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Government 'fails' to control population growth

Jakarta Post - October 24, 2011

Bambang Muryanto, Yogyakarta – Weak government policies on population growth through family planning programs have accounted for the uncontrolled population growth in Indonesia since the reform era, which could lead to serious problems in other related areas of life, a scholar said.

Population expert Sri Moertiningsih Adioetomo of the University of Indonesia's demography institution said earlier this week that the country's annual population growth was equal to the total population of Singapore.

"If every year we have 4.5 million new births, who will be able to feed them and provide them with job opportunities a few years ahead?" Sri Moertiningsih told a press conference organized by Advanced Family Planning (AFP) Indonesia in Yogyakarta.

She blamed the high rate of population growth on a combination of overall improvements in health services and weakening government policy on the matter during the reform era.

Before the reform era, she said, the government implemented family planning programs in centralized ways. However, since laws on regional autonomy were implemented, the central government no longer controlled the programs, as they were transferred to the authority of regional administrations.

"There are many housewives currently who do not even know what family planning is," she said, underlining the need for heads of regional administrations to adopt a serious commitment toward implementing family planning programs.

The 2010 census revealed that Indonesia had a population of 237.56 million, higher than the predictions made by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), of 234 million.

This made Indonesia the country with the fourth-largest population in the world. Given population growth of 1.3 percent during the period 1990-2000, it is presently at 1.49 percent.

Noted medical expert Kartono Mohamad, who has been actively participating in the AFP discussion working group (DWG), said that if nothing was done about the rate of growth, Indonesia would be creating poverty. High birth rates, he said, were predominantly found in low-income communities.

"An uncontrolled birth rate also leads to excessive maternal mortality rates," Kartono said.

To help revive policies on family planning AFP, which is jointly funded by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute, is initiating a policy advocacy program.

"We try to tell decision makers to advocate and revitalize family planning programs based on factual data and evidence," chief of AFP Indonesia's secretariat, Mayun Pudja, said.

In Indonesia, the program is carried out by Cipta Cara Padu Foundation. The same program will also be simultaneously carried out in 11 other countries. So far, only three countries have started to implement the program since 2009: Indonesia, Uganda and Tanzania.

"The revitalization has two objectives. First, to persuade the government to revive family planning policies and, second, to increase family planning funds," Mayun said.

Success stories have come so far from Bandung and Pontianak. The coordinator of Bandung's DWG, Aten Sonadi, said the program had managed to encourage the association of Indonesian subdistrict administrations to gain a commitment from subdistrict heads to allocate Rp 2.5 million annually to family planning programs.