Jakarta – The National Population and Family Planning Board (BKKBN) has said that it is high time the family-planning sector received more attention, following support from both presidential candidates for developing the sector in Sunday's presidential debate.
BKKBN chairman Fasli Jalal explained that the next government had to understand that drafting long-term economic development plans would be futile without being able to control the country's population growth.
"Everyone has to understand that at the root of economic development is population control; decreasing poverty and unemployment rates, facilitating education, the distribution of water and energy, it's all connected to the population," he told The Jakarta Post via phone on Monday.
During Sunday evening's debate on economic development and social welfare, presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto said that he would allocate more funds from the state budget to develop family planning and health care, through the sealing of "leakages" in the economy, to add more facilities and raise health workers' wages.
Rival Joko "Jokowi" Widodo also supported a bigger budget for the BKKBN, but said that he would also focus on better monitoring and management of the health sector.
Fasli lauded both candidates' eagerness to increase the BKKBN's funding, but he agreed with Jokowi's statement that better management was needed to significantly improve the family-planning sector.
He added that management was a serious problem because of the existence of regional autonomy: even if the central government pressed for tighter population control, it would not matter much if the regional governments did not see population growth as an urgent issue.
"The next government must figure out how to make this national issue a regional one, so that the 511 autonomous regions can take population control seriously," he said.
Fasli said that the current population growth rate of 1.49 percent, or an increase of 4.5 million people, per year was extremely alarming and did not bode well for the agency's target of 305 million people by the year 2035.
"At this rate, the total population will be 343 million by 2035, and the extra 38 million people will mean increased poverty and unemployment," he said.
According to the Central Statistics Agency's (BPS) census in 2010, the Indonesian population was 237.64 million. The agency recorded in 2013 that there were some 28.55 million Indonesians living below the poverty line.
Fasli said that lack of attention to population control could lead to an intergenerational transfer of poverty, which would also mean a wider poverty gap. (fss)