12 July 2006

Zambia: There's Need to Balance Economic, Population Growth - Magande

Lusaka — THERE is need to ensure that there is a balance between population growth and that of the economy, finance minister Ng'andu Magande has said.

Launching the World Population Day, Magande said development planners needed to incorporate population factors in order to achieve sustainable development.

"The growth, size, composition and distribution of a population are a big challenge for any country as they have a bearing on socio-economic development," Magande said. "Uncontrolled population growth results in inadequate and inequitable economic growth."

Magande said it was a known fact that Zambia had a very youthful population. He said people aged below 25 years account for 68 per cent of Zambia's total population.

Magande said challenge was to find adequate resources to invest in the health, education and social needs of the young people so that they grew into responsible adults.

"We are aware that the environment in which one grows up will have an immense influence on one's adult life," Magande said. "But currently there are high levels of illiteracy, unemployment, poor health and general degeneration amongst the youths. This is not withstanding the fact that the government is committing huge resources into the eradication of these social ills."

Magande said in this year's budget the government allocated K40 billion for youth projects. He said this created a revolving fund from which development ideas from the youth would be tapped and funded.

He said government was currently revising the national population policy that was adopted in 1989 to place population issues at the centre of development.

Magande said the draft revised national population policy took into account emerging concerns that have an impact on the young people such as HIV/AIDS, gender, environment, teenage pregnancy and the broader concept of reproductive health.

He also said it was generally argued that lower fertility was a means to improving the standards of living for all and to meeting national development goals.

"On the other hand, rapid unplanned population growth is seen as a major cause of high unemployment, crowded cities, pollution, inadequate housing, poor sanitation, continued illiteracy and insufficient public services," said Magande.

According to the United Nations (UN) report, Zambia's population is estimated to be 11,502,010 with the growth rate standing at 2.1 per cent whilst the Gross National Index per capita stands at US $400. The birth rate is 41 per 1,000, infant mortality rate stands at 86.8 per 1,000 and life expectancy stands at life expectancy 40.

United Nations population Fund (UNFPA) director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) would not be met unless young people were actively involved in policy making and programming.

He said young people's voices should be heard, their needs met and their human rights respected.

Obaid said millions of young people were threatened by poverty, illiteracy, risks of pregnancy and childbirth, and HIV/AIDS.

"In every region, young people are taking action on HIV/AIDS and other issues that threaten their health, education and future opportunities. Everyday, 6,000 young people are newly infected with HIV," said Obaid.

"Today, more than 500 million people aged 15 to 24 live on less than US $2 per day, 96 million young women in developing countries do not know how to read or write, and 14 million adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 become mothers every year."

Obaid said UNFPA, which champions young people's rights to education, health and employment, also recognised that investments in young people promotes social and economic growth.

"Young people have the power to drive development forward and we should seek for new ways to work side by side partners in development," said Obaid.

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