CASH-STRAPPED MARSHALLS POSTPONES CENSUS

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Two-year delay for lack of $500,000

By Giff Johnson MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, Nov. 13, 2009) — A national census for the Marshall Islands has now been postponed twice and the possibility of holding it in 2011 depends on the government finding $500,000.

Originally planned for September, the census was put off until next year, and now has been delayed to 2011 for lack of money, according to Carl Hacker, director of the government’s Economic Policy, Planning and Statistics Office that is overseeing the plan.

The population count is not only important for addressing education, health, social and economic needs in this western Pacific nation, but helps the country attract millions of dollars in foreign aid for this work, Hacker said. Hacker said information from the "1999 census brought in millions of dollars in grants to the Marshall Islands. We use it for grants for projects."

The census will give government planners up-to-date information "on areas of need and where to put resources," he said.

But so far, the plan for the next census is languishing for lack of funding. If it happens, this will be the 11th census since 1920 and the third since independence in 1986.

The first census after the United States took over administration of the Marshalls at the end of the Second World War was in 1958, followed by censuses in 1967, 1973, 1980, 1988 and 1999.

Hacker said he’s been able to confirm about $350,000 from the Australian government, UN Population Fund and United States sources, but is $500,000 short of the estimated $850,000 price tag for the population count.

He said he expected the Asian Development Bank to support the census, since the census is an important tool for addressing poverty issues in the Marshall Islands and this coincides with a primary focus of ADB. But he said he’s been told ADB does not fund censuses, and he needs to find other donors to support it.

"I don’t see them (other donors)," he said, adding he finds ADB’s attitude toward funding for the census as "mystifying." He noted that ADB provided about $350,000 for the 1999 census.

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