Thursday, 7 March 2013

Namibians are Miserable

The Namibian - 7 March 2013


What does it mean to be miserable? The dictionary defines miserable as “causing extreme discomfort or unhappiness for example in a miserable situation”.  This past week Namibia was ranked as the 7th most Miserable Country in the World. This rating is based upon the misery index, a crude economic measure created by Arthur Orkum, that sums up a country's unemployment and inflation rates to assess conditions on the ground (the higher the number, the more miserable a country is). The reasoning: most citizens understand the pain of a high jobless rate and the soaring price of goods.

Our Misery index score is 57, based upon our Consumer Price Inflation (CPI) of 5.8% per year and our unemployment rate of 51.2%. The findings further state that Namibia is “heavily dependent of the its mineral resources, Namibia exports a lot of diamonds, uranium, and gold. However, the mining sector employs only 3 per cent of the country's labour force. Since there isn't much else going on, almost half of Namibia's workers are without jobs. Income inequality is absurd here—even though the country boasts a high GDP per capita, Namibia has the highest GINI coefficients: 70.7%.”

When I first saw this article my national pride immediately made me rubbish the story. My reaction was, “how can westerners call us miserable?”. I also prepared all the arguments about statistics being flawed etc., before calming myself down.
I then resorted to understanding what the author was writing. Yes, it’s true that our consumer prices are increasing above our salary increases and yes, our unemployment is reaching alarming rates. This means to me that if I am working, I am able to afford less and less each year, and I must support my extended family who are not finding employment.  A miserable situation indeed.
This must be a wake-up call to Namibia. Whenever we lose rankings in competitiveness or business confidence, the NCCI and business person are quick to point out that they are finding it harder to make a profit and government must be careful. However, when the Misery Index is discussed, nobody discusses the issues creating our ranking, but rather point fingers at the way the index was created.
This index has focussed on where our misery stems from namely employment problems (too few jobs paying too little) and our consumer prices that are going higher and higher.
Please note, I wrote Namibians are Miserable – not “Namibia is a miserable place to stay”.
BTW: The Gini coefficient is a number between 0 and 1, where 0 corresponds with perfect equality (where everyone has the same income) and 1 corresponds with perfect inequality (where one person has all the income—and everyone else has zero income). Here Namibia tops the list at number 1 (in the world) with a GINI coefficient of 70.7 . We top the list of income inequality and that is a fact we cannot argue against.

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A few weeks ago I wrote about price labelling and the need to have prices shown on the shelf that are measured in understandable units such as litres and kilograms. During the past week I was fortunate to travel around the country taking tourists to places such as Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Okahandja. While visiting the towns I took the opportunity to visit the most common shopping places. I noticed with some joy that there are a few shops who already label their products for the convenience of the consumer. I must commend Shoprite on having almost all their products labelled with the unit price clearly indicated, while Pick & Pay has around half of their products labelled – it is perhaps just laziness at the IT department to fill in all the fields correctly in their central system as the labels already have place to indicate the unit price?
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When I receive exceptional service I must share it with you the reader. Last week I had to purchase baby milk formula no. 2 and there was none available in Usakos or Karibib. When I inquired at the OK in Karibib, the owner came to assist me. Upon finding there was none of the no. 2, he offered that I take the no. 3 formula and return it (even if we used a little bit over the weekend) for the right formula on Monday when the order was to be delivered. Thank you. I appreciate your efforts.

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