In the third match of Pool D, Namibia face their second Pacific island nation in a row. Ranking Samoa proved even harder than ranking Fiji and Tonga – there simply isn’t enough information available to make concrete judgements about inequality in the country. Nevertheless, we’ve given Samoa a very high ranking in response to the information that is available – primarily reflecting the fact that it has no formal defence force, hence no military spending.
One area which raises interesting questions about equality in Samoa is the political system. Samoa has universal suffrage, and the entirety of its parliament is elected by the people. This gives it an edge over the half-representative parliament of Tonga, which protects the privileges of the nobility and royalty, and Fiji’s current military dictatorship. However, in many ways this representation is a facade, for only matai (chiefs) may run for parliament – a system that both ensures that the privileges of this group are protected, and discriminates wildly against women, who hold only a small fraction of chiefly titles.
While Namibia performs quite poorly on the Gender Inequality Index we used as the main basis for determining rankings, it does considerably better on another measure we looked at. On parliamentary representation for women – at about a quarter of seats – it is certainly superior to that of Samoa, and quite respectable among developing nations. Political opportunities are not constrained by institutional sexism.
The differences here pale in comparison, however, to the chasm between rich and poor that is a defining feature of Namibia. As with Fiji, there’s little data available on the true income gap in Samoa, but at least all Samoans can expect to receive a thorough education and medical treatment, and few households live below the World Bank US$1.25 a day poverty line. This is simply not the case in Namibia, a country where basic necessities are carefully guarded privileges for the wealthy.
As if I really needed another reason to back Samoa for this game, there’s also the matter of New Zealand’s relationship with the nation. It may seem weird to think of New Zealand as a colonial master, but that’s exactly what we were for many years – and there’s a lot to make up for!
Chris Nimmo is a student at Victoria University of Wellington and the New Zealand School of Music, and lead researcher for this project.