By Muhamet Brajshori
The drastic discrepancy for the population of Pristina – the official count is not quite 200,000 residents, rather than 500,000 — has drawn fire from officials and residents.
Pristina Mayor Isa Mustafa, leader of Kosovo’s main opposition party Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), disputes the official census figure.
The census shows Pristina with a population of 198,214. But Deputy Mayor Avdullah Hoti told SETimes that the count should be more than twice that high, between 450,000 and 500,000.
“A data source is based on the number of users of public services like water, electricity and the volume of waste produced in Pristina. By utilising some international standards on the amount of water and electricity used per capita, and the amount of waste produced in Pristina, given the level of economic development and the average income in Kosovo and water and energy shortages, it appears that Pristina has about 450,000 and 500,000 inhabitants,” Hoti said.
He said that other data supports this claim, such as 900,000 annual visits to family medical centres in Pristina, and the 55,000 students in elementary and secondary schools.
“About 70,000 students use public services in Pristina a week, and around 25,000 employees in public institutions live in Pristina,” Hoti said.
One reason for the low numbers, he added, is that people living in Pristina are not registered in the civil register as residents, although they use the capital’s public benefits.
While the problem remains to be addressed, Hoti said the process needs to be revised.
“We will provide our estimates of the ministry of finance regarding the number of people in Pristina. It remains a responsibility of the Statistical Office and the government to decide on the credibility of the census data. I think that sooner or later the census process must be revised,” Hoti told SETimes.
Shqipe Kosumi, a researcher at the Kosovo Society for Social Research, told SETimes that the census must be better organised to avoid such disputes.
“The government should have made clearer who are considered residents. Those who have moved to other towns are required to change their residence registration, but as the case with Pristina shows, this did not happen, and so the number in other towns might be questioned as well.”
Hoti said that the grants allocated by the budget are based on the number of inhabitants, and this will negatively affect the municipality’s ability to offer public services.
“If the government uses the registration number of the population to distribute general grants, we will be forced to implement mechanisms that force people to register in Pristina if they wish to receive and use public services provided by the municipality, such as education and health,” said Hoti.
Kosumi said that the government needs to resolve this issue with the municipality.
“My fear is that the political competition will cause problems for the citizens in Pristina. Maybe a separate process, where people are asked to register their residence, would resolve the issue, but for this political will is needed,” Kosumi said.
The public administration ministry and statistic office both refused to comment on the situation.
Meanwhile, some citizens remain in the dark.
Bajram Imeri moved from Prizren to Pristina in 2004, but told SETimes he never registered. “I was never asked to do so, I changed my address for the bills, but not somewhere else,” Imeri said.
Kujtim Hoti, who is no relation to the deputy mayor, told SETimes that it is evident that Pristina has more residents.
“You just need to look at the number of buildings around town to realise that there are more people,” Hoti said.