by Laila Azzeh | Mar 07,2012 | 23:51

AMMAN — Jordan is on the right track in linking population issues with development when enacting population policies and following up on national progress towards taking advantage of the demographic opportunity, experts said on Wednesday.

However, the Kingdom’s development process “suffers from a lack of coordination and scattered efforts due to the fact that there are more than one body that tackles the issues of population and development”, said Raed Odwan, director of the interior ministry’s local development directorate.

“It would have been better for these bodies to unify their work in one national institution in charge of planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating population policies,” added the official, who headed a delegation to Indonesia last month to look into its experience in population and development.

The delegates, including representatives of several national institutions as well as the Senate and the Lower House, were acquainted with Indonesia’s efforts to link population with development and apply decentralisation.

“There is an urgent need to unify national legislation in the field of population and development by designating two ministries to specialise in this field and work to expedite the development of local communities scientifically, like in Indonesia,” said Nawal Faouri, a member of the delegation and head of the Senate Population and Development Committee.

During a press conference to highlight the outcomes of the visit, she added that Jordan needs an executive body that is capable of implementing population policies and has the authority and the legislative basis to ensure the best application of population programmes.

Higher Population Council (HPC) Secretary General Raeda Qutob noted that the visit, which was supported by the Johns Hopkins University/Jordan Health Communication Partnership, showed areas of similarity with Indonesia, particularly in focusing on family development rather than only family planning.

“Jordan deals with the issue of family planning as a means and not an end,” she said, stressing the need to benefit from Indonesia’s decentralisation approach in order to develop local communities in Jordan.

Odwan said the Asian country distributes power between the central government and local community governments in governorates, provinces and districts, which all have elected parliamentary councils. The country also has a financial balance law to distribute state funds equitably.

“A total of 20 per cent of Indonesia’s revenues go to local communities, in addition to what these areas gain from projects they implement and taxes they impose,” he highlighted, adding that the central government only takes 7 per cent of these taxes.

Odwan added that the development policies and programmes in the Asian country are based on the Millennium Development Goals and the needs of the local communities.

Qutob said the HPC has also looked into Indonesia’s experience in activating the role of midwives in providing services in underprivileged areas.

She added that midwives in Jordan are still facing challenges that prevent them from providing comprehensive family planning services, including a lack of incentives.

The HPC secretary general underlined the need for introducing higher education courses in demographic studies in order to eliminate the need to resort to experts from abroad, who do not understand the specificity of the Jordanian culture.

Faouri warned that failure to take advantage of the demographic opportunity in 2030, the stage in the country’s development at which the ratio of dependents to workers is lowest, “would turn the opportunity into a tragedy”.