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Population and development.

The United Nations International Conference on Population and Development was held at Cairo between September 5 to 13, 1994. This conference was called to halt the rapid population growth of the world particularly the developing world. The first UN Population Conference was held in Rome in 1954, in Belgrade in 1965, in Bucharest in 1974, and in Mexico city in 1984. In addition, five regional population conferences were held to highlight issues to address in the global forum. UN also convened six expert group meetings in advance of the International Conference on Population and Development 1994 to bring together stateof-the-art technical information.

The UN Conference deed a 113-page draft report extending over 16 chapters. The growth of the world population is at an all-time high in absolute numbers, with current increase exceeding 90 million persons annually. During the remaining six years of this decade, the world nations by their actions or inactions will choose f rom a range of alternative demographic forecasts.

Looking ahead 20 years, alternate projections range from a low of 7.27 billion in 2015 to a high of 7.92 billion. Implementation of the goals and objectives contained in the 20-year Programme of Action would result in world population growth during this period and beyond at levels close to United Nations low variant.

In retrospect, during the first 2 to 5 million years of human history, world population never exceeded 10 million. Because the death rate was about as high as the birth rate, the rate of population growth was scarcely above zero. Significant population growth began about 8000 B.C. when man began to farm and raise animals. Because of improved nutrition and a more settled lifestyle, death rates began to fall. By 1658 world population had expanded about 50 times - from 10 million to 500 million. Then world population shot up another 500 million people in just l150 years, reaching the first billion around the year 1800. It added a second billion by 1930, after only 130years, at third billion by 1960, only 30 years after. The fourth billion wa added in 1975 and fifth billion by 1987only after 12 years. The present population estimated at 5.6 billion.

The 1994 Conference given a broader mandate than previous population conference, reflecting the growing awareness of the inter-linkages among population growth issues, sustained economic growth and sustainable development. As a result, the Programme of Action commits the international community to quantitative goals in three areas that are mutually supporting and of critical importance to the achievement of other important population and development objectives. These areas are

(i) education especially for girls,

(ii) infant child and maternal mortality reduction and

(iii) the provision of universal access to family planning and reproductive health services.

The Governments have been urged to prohibit certain mutilation practiced against females wherever it exists and to give vigorous support to efforts among nongovernmental and community organisations and religious institutions to eliminate such practices.

Prime Minister Ms. BenazirBhutto aptly observed: "I dream of a Pakistan, I dream of a world where every pregnancy is planned and every child conceived is nurtured, loved, educated and supported. That dream is far from the reality for we are in a planet of crisis, a planet out of control, a planet roaring towards catastrophe". The original draft contained controversial issues which was opposed by Muslim leaders including Ms. Benazir Bhutto who pointed out that "his conference must not be revised by the teeming masses of the world as a universal social charter seeking to impose adultery, abortion, sex education and other such matters on individuals, societies and religions which have their own social ethos". She rightly emphasized the need for consensus, as there cannot be twoo pinions on population growth which is engulfing the development effort of the developing countries.

Pakistan's concern about rapid population growth stems from the fact that its population has almost quadrupled since 1951. The present population is estimated at 126 million compared to 34 million in 1951. The table illustrates the density of population, natural rate of increase, fertility rate, infant mortality rate and doubling time of population in regional countries:-

It will be seen that Pakistan's density of population is quite high and it will soon touch the density of India and Sri Lanka if the present higher increase in population growth is maintained. In the early days, Pakistan's density per sq. mile used to be around 100 equivalent to present Iran's density and this area was surplus in food. But the high population increase coupled with migration from neighbouring countries has dented the favourable land-man ratio. At present, it is estimated that there are at least 5 million aliens such as Afghanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, Iranis and Arabs.

Barring Iran, Pakistan has the highest increase because of high fertility rate. Bangladesh, when it was part of Pakistan, had higher population by 10 million. Today, the population of Bangladesh (116 million) is lower than Pakistan (126 million) by 10 million. Pakistan has one of the highest fertility rates in the region, lower only than Afghanistan and Iran where density is much lower than Pakistan. High fertility rate is closely related to infant mortality. Because of high fertility rate, Pakistan has the highest infant mortality, lower only to Afghanistan. The doubling time in the case of Pakistan is 25 years at the current rate of population increase which is lowest except Iran. These f acts clearly call for reduction in fertility rate so that the natural rate of increase declines over time, which will lead to reduction in infant mortality rate.

Rapid population growth has serious social and economic implications. Social implications include decrease in death rate, low literacy rate, low female labour force participation rate and low status of women. Economic implications are enormous. If growth rate of an economy is say 5 percent a year and population growth is 3 per cent, the increase in per capita income is only per cent. In other words, given the same growth rate, a country may experience higher per capita income, if the population growth declines. If population growth rate is 2 per cent and economic cent, per capita income will double in 24 years compared to 36 years in the previous example. The implications of higher population increase are obvious.

Pakistan's population growth, it not checked, will create serious problems in years ahead. Higher population aerates problem of supply of food and social and economic infrastructure which involve lot of capital and energy to provide. Higher population growth does not leave much surplus in agriculture or manufacturing sector for export. Recent sluggish export performance is due to higher domestic consumption arising out of population growth. Over the last couple of years (i.e. 1992-93 and 1993-94), the cumulative growth was close to 6 per cent which was equivalent to population growth. In other words, there was no increase in per capita income, a fact which is a matter of concern.

Each year population in Pakistan grows by around 3.6 million which requires inter alia 600,000 houses and 600,000 tonnes of foodgrain. These figures clearly bring to the fore the importance of huge capital requirements as well as rise in agricultural output. Because of shortage, Pakistan has to import wheat to meet the domestic requirement. As agricultural output is not keeping pace with population growth, the situation is becoming serious with the passage of time. Pakistan has failed to achieve breakthrough in foodgrain production because of failure to effect structural changes in the economy such as land reform. It has been argued that economic progress can be achieved even in the presence of high population growth. This argument may be true but only to the extent that rapid economic development is taking place in the economy through effecting fundamental, structural changes leading to export-led growth which unfortunately is missing in Pakistan. Therefore, it would be more appropriate to control population if structural changes are not introduced or export-led growth is not achieved as in Pakistan.

Pakistan should learn lesson from other countries of Asia notably East Asia and China which have overcome the population growth through reducing birth rate. In China, the birth rate is 18 per 1000, in South Korea and Taiwan 16, in Hong Kong 12, compared to 40 in Pakistan. As a result, population growth tends to be higher compared to these countries

The formation of economic blocs like NAFTA and EC will tend to discourage the migration from other countries of the world notably the developing countries. Therefore, the migration from Pakistan or other Asian countries to Europe and North America will now remain limited. The Middle East has already reached the saturation point of its economic activities. There is no likely increase in migration excepting the replacement of existing labour force. There is a general tendency in foreign countries to discourage the inflow of population from overseas with alien culture and language. Countries like Pakistan, India and Bangladesh will have to formulate their own population strategy. In 1973, when Indira Gandhi visited Canada, she requested Pierre Eliot Trudeau, the then Prime Minister to allow Indians to migrate to Canada. His reply was simple. If he accepts 20 million people from India, majority of Canadians will become brown with little impact on the population pressure in India. Is he not right?
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Author:Asad, S. Hasan
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Sep 1, 1994
Words:1555
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