Population planning suffers due to poor efforts

By Zubeida Mustafa

IT IS to state the obvious that Pakistan‘s population could do with some planning. According to the 1981 census the annual population growth rate of the country is 3.1 per cent which gives Pakistan the dubious distinction of having one of the fastest multiplying population in the world.

Mercifully, it is now being noted in official quarters that without an effective programme to control the galloping population growth rate, economic development can be reduced to a farce. Thus Dr. Mahbubul Haq, Federal Minister for Planning and Development, recently observed, that during the next 16 years an estimated increase of 60 million in the population was expected.

To meet the need of these extra people alone, the country would have to produce goods worth Rs. 12 billion, generate 150 MW of electricity, set up 120,000 additional primary and 5,000 secondary schools, train 300 additional doctors and 5,000 nurses.

The Population Welfare Programme introduced by the government in 1981 seeks to reduce the Crude Birth Rate through a multidisciplinary approach. Thus on the one hand it seeks to change the social and cultural environment which influences motivation and generates demand for contraceptives. On the other it is directed towards improving the availaibility of birth control methods and services.

The success or otherwise of the governmen’ s population planning strategy will be known only in due course when it is possible to judge whether the demographic targets laid down have been met. The next census in 1991 will provide an accurate assessment of the success or failure of the Population Welfare Programme.

Until then, however, we can evaluate the progress of the programme in three ways.

First, the financial allocation made to population welfare is an important yardstick to measure the government’s political commitment to this sector.

Secondly, the number of institutions set up to provide necessary services, especially when this number is seen against the targets laid down, gives a fairly accurate assessment of the pace of progress.

Finally, the contraceptive performance rate is a vital indicator of the effectiveness of the programme. Regrettably, the government has not much to its credit in all these three fields. Financially, its performance has been dismally poor. The current non-development expenditure on population welfare has been drastically reduced from Rs. 10.9 million in 1982-83 to Rs. 1.65 million in 1984- 85 by retrenching workers in thousands. Since many of these were field workers, their retrenchment will adversely affect the programme. While the current expenditure has been reduced (the decrease in the allocation for 1984-85 as compared with the revised estimates for 1983-84 is 23 per cent), development expenditure has not grown correspondingly, at least in terms of the funds the government allocates from its own resources. Moreover, the allocations for the first two years of the Sixth Five Year Plan fall short of the amount earmarked in the Plan.

The following are the allocations for the development side of the population programme in the last four vears:

 

This compares rather unfavourably with the annual outlay earmarked in the Sixth Plan. In 1983-84 and 1984-85 this should have been Rs. 273 million and Rs. 320 million respectively. Neither of these targets has been fully met. The first year’s allocation was 81 per cent of the target. In the second year the allocation in the budget itself does not correspond with the Plan’s target for 1984-85. The budget estimate is to the tune of 93 per cent and in keeping with past pracitce it can be expected to be considerably reduced in the revised estimates.

Even more significant is the foreign aid component of the funds allocated. This has been steadily rising. It was 34 per cent in 1982-83, 44 per cent in 1983-84 and is expected to be 53 per cent in 1984-85. Thus the ratio of the government’s own contribution has been declining..

The main institutions which are central to the Population Welfare Programme are the Family Welfare Centres and the Reproductive Health Centres. According to the Sixth Plan, 419 Welfare Centres and 225 Reproductive Health Centres are to be established by 1988 bringing their total to 1500 and 300 respectively.

\According to the scanty information available in the Economic Survey 1983-84, until December 1983 the number of Welfare Centres was 1,101 and there were only 83 Reproductive Health Centres in the country. Until the pace of opening these centres is stepped up, the targets cannot be met. Given the low financial allocations this seems unlikely.

The contraceptive performance has been even worse in the first year of the Sixth Plan which has now been completed as the following table shows.

 

 

The performance figures have been taken from the Economic Survey and they might actually be much lower. This is obvious from the fact that the 1982-83 figures in the Survey are grossly exaggerated when compared with the data for the same year given in the Statistical Yearbook 1984.

Given its performance in the field of population planning, it is not clear how the government hopes to change drastically the demographic trends in the country, as it has proclaimed its objective to be

Source: Dawn 30 June 1984