By: Varney Dukuly
MONROVIA: Bomi, Bong, Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru, Margibi and River Gee are among the poorest counties in Liberia.
The state of counties like these is often cited to illustrate failures in terms of development, persistent poverty.
But, here is what has changed, a rapid increase of the populations of these counties as documented in the recent reports of the 2022 National Population and Housing Census by the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo Information Services (LISGIS).
Census results have been a hotbed for decision making in the context of development for every developing nation including Liberia.
As remarkable these gains may be, more remarkable still is the fact that they are unprecedented and call for serious concern.
Bomi County’s population increase was 15,616 between 1984 and 2008 and 51,632 between 2008 and 2022. Bomi’s multi-dimensional poverty index value of 79.1 is above the national average of 71.2% (Ministry of Finance and Development Planning-MFDP, 2018).
“This figure connotes that almost 80% of the people of Bomi are multi-dimensionally poor and deprived of basic necessities,” Teakon J. Williams, former World Bank project consultant at Liberia Land Authority opined.
Similarly, Grand Kru County, in which the population increased from -5,685 (indicating negative population growth) from 1984 to 2008 (MFDP, 2018) dramatically increased in population, according to LISGIS report of the 2022 CENSUS, by 52,236 (91%).
The increment occurred despite Grand Kru being the most deprived and poverty-ridden county in Liberia at 90.6% (incidence of multi-dimensional poverty) (MFDP, 2018).
Such analysis, according to Mr. Williams, is the same with Grand Gedeh and River Gee with the incidence of multidimensional poverty of 74.9% and 81.4% respectively (MFDP, 2018).
He wonders: “What are the pull factors that drove this rapid increase?”
According to the former World Bank project consultant at Liberia Land Authority, a critical look at these counties showed that they experienced high absolute poverty, food poverty, and extreme poverty (MFDP, 2018).”
In a write-up, styled: “How Realistic Is the 2022 CENSUS: A Critical Analysis,” the former World Bank project consultant noted that these indicators are all push factors adverse to high population growth.
Moreover, he said, most of these counties Grand Gedeh, River Gee, and Grand Kru as part of the southeastern region of Liberia, are the highest users of contraceptives at 22% (LDHS, 2013).
“The mere fact that the reported counties with the least opportunities for migration, with little attraction for domicile, and with the highest use of contraceptives, will attract high population growth creates room for more questioning of the process,” said Williams.
He added that LISGIS needs to explain this variation in these numbers and the factors that inform the result.
“Data are not conflicted; they speak to each other,” adding, “the report on contraceptive use, for example, is not speaking to the result provided by the LISGIS.”
Williams, however, viewed worrisome factors as well as contained in the 2022 LISGIS report.
Montserrado, Nimba, and Lofa counties, with many pull factors including agriculture activities, mining activities, better road access, access to jobs, showed marginal increases between 1984 and 2008 and 2008 to 2022.
For example, Montserrado had a population differential of 653,728 between 1984 and 2008 and 776,108 between 2008 and 2022.
In addition, the difference between the variances of the two periods (1984-2008 & 2008-2022) for Nimba is just 1,285. Similarly, the difference between the two periods for Lofa is 26,390.
“In a nutshell, there seems to be no correlation between counties with high pull factors and population increase. The reverse seems to be true. To make sound policy, decision-makers need information that is reliable and valid. Unfortunately, the preliminary census data reeks of inconsistencies,” he mentioned.
Among other things, Williams stressed that Statistics is not about politics. “Liberia is a gullible society where academicians are seen as nothing but mediocrity is awarded. We need reliable information to make sound decisions. As it stands, there are valid reasons to question the preliminary findings.”