After re-examining the data, the Census Commission has confirmed that the population of Amhara Regional State is 17 million, meaning that there will be no adjustment to the cut in budget funding it is set to receive from the Federal Government.
The 2006 national census result revealed in December 2008 significantly reduced the population of the Amhara Regional State below the Central Statistics Agency’s projection, stirring a political debate even within members of the ruling coalition, which finally pushed parliament to call for an inquiry over the result.
However, the five months investigation of the Census Commission Secretariat concluded last week that there had been no mistake.
It submitted findings of the inquiry, including recommendations, on May 15, 2009, to the Census Commission, which is led by Deputy Prime Minister Adissu Legesse, also chairman of Amhara Nationalities Democratic Movement (ANDM).
Consultants hired from Harvard University and experts from the secretariat made an in-depth evaluation of the result, but couldn’t find any error during data collection and in the data analysis, Samiya Zekaria head of the secretariat, also Director General of Central Statistics Agency (CSA) told Capital.
How the census was made in the region and who was employed to collect the data are the first points the secretariat looked into. With an aim to avoid possible political influences that could affect the census result, the secretariat employed residents of Amhara.
“So, the data was collected accurately and covered all kebeles of the region,” said Samiya.
Finding possible blunders during analysis was the next step the consultants took, but the result was the same.
“Then we submitted the findings to the commission, incorporating our recommendation to approve the census result and it was accepted,” added Samiya.
Annual population growth projections are one of the agency’s duties. In line with this, the agency put the Amhara region population at 19.7 million in its projection for the year 2006, the period the national census was made. However, the census result came up with a figure that reduced the population of the region by 2.4 million.
“Mostly there is a variation between projection and actual census, however, it should only amount to 1.5 per cent, according to international standards,” Samiya told parliament in December 2008, admitting the disparity was way beyond this figure.
That started the political battle among parliamentarians in one of the few issues that has brought together opposition MPs and members of the ruling coalition, the EPRDF.
The house also witnessed outbursts from ruling party members towards the chairman of the census commission and the deputy prime minister. This was one of the few occasions when MPs from the ruling party spoke out over a document accepted by their leaders.
Those aware of the negative impact of population growth may wonder why the downwards revision caused such an outcry, but the MPs had good reason: it is a battle to gain political power. According to the country’s electoral law, more populated areas means more MPs. Apart from this, it is a battle to get budget subsidies from the Federal Government.
The more populated region will get more of the central Government’s money. That is why MPs from Amhara complained thunderously, however, they couldn’t change it, which means the region’s budget subsidy for the coming fiscal year is to be cut.
Last week, the House of Federation approved a budget formula in which the Federal Government allots its budget to the regions for the next year. The latest census result is the main factor in calculating who gets what.
Ayalew Gobeze, chairman of the House’s Budget and Finance Standing Committee, and also the president of Amhara State, says the budget allocation was done according to the latest census and that it would be redone if the Central Statistics Agency’s (CSA) investigation into the Amhara population led to a readjustment before parliament announces next year’s budget.
However, no readjustment was needed, according to Samiya.
“Indeed, errors possibly will be found in the projection, but it couldn’t affect the actual census result and it is already approved by the commission,” she told Capital.
Currently, the census secretariat is investigating data that informed the 2006 projection. Rates of mortality, fertility and migration are some of the factors that led to the projection.
By Yohannes Anberbir | (Capital)
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