NEWS 2005


Namibia Remains 'The Most Unequal Country' in World

The Namibian (Windhoek)

September 15, 2005
Posted to the web September 15, 2005

Lindsay Dentlinger

NAMIBIA has again claimed the top spot for the country with the greatest income disparity in the world.

A grim United Nations Human Development Report for 2005, released last week, notes that Namibia is the only country with higher income inequality than the overall figure for the world.

This revelation comes at a time when a UN country assessment, also released last week, indicated that a "humanitarian crisis was unfolding in Namibia and the surrounding region" largely because of "the triple threat" of HIV-AIDS, food insecurity and the ineffective delivery of critical social services, especially to the most vulnerable groups.

Using the Gini co-efficient as a yardstick to measure inequality, Namibia ranks at 70,7 on a scale in terms of which 0 represents an ideal, equal society and 100 an indication of total inequality.

Global inequality currently stands at 67.

Latest statistics show that Namibia falls within the range for Sub-Saharan Africa, which has a Gini co-efficient of 72,2.

Compared to other countries in the region, Namibia comes in ahead of South Africa (57,8), Zimbabwe (56,8) and Zambia (52,6).

For Namibia, high levels of income inequality don't bode well for growth because it weakens the rate at which growth is converted into poverty reduction.

High levels of inequality also reduce the size of the economic pie and the size of the slice captured by the poor.

"Overcoming the structural forces that create and perpetuate extreme inequality is one of the most efficient routes for overcoming extreme poverty, enhancing the welfare of society and accelerating progress towards the millennium development goals [MDGs]," says the latest Human Development Report.

"Failure to tackle extreme inequalities is acting as a brake on progress towards achieving the MDGs.

On many of the MDGs the poor and disadvantaged are falling behind."

Heads of state, including President Hifikepunye Pohamba, attending the UN World Summit in New York are faced with making critical commitments to meet the MDGs by 2015.

Most countries, the UN says, are off track in meeting most of the MDGs.

The summit is expected to take decisions on a range of significant proposals in the areas of development, security, human rights and strengthening of the United Nations, and review their progress towards fulfilling their commitments under the Millennium Declaration.

Pohamba is accompanied by Prime Minister Nahas Angula and Foreign Affairs Minister Marco Hausiku.

This year, Namibia has moved up one spot on the Human Development Index to 125th out of 177 countries, and ranks as a 'middle human development country'.

The HDI is a composite index that measures the average achievement in a country in three basic areas of human development: a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living.

"Human development is faltering in some key areas and already deep inequalities are widening," says the report on the state of human development.

According to the UN Country Assessment for Namibia, the country faces a "triple threat" to its national development: HIV-AIDS, persistent and potentially worsening food insecurity problems and the effective delivery of critical social services.

The high prevalence of HIV is contributing to the weaknesses in the uptake of education, the poor performance of school pupils and contributing to the manifestation of poverty.

"It could emerge as a threat to Namibia's stability, particularly in light of the AIDS-related worsening poverty and the historically inequitable distribution of land," said the country assessment of the disease.

However, despite the immense challenges that face Namibia on these fronts, the UN has recognised opportunities for Government to soften the blow to the country.

Namibia has made good progress towards achieving three of the MDGs - universal primary education, promoting gender equality and ensuring environmental sustainability.

Last week, Namibia signed a development framework with the United Nations to guide the country's work towards attaining its development goals at a cost of N$278 million over the next five years.

Stemming the HIV-AIDS pandemic, improving food security and the capacity to deliver socio-economic services will be Namibia's main focus for the next five years.