October 23, 2006

Poor marks for progress on Millennium Development Goals, says UN report

The gap between rich and poor in Angola, Africa's second biggest oil exporter, is widening, according to a report sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
More than two-thirds of the country's 16 million people live on US$2 or less a day, and 4 million of those survive on US$0.75 or less a day. "Another indicator that clearly illustrates the level of poverty is the measure of inequality in the distribution of wealth," said the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 2005 Progress Report on Angola. In terms of the Gini Coefficient, an income distribution measure that rates 0 as perfect equality and 100 as perfect inequality, the size of the gap expanded from 0.52 to 0.62. Angola is one of 191 countries that adopted the Millennium Declaration in 2000, in which signatories aim to cut poverty by half, and provide food to all families and education for all children by 2015.
UNDP's senior economist in Angola, Michel Botomazava, said factors contributing to the disparity of wealth were the capital-intensive nature of the oil sector, and other sectors of the economy had collapsed during three decades of civil war. "There are very few people working in the [oil] sector. This is the main reason why inequalities are widening, as oil revenues benefit only very few groups." The government has implemented a poverty reduction strategy since the advent of peace in 2002, although "there is a feeling that government is wasting money on white elephants", such as a new international airport, which were not seen as contributing to the goals of the declaration, "but maybe government has a new strategy," Botomazava said. "A big chunk [about 70 percent] of the [national] budget is for 'special use', and no one really knows what it is used for," he said. Little of the country's oil wealth is reflected in the daily lives of its people. The report recommended that the ruling MPLA government increased its budget allocation to farming, fishing and the environment, currently at about 3 percent, "so as to sustain hopes of achieving the MDGs, particularly with respect to improving nutrition."
Between 2002 and 2004, Angola's oil-dominated economy achieved a growth rate of about 10 percent, which is expected to increase to about 16 percent in the next few years, while inflation dropped from more than 100 percent to about 31 percent in 2004, although it was still "amongst the least developed countries in the world." (UN News Service, New York)


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