THE EARTH TIMES
APRIL 14, 1994
PEOPLE ARE KEY TO FAST GROWTH
BY ASHALI VARMA
UNITED NATIONS – A leading private-sector development organization unveiled preliminary fundings from a new study Wednesday in which experts from rich and poor countries offer fresh perspectives on the links between population and development. While several countries have demonstrated their ability to accommodate rapid population growth successfully, the study says, there are nevertheless “clear negative effects” on individuals and households.
The study, titled “Population and Development; Old Debates, New Conclusions,” was commissioned by the Washington-based Overseas Development Council. Its director is Robert Cassen, Professor of Development Economics at the International Development Center, Oxford University. Among other things, Professor Cassen said, the study found that children from larger families suffer from malnutrition, are less educated and end up in a cycle of poverty from which it is difficult for them to escape. John W. Sewell, ODC’s president said that the study—which is scheduled to be formally published in June—addresses “complex issues that currently face both developed and developing-country governments” such as; the relationship between population and economic growth; the relations of family planning and fertility reduction to women’s reproductive health and women’s rights; the impact of population growth on local ecosystems; and the rationales for population assistance programs.
Sewell spoke at a luncheon hosted here by the ODC and the Rockefeller Foundation, one of the study’s supporters. (Other supporters included the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; the Mellon Foundation; and the Pew Charitable Trusts.) Steven W. Sinding, director of population sciences at the Rockefeller Foundation, said that “Asian miracles”-the dramatic economic development stories in Asia–suggest that countries which adopt and implement effective population policies have a significantly better chance of achieving sustained economic growth than countries that don’t. “Clearly, population is -one among many factors which determine economic success,” Sinding said.
Sinding said that “to the extent there is conflicting evidence at the level of the overall economy about the impact of rapid population growth, countries are well advised to follow the precautionary principle.”
“The costs of being wrong in assuming that population growth has nothing to do with economic growth are far higher- than the costs of pursuing a broadbased and effective
population policy,” he said. Those familiar with the ODC study say it is a very carefully crafted “state-of- the-art” assessment of current thinking among economists. In his
overview of the new study, Professor Cassen writes: “In the developed as well as the developing world, few issues have aroused as much dissension–politically and academically-as the relation between population growth, economic growth, and human welfare.
Professor Cassen cautions that the new study is “about consequences, not about what should be done.”
Still, the study contains policy implications-such as the fact that governments will typically more than recoup the costs of family planning programs through savings in health and education budgets.