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Namibia fishing auction for COVID-19 cash flops

WINDHOEK, Sept 30 (Reuters) - A fisheries auction in Namibia meant to pay for COVID-19 care has flopped, after bidders stumped up barely 1.3% of the $38 million offers accepted, the finance minister said on Wednesday.

The government blamed speculators for the failure.

In August, the government said it would auction its 60% share of the annual horse mackerel and hake output by the end of October, to raise funds for equipment and medicines.

That 60% quota is normally reserved for state-owned company Fishcor, which has been caught up in a corruption scandal.

It included 11,000 tonnes of hake, 72,000 tonnes of horse mackerel and 392 tonnes of monk. But only 100 tonnes of hake, 1,517 of horse mackerel and 300 of monk had been allocated and paid for, Finance Minister Iipumbu Shiimi told reporters.

Of 628 million Namibian dollars ($37.74 million) in bids accepted, only 8.4 million was paid to the government, the minister said, adding that most of the bidders were speculators without history in the fisheries industry.

“We have learned good lessons from this auction and that will be valuable going forward,” Shiimi said.

“In the future, punitive measures will be introduced including requirements for payment guarantees or bid securities before participation in the auction.”

Namibia, a country of two million, has reported 11,265 cases and 121 deaths since the start of the outbreak in March, but its economy has been devastated and it is seeking 4.5 billion Namibian dollars in emergency loans from the International Monetary Fund.

Fishing is the third biggest contributor to Namibia’s gross domestic product, after mining and agriculture, contributing around 10 billion Namibian dollars in foreign currency earnings annually.

$1 = 16.6410 Namibian dollars Editing by Tim Cocks and Andrew Cawthorne

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