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Why census is important for nation

By | August 31st 2010

By Peter Opiyo

National Population and Housing Census is the official enumeration by Government to establish the number of people and living quarters in a country at a time.

In Kenya, this exercise is carried out every ten years, not as a ritual, but as a key determinant in planning and development.

By establishing the number of people living in a country, the Government can allocate funds equitably and properly for community programmes and services like education, housing and healthcare.

The allocation of funds like CDF is thus determined by the census and the poverty index per constituency. Indeed, in July last year, President Kibaki underscored the importance of census when he urged Kenyans to take the exercise seriously.

"I believe the Grand Coalition Government is on the right path in devolving funds to the grassroots and appreciates the extent in which the communities have been empowered through equitable distribution of national wealth," Kibaki said just a month before the census.

He said the purpose of population and housing census was to collect benchmark statistics on demographic, social and economic characteristics crucial in the country’s development planning process.

Census results are also key in guiding the boundaries review commission in delimitation of electoral boundaries.

Such boundaries, in Kenya’s case, are reviewed every ten to 12 years, taking into account, apart from the population, geographical features, community interest, historical, economic and cultural ties as well as means of communication.

But political schemers also take advantage of this to map out their strategies in winning elections by targeting densely populated regions to enrich their vote baskets.

At the local level, the census data is used as a yardstick for the allocation of funds for the construction of new roads, water, community libraries, schools and other development projects.

And census data is not solely for use by the Government; business organisations also find census very crucial.

Such data guide them on where to start a factory, for instance, shopping centres, banks and offices, which in turn create jobs for citizens.

The developed world and development partners also take census data seriously, as they use it to allocate resources and funding to developing countries.

Last year’s census results will, therefore, be key for Government planning for its population in providing essential services, as well as laying ground for the attainment of Vision 2030.

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