ISLAMABAD, Feb 7 — (MAMOSA Report) Pakistan, the nation of about 196 million people, adds some 4.4 million people to its population each year, which is almost equivalent of New Zealand’s population, Mr Ahsan Iqbal, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission said in a interview.
But now the country is planning to “apply brakes” and slow down South Asia’s fastest population growth rate through enhanced education for women “to ensure sustainable economic expansion for the world’s sixth-most populous country, reports Bloomberg.” The country will try to reduce its population growth to 1.2 percent a year by 2025 from about 2 percent now, Ahsan Iqbal said.
“We actually need to apply brakes,” Iqbal, a member of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s cabinet with an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, said in his Islamabad office. “With this almost 2 percent growth rate it becomes very difficult to sustain your development.”
Pakistan joins Indonesia among Asian nations seeking to restrain burgeoning populations as slowing economic growth reduces job prospects.
“If we can give our young population the right education, right skills, it is a big demographic dividend for the next 10 to 15 years,” Iqbal said. “If it doesn’t happen it becomes a demographic disaster.”
The government will focus on making planning programs available to married couples and prioritizing education for women, he said.
Bloomberg reported that only about 30 percent of married couples use contraceptives in Pakistan, compared with 55 percent in neighboring India and 73 percent in Iran, according to a finance ministry economic surveypublished last year.
Pakistan’s population grew about 2 percent, compared with 1.3 percent in India and 1 percent in Iran, it said.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono wants families to stop at two children to keep schools and services from being overwhelmed.
The policies of Pakistan and Indonesia, both majority Muslim nations, contrast with other Asian countries that are seeking more people.
Singapore offers cash handouts and extended maternity leave to encourage its citizens to have more kids, while China has loosened its 34-year-old one-child policy that has saddled the nation with an aging labor force.
While Pakistan’s population growth is “out of control,” a middle class of 55 million to 70 million people is helping to drive the $225 billion economy, according to Sakib Sherani, a former finance ministry adviser and now chief executive officer at Macroeconomic Insights, an Islamabad-based research firm.
Sharif’s seven-month-old government is struggling to revive an economy hindered by power outages and a Taliban insurgency. Annual economic growth has slowed to 3 percent on average since 2008, below the 7 percent pace the Asian Development Bank says is needed to provide jobs for Pakistan’s expanding workforce.
The government has “at least been successful in applying brakes to the very fast nose-dive the economy was taking,” Iqbal said. “If those brakes had not been applied, we’d be in sheer chaos today.”