proportions, financial institutions build multi-million-dollar mega structures.

I recently attended the Green Building Council of Namibia (GBCNA) 2015 convention held in Windhoek between April 21 and 24, 2015. I have certainly learnt a lot from the four-day convention, which covered some very interesting topics including the savings which corporate companies can make using basic energy consumption management techniques.

Various site visits in and around Windhoek were afforded to the GBCNA delegation on the last day. I was particularly interested in the presentation on the new FNB freedom plaza building in Windhoek by the project manager from WSP Group Africa (Pty) Ltd. I was shocked at the amount of skills and technical expertise, which has been imported from neighbouring South Africa. During the site tour of the FNB Freedom Plaza, I was reminded of Sandton, Johannesburg. Sandton is the most expensive business area per square metre in Africa.

The FNB Freedom Plaza building consists of an array of automated doors, smoke tinted bulletproof 30mm thick safety glass, with marble cladding on the outside of the building, which will no doubt offer ultimate thermal comfort conditions for its future occupants. What concerns me is the money being poured into this mega structure while we face a major basic housing backlog for many of our people. According to my calculations, this has to be the most expensive private corporate building per square metre in Namibia.

It seems that this structure has been built for the super-rich to bank their money. We say it is not only government’s responsibility to provide dignified housing for those who do not earn enough to qualify for standard finance loans. My question is: is it not the private sector’s corporate social responsibility to assist the country’s housing backlog needs?

Where is the money coming from to build these mega structures and multi-million-dollar apartments constructed throughout Windhoek? Can the governor of the Bank of Namibia please explain this?

I could have constructed 100 000 dignified, bankable, free from bank repossession housing for people under the breadline using the same budget funding allocated for this mega structure. In addition, I believe we should change the term “low-cost, a phrase associated with apartheid, and change it to “affordable dignified” housing. These houses should be constructed and designed to reduce fire risk and focus on occupational health and safety. These same affordable housing units should also carry at least a 10-year guarantee against structural defects and should also include two insurance policy maintenance schedules, the first after five years and again on the anniversary of the 10th year. By implementing a proper “mass housing” delivery plan, I believe that houses constructed on international standards will serve future generations thus in the long-term reduce the pressure on our Government. In conclusion, I also believe that commercial banks are discriminating between the different races and tribes when it comes to the appointment of senior banking personnel. We need an independent commission, which can handle complaints from the average man in the street. Do we have a banking Ombudsman in Namibia, which can handle reports of corruption and discrimination? I feel that our new Government needs to look into establishing an independent board to monitor our four major Namibian banks.

Source : New Era