POPULATION INCREASE NOT A NIGHTMARE
By Fr Giorgio Licini PIME – Catholic Reporter PNG
The recently released 2011 census figures point at a consistent population increase (3.1% rate) in Papua New Guinea as in many developing countries. The opposite trend is taking place in western societies now experiencing an aging population and decreasing number of children after a consistent growth following World War II. It may be interesting to notice how in their time they tackled the issue and what PNG can learn from their experience. There are at least three areas of interest.
The first refers to a massive development and maintenance of infrastructures. The works must be done properly. Under a mantle of road asphalt in Europe there are 30-50 centimeters of hard rocks. That way it is very hard for the pavement to just disappear and give way to deep pot holes. In a poorer country like the Philippines most of the roads are cemented. A technique that may be more expensive, but for a solution that lasts forever. Besides practical decisions, however, what really matters is that infrastructure is funded and really put in place based on a long term national plan. Massive corruption and diversion of funds is incompatible with national development.
A second area of concern is certainly education. While the western population was growing in the past decades, every child had to be in school. As often happens, an educated population becomes much less reproductive; to the point that some countries now worry about generation imbalance and decreasing number of children.
Job opportunities and houses also need to be provided. In a modern and urban set up fertility rates decrease when people start engaging in a more meaningful social life and become busy not only with work, but also with cultural, social and recreational activities.
Does family planning, contraception and the tragedy of abortion also contribute to population control? Certainly! But does Papua New Guinea need to rely on such practices to achieve its goal? It really doesn’t seem to be the case. With still limited population and considerable internal resources and external help, PNG can easily plan to be a country of 30-40 million people by the end of the century, with a much stronger and diversified economy, just by stamping out corruption, instilling a better sense of discipline in its citizens and working hard for education, infrastructural development, and a crime free society.
Papua New Guinea has more natural resources than any European country. It is slightly smaller than France and bigger that Germany, which have 65 and 81 million people respectively. Papua New Guinea has only seven-eight million. Population will certainly increase. It will be a problem to address, but not a nightmare!