Govt disillusioned on poverty reduction
Analysts and political scientists believe Government is disillusioned over the reduction of poverty, which they claim has gone down by more than 45% between 2001 and 2011 at a time when Namibians do not have access to production means such as land.
Figures released by Government (National Planning Commission) show that the population living under poverty and extreme poverty has dropped down to 28.7% in the last Census (2011) from the 70% recorded in 2001.
Labour Analyst, Herbert Jauch, said although there has been significant progress in eradicating poverty levels, the statistics released by NPC do not reflect reality the ground.
“The measures used for the official poverty line are setting the bar quite low and thus the actual level of poverty might be higher. However, I have no other, recent data to prove this. This would have to take into account the costs for housing, food, clothing and other basic necessities,” he said.
Jauch suggested poverty measurements should be done in relation to the actual costs of living in Namibia. He also added that more needs to be done to eradicate poverty in Namibia.
“This has to include very wide-ranging programmes like the national introduction of a Basic Income Grant. Improved education, healthcare and systematic employment creation must certainly be intensified as well but the time has come to take a bold step to wipe out poverty. International experiences with cash grants have shown that they are very effective measures in achieving visible results within a short time. A universal BIG would also be extremely cost-effective in terms of administrative costs,” said Jauch.
According to statistics availed by NPC, approximately 568 418 people in the country are living under extreme poverty. The NPC added that approximately 27.6% of households are classified as poor and 13.8% as severely poor.
Typically, people in rural areas are poor and undereducated, with limited access to healthcare, adequate sanitation, gas and electricity supplies.
Political Analyst and the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN) Vice Rector, Dr. Andrew Niikondo, said the 28% does not reflect the current poverty situation. “Eradication and Poverty Elimination is not possible as poverty cannot be uprooted in all totality but it can be alleviated. Even when we look at first world countries, people still live in poverty and eat in dustbins,” said Niikondo.
Niikondo added that, “Something can be done but the challenge is the reduction of the percentage. In order for government to reduce the poverty rate, the gap between the rich and the poor should be reduced. We need to narrow the rich-poor gap, then we can say we are alleviating poverty.”
According Niikondo government has also failed to avail the means of production like land through the ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ policy.
“The willing seller would usually sell a part which was not good for settlement and the government was not eager to buy that land.”
Labour Consultant at Kamuvare Labour Consultants, Eliaser Shiikwa reasoned that for as long as the labour force continues to be remunerated poorly and basic needs remain unregulated, poverty will not be reduced.
He suggested that the population will endure economic struggle and suffering come month-end, advising, that poverty should not be measured on the employment rate alone but on the adequacy of income to survive on.
“My question and concern here is on the accuracy of the data collected if homeless people and the institutional population are excluded. Homeless people are the most poverty stricken to simply be ignored or left out of the data,” said Shiikwa.
Shiikwa added that, “However the question is whether each of these individuals earns enough to not only survive but also be able to save. Statistically 66% is perhaps employed or in the labour force but that does not mean poverty is eradicated or reduced because for as long as the majority in the labour force continue to receive peanuts as remuneration the current 2009 statistics of 28.7% rate is not an accurate indicator.”
Shiikwa added that the reality is majority of the labour force work for survival.
“The same should thus be done by regulating all industries and controlling the charges of high rents and other basic needs. This will help reduce the poverty line in Namibia,” said Shiikwa.
Shiikwa added that even though the Namibia labour force survey of 2012 produced an unemployment rate of 27.4%, a lower rate compared to the previous reported 51.2%, the Namibian Population and Housing Census of 2011 recorded a higher unemployment rate of 37%.
“Given the contradictions of the Namibia labour force survey and Census as to the true reflection of unemployment rate, it is difficult to tell which report is correct but I believe the poverty line rate is slightly higher than 28.7%,” said Shiikwa.
Meanwhile, Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare, Bishop Zephaniah Kameeta, said there are real people who are struggling behind that statistic.
The poverty rate/line is deemed as the number of people living in poverty of which Kameeta noted that despite the number having drastically decreased to 27%, there is a need to know there are still people behind that statistic who do not have adequate resources to live by.
“When the President took the task to start the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare, he wanted to completely deal with the issue of poverty. By 2017, we want to see a big difference in the poverty rate. It is our mandate to deal with poverty but other ministries will also deal with it. I want not only government to deal with poverty but also the public to help fight poverty. We need to educate people on poverty and how to fight it,” said Kameeta.
Geingob takes firm stance on poverty eradication
President Dr. Hage Geingob deemed the poverty rate as exceptional progress, since globally, only a handful of countries have been able to halve the poverty rate over such a short period.
“In absolute terms, more than four hundred thousand Namibians were lifted out of poverty during that period. The introduction of targeted social safety nets, including old age pensions and social grants for people living with disabilities as well as for orphans and vulnerable children have played a significant role in reducing poverty levels in Namibia,” said Geingob.
Geingob went on to say that these statistics are a testament to the work done in alleviating poverty although he stated that the current rate is still high even though it is decreased, saying that even if the poverty rate was at 10%, it would still be too high, and that even if that were to be halved to 5%, it would still be too high.
“The war on poverty is focused on eventual eradication so we will not hide behind statistics as our focus is on sustained poverty reduction measures,” said Geingob.
Geingob also said that the government’s priority was to increase the Old Age Pension by 66.7% from N$600 per month to N$1000 monthly because research carried out by the National Statistics Agency (NSA) shows that the old age pension has played a major role in the prevention of childhood poverty.
Geingob added that in the absence of an old age pension, the childhood poverty rate would have been 10% more than the current figure.
“The war against poverty and the quest for economic emancipation must be a multifaceted war which we will fight on many fronts, using a myriad of methods at our disposal. The first step in the fight against poverty is the recognition that all Namibians deserve a dignified life. A dignified life includes decent employment and decent shelter. This will require the input of Government as well as all employers. Government has and will continue to formulate a legal framework focused on reducing the income gap,” said Geingob.
by Charmaine Ngatjiheue: The Villager l Additional reporting by Jona Musheko and Donalg Matthys