Namibian fury at country’s ‘misery’ rating

Local analysts have lambasted international research, which claims Namibia is a more miserable country to live in than war-torn nations like Syria, Mali and Afghanistan.

Namibian commentators and members of the civil society yesterday described as “ridiculous” a finding that rates Namibia as the seventh most miserable country to live in worldwide.

The so-called Misery Index, a crude economic measure created by economist Arthur Orkum, uses a country's unemployment and inflation rates to assess conditions on the ground. According to Orkum, the higher the rating, the more miserable a country is.

His research concluded that Namibia is a miserable country - worse than war-torn Mali, the Gaza Strip, Yemen, as well as Syria, where dozens of citizens die almost daily because of an uprising against that country’s ruling elite.

Other countries that are rated less miserable than Namibia include Mauritania, Iran, the Maldives, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Haiti and Swaziland.

Also rated better than Namibia are Afghanistan, the Marshall Islands, Senegal, Kenya, Lesotho, Sudan, Nepal and Kosovo.

The only countries rated as worse than Namibia are Djibouti, Turkmenistan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Liberia and Zimbabwe.

A key benchmark used to arrive to the ‘miserable’ conclusion, according to the drivers of this research, is that most citizens feel the pain of a high jobless rate and the soaring price of goods.

The current official statistics show that Namibia has an unemployment rate of 51.2%, a situation that led to the birth of the Targeted Intervention Programme for Employment and Economic Growth (Tipeeg), which aims to create more than 100 000 jobs.

Since its inception two years ago, Tipeeg has only created 41 000 jobs, according to latest information released by the Ministry of Finance last week.

Many commentators agree that while Namibia is by far not a land of milk and honey, the rating is not a true reflection of the situation in the country -even with its soaring unemployment rate and a ridiculously high cost of living.

The findings of the research were ridiculed by the executive director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Graham Hopwood, who said the research lacked credibility.

“There seems to be an index for almost everything these days, but this is a case of an index too far,” Hopwood told Namibian Sun.

“You only need to look at the list to see that its rankings are ludicrous. How can Namibia be ‘more miserable’ than war-torn countries like Syria and Afghanistan?”

Hopwood said to use unemployment and inflation as the only benchmarks to determine whether a country is miserable or not, was too narrow a scope.

“The methodology, only using the inflation and unemployment figure, is simply too limited to produce meaningful results.”
“Stability and lack of civil conflict are crucial factors not taken into account. Then there are other factors such as the health status of the population, access to basic services, and average income which could be factored in.

“This index just looks like the researchers couldn’t be bothered to do a proper job - it shouldn’t be taken seriously.”

President of the opposition DTA of Namibia, Katuutire Kaura, also dismissed the findings. “Namibia is actually one of the greatest countries to live in. The reason why institutions such as the World Bank deny us access to some of their assistance is because we are considered relatively well-off.”

His Congress of Democrats (CoD) counterpart, Ben Ulenga, said many Namibians live miserable lives, but he too was doubtful of the accuracy of the research findings.

“I would certainly not live in Mali. And even if you offer me a million dollars to go live in Mauritania, I’ll refuse. There are many Namibians who live miserable lives, but would rather live in Namibia than in Afghanistan.”

Chief Executive Officer of the Non-Governmental Organisations Forum (NANGOF) Trust, Ivin Lombardt, said the index was a ‘subjective analysis’, but was quick to highlight the importance of using it to the country’s advantage.

“This should be a wake-up call for the Namibian government. Poverty, unemployment and inequality are still high in this country and this can lead to miseries amongst citizens.”
“Even old-age pension, which is a great tool to fight poverty, gets increased at a very slow pace,” he added.

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