The nation is under great expectation to receive with glee the seventh billion person to join the world at the 37 Military Hospital in Accra today. That birth will be significant and the names of mother and child (or children) will be etched in historical letters of gold.
Whether by divine design or accident of history, the epoch making and record breaking event has come upon us when Ghana as a country is grappling with the challenges of urbanization. Last Wednesday the capital city, Accra and its suburbs went on their knees as lives and property were devastated by floods: nine lives and property worth millions of cedis were lost.
The irretrievable damage has brought into sharp focus the need for proper planning. Urbanization everywhere comes with its attendant challenges but these can be mitigated to tolerable levels if proper and effective town planning, implementation and monitoring are rigidly followed.
Ghana's 2010 Population and Housing Census put our population at a provisional figure of about 24 million. But as population experts have said times without number, the important thing is not the population figure per se but the population in relation to other resources available within the geographical boundaries of a country. Thus a population is said to be under, over or optimum relative to land mass and available facilities such as housing, education, health, infrastructure, water, energy, among others.
This long held view was espoused by various speakers at the launch of the State of the World Population Report 2011 in Accra last week. Ghanaians were advised not to see the numbers as a challenge but must look at the benefits that they could offer. Thus, we must identify the silver lining in the clouds and somber skies of a growing population
The report indeed emphasizes that, with proper planning and the right investments in people to empower them to make choices to maximize their welfare and that of others; we can have a Ghana of thriving and sustainable cities, productive labour force that can fuel economic growth, with the youth contributing to the well-being of economies and societies.
All our planners of all categories have a herculean task on hand if we are to attain the long term goals the report envisions. These include unleashing the power of women and girls through equal opportunities, ensuring that every child is wanted and every child birth safe; protecting the environment; providing facilities to ensure healthy and productive citizens and addressing the challenges faced by ageing sections of our society.
In the light of the above it is important that we take a closer look at our growing population of young people, ageing, fertility, migration, urbanization, the environment and how to manage data.
Data is critical to planning and this underscores the need to resource the Ghana Statistical Service to deliver on its responsibilities. Good data will ensure a proper co-ordination among our institutions thereby promoting the overall growth and development of our society.
Meanwhile, the members of staff of Public Agenda say 'akwaaba' to the 7th billion child on earth today.