Ibb University rector: Yemeni population increases by 700,000 annually [Archives:2007/1062/Reportage]

June 25 2007

In a lecture about the impact of population increase on economic growth in Yemen, one attendee questioned Ibb University Rector Ahmed Shuja'a Al-Din about the population explosion in the Arab world and how Arab regimes, under the pretext of such an explosion, justify their failure to achieve a real developmental renaissance eradicating unemployment, poverty and illiteracy. Another attendee wondered how the two billion-strong Chinese and Indians have achieved two of the world's strongest economies. The following was extracted from an interview with the rector.

Interviewed by: Abdulqawi Sha'lan

Population growth in Yemen isn't keeping up with its development requirements. What's your opinion of Yemeni government remedies for this problem?

I think it's very important to educate people and include the subject of population in the curricula in different phases of education because this will help increase public awareness about the importance of family planning so as to reduce the number of family members. Hence, the government will be able to provide job opportunities for the public.

What's the average population growth compared to economic and social growth in Yemen?

Developed countries always connect population growth with economic development; yet, in Yemen, current population growth is 3.4 percent after dropping from 3.7 percent. This means we need double that to achieve a balance between population growth and economic and social sources in order to achieve a better living standard.

Does the Yemeni government have a clear population policy?

Yes, the government has a clear population policy currently being used. The policy began in 1988 before unification. After that, a first conference was held in 1990 and a second in 1996. The policy has its own programs.

But this policy isn't vivid because during your lecture, you spoke about a coming population explosion.

The Yemeni government has a vivid policy along with objectives and programs, all of which have the same method of how to connect economic and social development with population. Responsibility is shared between the state and the community; therefore, mosques, schools, universities and other educational institutions play a vital role.

When the government makes a policy, it should find a way to apply it, but citizens also are responsible to apply such policies. If a family father's income is YR 30,000 or YR 40,000 and there are more than 10 family members, how can he provide them a good, educational and healthy living standard? Every year, Yemen has 700,000 new births.

What's the role of universities in this respect and does research conducted receive responses to be carried out in reality?

Universities play a fundamental role in making people aware of the population issue, but it's changing rapidly and this requires potentials to prepare teaching staff who can communicate with students very vividly and with a sound vision.

Moreover, universities should offer libraries containing references and sources to help researchers in this regard. Such references and sources are available at some universities; however, curricula should be available in all Yemeni universities and be part of student requirements. Thus, there can be no gain in saying that the availability of the population issue has begun to be on the right track regarding the issue of educating people about family planning.

Population growth dropped from 3.7 percent to 3.4 percent. Is this evidence of improvement?

It is a small indicator because decreasing the population requires improved health and education services, as well as public awareness about the importance of family planning. This will result in decreasing population growth and human fertility percentages.

How do you evaluate Yemen's average mortality rate?

The mortality rate started to decline due to fighting epidemics that left thousand dead. However, I can't say that the decline of the death rate is rapid, but very slow.

Some think the 1994 census was better than the 2004. What's your response to that?

Detailed results of the 2004 population census haven't come out yet, so we can't compare the two, but administrative problems hindered the census results. In general, I can't make a judgment before having the detailed results from the 2004 population census.

Some countries have a population of more than a billion, but they can absorb the population explosion. Does the problem lie in the population explosion or in the failure of government policies that couldn't succeed in achieving a developmental renaissance?

Population explosion still is a problem in China and India, yet these two countries are able to absorb the explosion due to their large economic growth. In China, there are follow-up legal and legislative measures; however, in India, there are educational and awareness issues due to its circumstances, its multicultural atmosphere and languages.

What about Tunisia and Iran?

Tunisia and Iran are this region's two successful countries because they have dealt with population issues with reality. Likewise, we hope we can take real measures and approach our problems.

Regarding Tunisia, since Bu Raqeebah's reign, they've made policies concerning family planning, so they've succeeded in adjusting between economic growth and population. But in Iran, one single jurisprudential reference helped follow the style of education and awareness through mosques preachers; so, consequently, they succeeded.

Do you support Iranian style or Tunisian style measures?

The situation is different in Yemen. Experience has proven that taking measures is futile, but promoting education and awareness through mosques, schools, universities and television channels is best for Yemen because everyone is responsible for this problem, not just the state.

What are Yemen's most populated governorates?

With a relatively small area of approximately 5,200 square kilometers and a population of 2,131, Ibb is the most populated governorate. Also, its average crime and unemployment is Yemen's highest.

How do political wrangles affect population politics?

Of course, political wrangles have an effect on population politics. Instead of chewing qat and discussing political matters, people should talk about useful issues such as public awareness, including family planning. I hope all efforts will move toward the nation's interests, regardless of differences.

Does population politics go against Sharia law?

Population politics does not go against Sharia law at all because Islam calls us to have family planning. Qur'anic verses and traditions enlighten us in our social life, especially on this issue.

According to the last Yemeni census, what's the male-female ratio?

There are 105 females to 100 males due to the mortality of males because of accidents and other death-causing factors.

What governorates have more males than females?

Those would be less populated governorates with the highest immigration rates, such as Al-Mahrah, Shabwa, Hadramout and Al-Jawf.