Thu, 30 Jan 2003

Poverty to double Indonesia's population: BKKBN

Debbie A. Lubis, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The National Family Planning Board (BKKBN) warned on Wednesday the country's population would double within 50 years or earlier if the family planning program were neglected.

With young, economically weak people predominant in Indonesia's population currently, the country could be home to 400 million people by 2053, BKKBN chairwoman Yaumil C.A. Achir said.

"Poor people prefer spending their money on rice rather than contraceptives. The birth growth rate will be high among them. Uncontrolled population growth will place a heavy burden on national development," she said.

Yaumil was speaking at the promotion of a free contraceptives distribution program for 3.4 million poor couples in 21 provinces.

Currently, the country records a 1.47 percent annual population growth rate, adding some four million people to the country's population every year.

Minister of Health Sujudi said that uncontrolled population growth rate would only result in a large, but unqualified population and therefore would cause social problems for the country in sectors like housing, employment, education and health.

"A large and qualified population could be an asset for the country but the opposite of it must be a burden," he said.

Sujudi was referring to China, the world's most populous country, whose strict policy on family planning has resulted in slower population growth and qualified human resources that have brought about progress and higher productivity to the country.

China's one-child policy, however, has also resulted in large- scale abortion, infanticide and abandonment of girl babies, as well as a huge gender imbalance, in which men outnumber women, among people of marriageable age.

The family planning program reduced the fertility rate from 2.32 percent in the period 1972 to 1994 to 1.49 percent in the period 1990 to 2000 in Indonesia.

To cushion the impact of the fuel subsidy removal this year, the government has increased subsidies for certain sectors to Rp 4.4 trillion, including health, education and the family planning program.

For the family planning program the government has allotted Rp 100 billion, to provide to poor couples various types of contraceptive including injections, pills, implants, intra- uterine devices (IUD) and condoms.

Yaumil said, however, that although the government had added Rp 20 billion to the program's funding, the budget remained inadequate to meet the demands. She said BKKBN required Rp 223 billion per year to provide supplies of contraceptives for poor couples.

"I believe that some poor couples were unable to get free contraceptives due to limited supplies. I hope the public can understand this deficiency," she said.

Yaumil said that 20 percent of the 25 million contraceptive users in the country came from poor families.

She added that the distribution of contraceptives might differ in each regency or town, depending on the number of poor couples.