PNG's rapid growth sparks labelled explosive
Papua New Guinea's 'explosive' population growth prompts calls for the Government to take action and invest more in key services.
The rapid growth of Papua New Guinea's population has sparked calls for the government to take action and invest more in crucial social services and law and order.
The government has only just released census data from 2011, which reveals at that stage the country's population had reached 7.3 million.
The population is now estimated to be about 7.8 million, with a growth rate of 3.1 percent.
Amelia Langford reports:
The founder of an NGO which works with squatter settlement communities in Port Moresby says the country is reaching a potentially explosive point. Father John Glynn says the growing population is putting more and more pressure on key services such as education, health, and maintaining law and order.
JOHN GLYN: It's a bit like a volcano - there is enormous pressure building up down below and with the figures we have been given we can see that the population of PNG is growing by much more than 200,000 a year and I don't see how the country is going to cope with that incredible increase.
Father Glynn says there needs to be a huge investment in education, in particular, with many young people already failing to make it through the school system. He also says the Government and the churches need to wake up and take a more proactive role in population policy. He says PNG's Vision 2050 document should be put on hold for what he calls 'reality 2014'.
JOHN GLYN: I really would like to see more focus on the reality and more openess and willingness to recognise the difficulties and problems that we face across the board here.
A population researcher, Dr Esther Lavu, says she is not suprised by the figures as PNG continues to maintain a very high fertility rate. Dr Lavu, of the Papua New Guinea National Research Institute, says the typical woman in PNG gives birth to four children. She says the population is manageable but the Government does need to focus on key services, especially for the younger population.
ESTHER LAVU: We should be able to manage it because the Government has been creating budgets that can cater for such a population but the budget has to be directed to areas where services are mostly needed. We need schools, we need children to be educated, and we need more health services.
Dr Esther Lavu says it is good the Government is already focussing on infrastruture development, which will provide better access to services such as health. Meanwhile, an Auckland-based academic, Professor Richard Bedford, who specialises in Pacific migration, says Australia and New Zealand should expect more migrants from Melanesia in the future, including PNG.
RICHARD BEDFORD: New Zealand and Australia are making efforts to accept they have got a neighbourhood, a Melanesian neighbourhood, which is experiencing significant development and significant growth and I think over the next 30 or 40 years we will see a lot more educated Melanesians looking for opportunities in Australia and New Zealand.
Professor Richard Bedford says one of PNG's greatest challenges will be dealing with the growing inequalities in wealth and opportunity. PNG's Planning Minister, Charles Abel, could not be reached for comment.
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