Namibia: Cuba Offers Pricy Deal
Tagged: Education, External Relations, Health, Latin America and Africa,
Namibia, Southern Africa
By Denver Kisting, 2 October 2012
THE Namibian taxpayer will fork out N$70 million to finance the training
of 100 doctors in Cuba over six years, if a proposal to be discussed
with Cuba is approved. Under the agreement it will cost the country
N$705 000 to train one doctor in Cuba.
The cost of training a doctor in South Africa, China, Russia or Bulgaria
is estimated at about N$498 000.
However, Namibia can only send a limited number of students to countries
like South Africa because of quota systems there.
Should the Namibian government decide to increase the number of medical
students in Cuba to 250, the cost will be reduced to N$622 500 per
student over six years, the agreement stipulates.
At the end of 2011, 22 Namibian students had completed their medical
training abroad, while 26 are expected to complete their training by the
end of this year.
Currently, Government has 336 medical students at various institutions,
including the medical school of the University of Namibia (Unam).
Of the 247 medicine and pharmacy students at the Unam medical school,
about 82% are Namibians while about 18% are international students, says
Unam spokesperson Utaara Hoveka.
According to a document seen by The Namibian, Health Minister Richard
Kamwi has expressed concern about the number of qualified Namibian
doctors – especially those working for the State.
"Currently, many of the Namibian-trained doctors are not able to work
and stay longer in the public service, because of the wages that are not
market related as well as the burden of repayment of loans to [the
Ministry of] Education."
Andrew Ndishishi, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and
Social Services, last week confirmed that a training agreement with Cuba
was on the cards.
Yesterday, when again approached for comment, he said: "No, no, I don't
want to talk to you. Whatever I say is not important."
Last week, The Namibian reported that the two countries were also
negotiating a deal for medical personnel that would cost the taxpayer
N$1,3 million per person over a two-year period – close to 50% more than
the current agreement.
Currently, the fee is N$647 621 per person. There are 52 Cuban medical
personnel in the country as part of the current agreement.
The fees Cuba wants to charge Namibia for medical personnel from that
country "have no relation whatsoever with the prevailing market rates
applicable in the public service within southern Africa as a whole", a
document seen by The Namibian states.
Because of this, there is a fear that the local market will be
destabilised, the document warns.
Destabilising the market would push up the cost of medical care, which
is already high, it warns.
Moreover, there are concerns that the new agreement will add fuel to the
fire in the public servants' wage talks.
About this in relation to training Namibian doctors, the document seen
by the newspaper states: "If one compares what is required to pay for a
Cuban doctor to work for only a period of two years as per the new
agreement, the investment of the training of 250 Namibian doctors who
will remain here permanently is therefore attractive."
The document further states that "Namibia may indicate its willingness
to pay a fair price but it must be comparable to the domestic labour
market and may not be introduced abruptly but gradually to avoid [a]
negative effect on our budgeting system and to prevent potential labour
disputes which may disrupt service delivery."