Middle Income Countries to Review Status

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By Petronella Sibeene

WINDHOEK

About 400 delegates from countries classified as middle income are scheduled to converge in Windhoek in August for an international conference on their countries’ statuses, as well as the international obligations for development cooperation.

Yesterday, the Director General of the National Planning Commission, Professor Peter Katjavivi, briefed ambassadors and high commissioners in Namibia about ongoing preparations regarding the upcoming third International Ministerial Conference.

President Hifikepunye Pohamba will officially open the conference that takes place on August 4-6.

Namibia is one of the many countries classified as middle income.

According to the World Bank, in 2005 the middle-income countries group comprised 93 countries or territories with per capita income between US$766 and US$9,385 (2003 rate).

The group is further broken down into two sub-groups – lower middle income, embracing 56 countries with per capita incomes of between US$766 and US$3,035, and upper middle income, comprising 38 countries with per capita incomes of between US$3,035 and US$9,385.

Thus, the middle-income countries group as a whole accounts for nearly 60 percent of what are conventionally regarded as developing countries, which number over 130.

Of this total, 77 countries (and seven territories) are also considered as middle income by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and Development Assistance Committee (DAC)
Although Namibia is regarded as a middle-income country, Government strongly feels that the country should be categorised among the least developed countries because the measure used to classify Namibia does not necessarily reflect the situation on the ground.

Permanent Secretary of the National Planning Commission, Mocks Shivute, explained to New Era that Namibia qualifies for the status (middle-income country) because of its Gross Domestic Product.

However, a comparison between the highest and lowest income brackets in the country confirms the vastness of the gap in wealth distribution.

“It’s (status definition) based on figures and not necessarily on the distribution of resources. We feel the classification is not fitting, {when one} looks at the distribution in the economy,” Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hinyangerwa Asheeke, said.

The country’s categorisation as a middle-income country has rendered it rare assistance in terms of international donor funding and preferential loans, he added.

Both Shivute and Asheeke argue that there is a very thin line in terms of difference between Namibia’s situation and that of a least developed country.

The disadvantage for Namibia as a middle-income country is that it is conditioned to pay exorbitant interest rates in loan repayments compared to a least developed country, Asheeke said.

He added that there is need for the World Bank to re-look at Namibia’s special needs.

Katjavivi yesterday said about 40 percent of the world’s poor live in middle-income countries. Of late, these countries have been emphasising that the international community neglects them and they fear they may not be able to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“A salient truth behind the middle-income countries is that these countries face similar problems like the least developed countries,” Katjavivi said.

Since last year, these countries identified a need to work together to consolidate and put forward their cases. The first and second conferences were hosted in Spain in March and El Salvador in October last year.

Representatives of 80 middle-income countries and international organisations such as the World Bank, United Nations, Africa Development Bank and the Development Bank of Southern Africa will attend the conference that takes place in Namibia.

During the two days of deliberations, the conference will look at ways and means to accelerate the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals.

Katjavivi indicated that the conference would discuss the challenges of financing that face these countries as well as cooperation for mitigating the negative impact of the global food crisis on development efforts.

Enhancing the competitiveness of middle-income countries, financing of human and institutional capacity building, energy for sustainable development and these countries’ wellbeing beyond 2015, will similarly form part of the deliberations.

The outcome of the conference, Katjavivi said, would be a Windhoek Ministerial Declaration that will be submitted to the 64th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in September this year.

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