A recently released income and expenditure survey released by the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) has touched a raw nerve for suggesting that poverty levels in the country have gone down while many Namibians in the low inclome earning bracket and unemployed still struggle to make ends meet.
Most analysts who this week descrbed the survey illusive, cautioning that Namibians should not celebrate the alleged achievement too soon.
Exclusively engaging with The Villager, almost all the analysts viewed the recent statistics with disapproval, stressing that poverty cannot be measured in figures.
Renowned economic analyst Henning Melber said that NSA needs to explain what criteria were applied to arrive at the conclusion that a 10 percent reduction in poverty levels were achieved.
Melber said that if NSA had purely used monetary income to measure the poverty levels, then the survey overlooked other important components of poverty.
“It is interesting to compare this with the data presented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in its Human Development Report for 2015. Its (UNDP) Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) measures poverty not only in terms of monetary income but adds other criteria for deprivation,” Melber noted.
He further explained that based on 2013 data, 23.5% of the population were classified as living below the income poverty line, while 44.9% were falling into the multi poverty category and another 19.3% were classified as living near the MPI.
This means that, according to the UNDP, almost two-thirds of Namibia’s people are living in or close to conditions of multidimensional poverty, The Villager understands.
Melber also confided that one does not necessarily need such data, contrast one set of figures with another set of figures or use a different methodological approach to measure poverty.
“It is enough to visit the wild settlements in the vicinity of Namibian towns and cities to see the daily realities of destitution and the struggle for survival. Social realities speak louder than figures, and they have a human face. This face is a painful reminder that we have failed to deliver a minimum of material security and human dignity to all Namibians,” he stressed.
Dr. Omu Kakujaba, an analyst in his own right, also shared his views with this publication, stating that while the decrease in poverty was in actual fact not bad news, the pace at which this decrease had been realized remains questionable.
Kakujaba scoffed at the statistics, highlighting that the numbers availed to the public were not significant enough to show that there was a serious dent made to redice poverty.
He opined that numbers do not necessary speak of the realities on the ground, echoing Melber’s sentiments that going around to see how people actually live makes gives a better picture about the levels of poverty people are wallowing in the country.
“Saying that poverty has decreased by 10 percent is good news but it does not show us the full picture. You should not start celebrating because the Namibian population has not seen the difference yet. What we are seeing is more important than statistics,” he said.
Quest Consult economic analyst, James Cumming, also rubbished the report, while stamping out that majority of Namibians were still wallowing in poverty, giving no reason to celebrate the NSA statistics.
“Namibia still has a long way to go. Looking at the current drought, if it continues, there will be lots of pressure on government finances and also in terms of providing drought relief aid for people. The number of people claiming for drought relief aid will increase and this will make it more difficult to raise people out of poverty,” Cumming said.
He added that without economic growth, job creation, increases in taxes, there will not be a “seen” reduction in poverty in the next few years.
“There might be some relief now but it’s still going to be hard work and difficult to get people out of poverty. Government finances are already stressed and I don’t see them borrowing more money to give in terms of social programs,” said Cumming.
Meanwhile, the Namibia Household Income and Expenditure Survey (NHIES) 2015/2016 is the fourth of its kind to be conducted in independent Namibia.
It is a household based survey designed to collect data on income and expenditure patterns of households, it is also the first NHIES to be carried out by the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA).
The main objective of the NHIES 2015/2016 is to provide social economic indicators to support planning, policy formulation, decision making and research and development for a knowledge based economy in order to eradicate poverty and income inequalities in Namibia.
According to the Poverty and Deprivation in Namibia report for 2015, compiled by the National Planning Commission, Namibia’s real GDP growth went up by 0.3% in 2009, 5.1% in 2011 and 5.1 in 2013.
The report also reveals that between 2011 and 2015, Namibia registered an average growth rate of 4.3%, with an unemployment rate of 29.6% and poverty incidence of 26.9%.
While the highest incident of poverty was observed in the rural areas of, Kavango, Oshikoto, Zambezi, Kunene and Ohangwena regions.
Also 21% of the 568 418 poor people in the country are in Kavango region, while Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions account for 15% and 14% of people living in poverty.
Statistics made available by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) on poverty and inequality in Namibia, indicates that soon after independence the number of poor people decrease from 58% in 1993/94 to 38% in 2003/04.