Population on Upward Trend

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Namibia’s population is set to rise significantly within the next nine years, while the gap between the rich and the poor is set to widen even further in the near future. The current population of 1,8 million is projected to rise to 2,3 million by the year 2015, with an average annual growth rate of about 2 percent between 2001 and 2015. This is according to the newly launched statistical report of the National and Regional Population Figure Projections 2001-2031 alongside the preliminary report on the Namibia Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2003/2004 (NHIES). Launching the two reports in the capital yesterday, Director General of the National Planning Commission Helmut Angula said the latest projections provide valuable information for planning and decision making purposes, especially in the evaluation of National Development Plan 2 and in formulating NDP3 as well as monitoring implementation of development plans and programmes at national and regional levels. “They provide the basis of guidance for planning, for example future demand for schools, housing, health care and other social services,” said Angula. Addressing close to 40 members of the National Planning Commission and those from the diplomatic Corps, Angula noted that population projections like these make it possible for the commission to estimate the future labour force and consumption of goods and services. Furthermore future population trends also aid in determining the proportions of public funds to be allocated to different sectors including social services. Notable preliminary findings from the Namibia Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2003/2004 say that the average household size in the country has shown a tendency to decline and the rural population is also projected to fall. Furthermore, the literacy levels are set to increase and there are notable improvements on the access of services such as safe drinking water and health care. The NHIES further states that the income distribution in the country is still highly unequal, showing huge discrepancies in society levels with a GINI coefficient of 0,6. “Only 10 percent of the households with the highest income account for nearly the total income, whereas 90 percent stand for the other half,” reads the report. In light of this Namibia is still ranked among the most unequal countries in the world. In addition, the food consumption ratio shows “crude measures of poverty”, where 5 percent of households in the country with the lowest income have a food consumption ratio of 80 and 100 percent, whereas the 2 percent households with the highest income have a food consumption ratio of less than 40 percent. Other summary findings are that the per capita income for the 25 percent households with the lowest income is about N$1 600 compared to almost N$150 000 for the 2 percent households with the highest income. The distribution pattern of the country’s population is said to be similar to the one reported in the 2001 Population and Housing Census of Namibia. Statistics show that Erongo has the smallest average household size of 3,6 persons. Kavango, Ohangwena and Omusati regions have the largest household sizes of 6,4, 6,3 and 5,7 respectively. Due to huge poverty levels, it has become apparent that regions with a high proportion of households and population have a lower average income to survive on, while in “urban areas the per capita income is about three times higher than in rural areas”. Therefore, the Khomas Region topped the list in this regard, while Kavango, Ohangwena and Omusati were the lowest in terms of per capita income. An improvement was visible in the literacy rate countrywide that currently stands at 83 percent. In this regard urban areas show a much higher literacy rate of 94 percent compared to 78 percent in the rural areas. As part of positive development, the Director General further noted, although the findings are mixed and inequalities still persist in the country, the GINI coefficient has shown a drop from 0,7 to 0,6 in the latest survey. Currently the Central Bureau of Statistics is working on producing the final NHIES report by July this year. The last population census was conducted 10 years ago – 1996 to 2001, while the current expenditure to date amounts to about N$40 million.