November 9, 2005

LDC-status requested

Namibia is waiting for feedback on its request to be recognised as a Least Developed Country (LDC) after it took its plea to the United Nations. Due to the high inequality levels, high HIV/AIDS prevalence rate, high poverty levels, as well as disparities in infrastructural development between the impoverished North, where the majority of the population resides and the centre and southern parts of the country, Namibia wants to be recognised as an LDC to benefit from what accrues to such countries. While the country cannot access soft lending due to this treatment, it has also seen the dwindling of overseas development assistance due to the official status of Middle Income Country. But with an annual Gross Domestic Product per capita of close to US$2 000, Namibia is recognised as a Middle Income Country. The GDP is, however, far removed from what is really on the ground.
A National Poverty Bulletin, published by the National Planning Commission says that in spite of the challenges Namibia faces such as poverty, HIV and AIDS and inequalities, the country is not a priority country for Overseas Development Assistance because of the Middle Income label. The United Nations chapter in the country also supports this request, as it would recognise the development challenges that Namibia is facing.
If it was treated as an LDC, Namibia would get finances at zero or low interest rate, it would also be forgiven of debt, if any, and also have more access to resources, according to UN Resident Coordinator, Simon Nhongo. Apart from these, Namibia could also have access to the World Bank's International Development Agency (IDA) loans, which are given out to LDCs interest free. The IDA also gives out grants to countries that are in this category. Nhongo added that other benefits that accrued to LDCs were in the form of low contributions to some United Nations agencies. If a country is an LDC, it contributes less than rich countries do.
Statistics indicate that 38 percent of households are classified as poor, to an extent that food accounts for 60 percent of their household expenditure. In addition to this, income disparities are such that the average income of some communities is over two to three times that of the poorest communities such as the San. Namibia is also known as one of the most unequal societies in the world. To be included in the LDC category, a country should have an average estimate of the gross national income per capita of under US$750. Other criteria include a human resource weakness criterion involving a Human Assets Index with indicators such as nutrition, health, education, adult literacy and also an economic vulnerability index with indicators such as instability in agriculture production, the instability of exports of goods and services and handicap of economic smallness and the population displaced by natural disasters among others. (New Era, Windhoek)

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