Academic labels PNG's growth 'extraordinarily high'
Australian academic says Papua New Guinea's current population growth rate has 'serious implications' for the country.
An Australian academic says Papua New Guinea's current population growth rate is extraordinarily high and has serious implications for the country.
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.
A Melanesian expert at the Australia National University, Ron May, told Amelia Langford that such a high rate of growth could pose problems.
RON MAY: Well, I think it has got quite serious implications for a number of parts of the country. For one thing, historically, I mean we have had population policies from time to time in the past but nobody has ever really pursued them very seriously. In the early 2000s the population policy was adopted - the intention was to get the growth rate down initially to 2.1 by 2015 I think and then 2.0. That was written into a medium term development plan in the early 2000s, we reviewed that plan a couple of years ago and we found that in the midterm review the targets were dropped, there had been no population policy council set up, the secretariat had never been established, the whole issue had just died and when the country came out with this 2050 vision a couple of years ago, again, the issue of population was just not there at all. What we are seeing is in some parts of the country there are already pressures on land. The high rate of population growth is also putting a lot of pressure on the education system, the health system, not to mention urban housing and so on. It's got quite serious implications.
AMELIA LANGFORD: So, if it continues to maintain this growth rate or, indeed, to become even higher, what could this mean for PNG?
RM: Well, I think we will see more areas where land is short and that could lead to conflict between people over land. We will also see more people, particularly younger people, moving out probably into urban areas putting increasing pressure on the limited resources there. We've got squatter settlements around all the major towns at the moment and people are largely without services and of course a lot of problems go along with that - lawlessness, general disaffection, the growth of rascal gangs are all related to that, I think.
AL: So, it is important that the Government steps in here?
RM: Well, I think it is. It needs to do something positive. One of the problems in the past has been that a lot of people, the churches particularly, but a lot of people associated with the churches have been reluctant to address the issue of population policy even when it comes to issues of aid - there has been some opposition to the distribution of contraceptives and so on. People really do have to realise that the rapid rate of population growth does create all sorts of other problems and get behind the serious problem of trying to educate people into sensible systems of family planning.
Ron May says the Government, churches and NGOs all have a role to play in population policy.
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