Fri, 05 Sep 2003

President complains about too many kids

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

President Megawati Soekarnoputri complained about the nation's seeming lack of awareness about the country's worrisome population growth in recent years and warned that overpopulation would reduce people's quality of life.

While pointing out that the population was growing faster than the supply of basic human needs, the President -- and mother of three children -- urged the country to work harder to limit population growth.

"In the last decade we have ignored the family planning program, which has resulted in worrying population growth," Megawati said while opening the 12th national congress of the Indonesian Family Planning Institute (PKBI).

"The imbalanced growth of population and fulfillment of basic needs, such as job opportunities, housing, education and health, will pose major problems in the future," the President said.

The latest census, in 2000, estimated the population growth rate at 1.49 percent, while the National Family Planning Board estimated zero growth.

Indonesia's population is estimated at 215 million, making it the fourth most populous country in the world.

The President said she would like to see greater cooperation between the public and government in handling the issue.

"The government cannot handle these problems alone, there is an urgency to create a network between the government, non- governmental organizations and the general public to deal with them," she said.

Family planning was once considered to be a success story here during former president Soeharto's campaign in the '70s and '80s with its slogan "two children are enough", but then the program was criticized for its use of force and its top-down policy.

PKBI Chairman Azrul Azwar blamed the poorly coordinated birth control program at present on the lack of government money allocated to him for family planning.

"Family planning should have received some 15 percent of the total development expenditure, but in fact we have only been given less than 1 percent of the fund," Azrul said.

In the 2003 state budget, the government allocated only 0.69 percent of total development expenditure, while in the 2004 budget draft there is a slight increase to 0.75 percent.

Azrul said fewer people were concerned with promoting family planning in recent years.