NSA hails government poverty eradication efforts

Statistician General Alex Shimuafeni has applauded government initiatives for contributing to a reduction of the overall poverty levels by 10.7percent and inequality in income distribution which showed a slight reduction of 2.5 percent points.  

Speaking to The Villager, Shimuafeni has heralded Geingob’s food bank initiative, government’s war veteran benefits and old people’s pensions as having come in time to translate to a notable reduction of the population which is poor, albeit by a small margin.

“If you look at the interventions that government has put up, they are quite significant, the increase of the pensions, the food banks and the war veteran monthly allowances. But also, the reduction is not as rapid as we would want while inflation is also coming up in a growing population but it is very encouraging to see that there is a reduction,” said Shimuafeni. 

Although indepth analysis by the NSA is yet to be conducted, there has been a notably overall reduction in the proportion of the population which is poor from 28.7 percent in 2009/2010 to 18 percent in 2015/2016.

“With regard to income distribution which is measured by the GINI Coefficient, a slight reduction of 2.5percent points was observed from the survey of 2009/2010 to the one of 2015/2016. The GINI Coefficient now stands at 0.572 (or 57.2% GINI Index) a reduction from 0.597 (or 59.7 percent GINI Index) that was recorded in 2009/2010,” he also said.

Currently Namibia is recognised as one of the most unequal economy with an uneven wealth distribution while government has taken on the NEEEF initiative in an attempt to bridge the growing disparaging gap between the haves and the haves-not.

“You can try to move people who are from a low income background closer to the high income earners so that you can close up the gap but the challenge is, if the high income earners are also increasing more and more then you will not be able to catch up. The government interventions may close that gap, if you talk about food donations and so on, that can also close the gap of income inequality,” said Shimuafeni.

 The report on the current statistics considered any person who was not able to at least spend N$389.30 per month on basic necessities as severely poor while those who could not at least spend N$520.80 per month on basic needs as poor.

In total, 132 282 persons are reported as not being able to afford to buy the minimum (2100 kcal) calories per day while 11.0 percent of the population (250 879) are still trapped below the lower bound poverty line with 18.0 percent of the population (410 529) still being below the upper bound poverty line.

A poverty line is a threshold set to distinguish or classify persons or households as poor and non-poor while in Namibia the choice is to use the absolute poverty lines (measured in monetary values)which is based on the cost of basic needs approach.

Meanwhile, NSA has raised concerns over people from high income neighborhoods especially around Khomas and Erongo as not willing to contribute to the NSA surveys despite a law being in place to prosecute such.

“We normally just do not want to go out there and enforce the law, we want people to freely provide information, and we will continue to work with the media to create awareness on the importance of statistics. When we come to households at least they can cooperate and provide information,” said Liina Kafidi, an executive from the Demographic and Social Statistics Department. 

Fresh statistics coming from the NSA further indicate that household sizes are fast becoming less while the number of households in the country are increasing.

“This is a good thing because you can manage a household and take care of it. The poverty profiles in the previous surveys indicate that the bigger households are the ones living in poverty compared to those that are smaller. So this is a good indication,” said Kafidi.

However Manager of Surveys and Field Operations Ottilie Mwazi said that the ball has been rolled into the government’s court and stakeholders to, based on the statistics, come up with more interventions to rescue the majority of Namibians wallowing in poverty.

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“What we do with inequality is, from the statistics agency we collect that data and pass it on, that’s why we have the National Planning Commission, the regional council, it’s now up to the government and stakeholders to do the planning to come up with interventions,” she said.