afrol News, 15 June - Despite poor a transparency and democracy record, Angola has managed to translate its oil-driven economic boom into human development and poverty reduction a new nation-wide survey shows.
Preliminary data from the first nation-wide survey to collect development indicators since the end of Angola's long-running civil war demonstrate that living standards are rapidly improving in the country.
The Angolan government and the UN's children agency UNICEF jointly conducted the first-ever Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, which found that progress has been made in five of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): malnutrition; education; gender balance; child survival and malaria; and HIV/AIDS.
Since 2002, malnutrition has dropped from 35 to 23 percent, while school enrolment has surged to 76 percent.
Gender parity is close to being achieved in schools, with 98 girls for every 100 boys attending classes.
Meanwhile, child survival has been on the upswing, improving by nearly 20 percent, while the proportion of child death due to malaria has fallen to 23 percent.
Koen Vanormelingen, UNICEF's Representative in Angola, told reporters today in Geneva that these improvements were due to the consistent oil-driven economic growth that the country has experienced since 2002. Also accelerating progress towards reaching the MDGs had been the government's rehabilitation and revitalisation efforts, with 30 percent of the state budget being earmarked for the social sector.
But he pointed to some setbacks, especially in maternal mortality, which had not seen the same level of improve as other areas, mainly because skilled attendance at birth continued to hover just below 48 percent.
Also, despite improvements in schools, only 35 percent of Angolan children finish primary school on time, and there was still a backlog of people who had not been able to receive educations during the 27-year war, which ended in 2002.
Mr Vanormelingen also noted that the water and sanitation sector had experienced a step backward, with only 42 percent of people having access to safe and drinkable water and 60 percent to basic sanitation. "Combined with continued poverty and disparity, this could jeopardise the gains made in child survival and development," he cautioned.
One of the key reasons holding Angola – which ranks 143rd out of 158 nations in the 2009 Human Development Report – back from stepped-up success in achieving the MDGs, the UNICEF official said, was the fact that nearly 90 percent of Angolans live in slums.
The country, Mr Vanormelingen explained, had completed the relatively easier task of rebuilding institutions and infrastructures, but now must tackle the challenge of improving its human capital.
He stressed that, as agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Angolan government should continue its high level of investment in the social sector, but also enhance resource allocation to reduce poverty and in bolstering young people's skills.
Nevertheless, the progress in Angola since the end of the long civil war has been faster than most observers expected. Angola was predicted to fall into the "oil curse" after the war, with most revenues from the booming sector only being channelled to a small, wealthy minority of businessmen close to the political leadership.
Angola has often been criticised for lack of transparency in its oil and mining sectors, with corruption being very widespread in the country. Also, democratic institutions and press freedom - key checks to government spending - have developed very slowly in Angola.
During the last decade, Angola's rapid development of the oil sector and revitalisation of the mining sector led to double-digit growth rates most years. But by 2009, the non-oil sector has developed into the motor of new growth in the country.
Contrasting many other poor countries with a large oil wealth and underdeveloped democracies, Angola's economic growth to a large degree has been invested into poverty reducing efforts. The progress recorded in the nation-wide development indicators survey nevertheless comes as a small surprise.
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