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Population Growth and the Chicken-and-Egg Question [editorial]

Speaking at a conference at Speke Resort Munyonyo some years back, President Yoweri Museveni took a muted swipe at proponents of family planning.

Mr Museveni said he was not convinced that a fast-growing population and a developed, prosperous Uganda were almost mutually exclusive.

On Monday, Museveni gave a different message at Serena hotel, where he opened the national family planning conference under the theme: “Accelerating social and economic transformation through universal access to voluntary family planning.” Museveni said family planning is good for family health, wealth creation, and national development.

Obviously, the president has had his own g views on population issues. In 1989, for instance, Museveni told legislators that Africa lagged behind partly because its ‘small’ population did not force people to become “aggressively competitive and innovative”.

And on Monday, Museveni was quick to point out that family planning should not be equated to “population control” and that a big population was not the problem per se. These are good statements especially for the public relations of the culturally controversial subject of family planning.

But Mr Museveni can also face up to some statistical facts: that Uganda’s population growth is among the fastest in the world that Uganda’s more deprived, less-educated parents are having more children than their wealthier counterparts that not many countries have broken out of poverty with a population growth rate above three per cent that for the country’s demographic indicators to change significantly, the economy would have to consistently grow at three times the population – about 10 per – cent annually.

So, yes, the problem is not a big population, but whether the country can afford that population ,sound education and healthcare services, and meaningful employment. One attendant question, though, would be like that of the chicken and the egg: which came first?

It is imperative that user-friendly family planning services are readily available to those who need them in public health units. But also, in the meantime, the population lobby will hope that Mr Museveni is truly “convinced” and that he will become an active aocate of resource-proportional family planning, whether speaking at Serena hotel or in Serere district.

Source : The Observer

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