The Executive Secretary of the National Population Council Dr Leticia Adelaide Appiah has explained Ghana’s slow rate of economic development is to be partly blamed on the population structure.
She wants citizens to pay attention to the structure of the population because she argued, it holds the key to better socio-economic development.
In a Joy News Desk Report interview with Daniel Dadzie, she dropped two facts which she noted, ought to sink in the minds of the country’s leaders and citizens.
Singapore began life as an independent country with a population of about two million. 60 years later, the island nation is about 6.3million.
Ghana began with 6.7million in 1957. It is now 27million after 60years.
Yet Ghana is poor. Singapore is rich, if you cut out technical categorizations of economic development.
And it is this economic difference that ought to tell the country, something is wrong with the structure of the population, she said.
“The structure is more important than the number,” she said maintaining that having a large population is not a problem.
“Our population structure with a growth rate of 2.5% means that we are very, very youthful and if the population is youthful it means expenditure is very high. Consumption is big then savings are a problem and development is an issue” she drew the linkages summarily.
Over the years, government has tried to address the development demands of this huge population by simply going big on everything.
Over the past several years, there has been an ambitious building of more schools, hospitals, grow more businesses, provide free education in various forms.
If the demand is high, government’s approach has been to simply supply more, she explained what she believes is an incomplete approach to dealing with the population.
But while the Executive Director okayed this commitment to more development projects, she was quick to point out that history does not support this strategy as a way of dealing with population issues.
“We always follow those who have succeeded and that is not what they did. If you look at the Asian tigers we always compare ourselves to, Mauritius and Barbados”.
“We all had the same [population] growth rate between 3 and 4% in the 1960s but then they realised that with that growth rate it will be difficult to develop so they worked on the population.”
Today, these countries have only multiplied their numbers just about twice since independence. Ghana has multiplied more than four times its numbers in 1957.
In Ghana, there are simply too many births, she expressed worry and warned against giving birth to more than four children.
A reality of having an unplanned family,she said, is seen in how children are being sold for 30cedis at the coastal areas. “…it means that they [the parent] didn’t need the child,” she said.
She blamed the problem of malnutrition in Ghana, child prostitution, child abuse and ill-treatment of children by their parents on the lack of family planning.
“If you have one child, there is no way you are not going to take care of their child,” she said and pointed to the successes of China’s controversil one-child policy.
If Ghanaians give birth more and maltreat them, then China’s one-child policy that ensured better care for children may be better, she contrasted.
“If you start birth at 18 years what skills would you have acquired to be able to take care of the child?” Dr Leticia Adelaide Appiah said.
The Executive Secretary was not finished in pointing out the alarming structure of the population. She said the banking system insurance companies even churches are suffering because of the population structure.
This is because the average age of the population is 21 years – the age of consumption than production.
“How many 21-year old can buy cars? How many of our rural folks have money in the banks. Look at the banking industry. We are not saving enough because we have not finished consuming. Insurance penetration is just 2%. You cannot insure anything if you are hard up”
Even the migration of Nigerians into the country is down to the fact that Ghana’s 21 years media structure ensures better economic conditions than Nigeria’s 19-year old.
“People want better lives so they will move to where they can find a better life,” she said.
She was at pains to stress Ghana needs to manage its population by encouraging the use of family planning methods.
She advocated Ghana follows after Tunisia’s active promotion of family planning schemes instead of what appears to be family planning schemes left to donors.
Family planning will bring down abortions and put women in control of childbirth much better than they currently do.
Fewer births mean better investment in the human resource which will lead to improved conditions of living and standards of living.
She suggested people plan better when building houses than having children.