Mixed Results Mark Asian Family Planning
Indonesia bids to transfer successful program in family planning to other developing nations. POPULATION CRISIS
INDONESIA emerged from the 10th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) the proud midwife of a renewed worldwide drive toward population control.
The six-day summit, which ended Sept. 6, witnessed concerted efforts by the world's fourth most-populous nation to convince other developing nations to duplicate its success in family planning. Indonesia's bid to transfer population-management skills and export Indonesian-made contraceptives represents one of the few concrete strategies underlying the summit's vague calls for increased Southern Hemisphere cooperation and trade.
Ministers from the 108 member-countries will meet shortly for follow-up talks on family planning. The delegates affirmed that population pressures directly affect economic and environmental well-being. Other aims were debt relief, better management of food production, and democratization of the United Nations. President Suharto will deliver a speech before the UN Sept. 24, outlining NAM's new goals.
In stressing population control as he embarks on three years of NAM leadership, Mr. Suharto is sticking with a proven domestic formula. In 1989, he won an award from the UN Population Fund for urging a two-child norm in this nation of 183 million people. The Asian Institute of Management and the World Health Organization have also hailed the country's family-planning successes.
Indonesia's growth rate has dropped in the past two decades from 2.32 percent to 1.97 percent, the fertility rate plunged from 5.6 percent to 3.2 percent, and half of all married women now use modern contraception, including the pill or intrauterine devices (IUDs).
A network of contraceptive providers stretches down to many far-flung villages, no mean feat in a 13,500-island archipelago. And in a country where some 85 percent of the population identify themselves as Muslim, family-planning officials have carefully cultivated the backing of Islamic leaders.
Along with more benevolent aims, Suharto has commercial reasons to cast Indonesia as the developing world's capital of birth control. Once dependent on the United States for contraceptive supplies, Indonesia is now self-sufficient in almost all methods. Ten local factories, including one giant state-built factory in Bandung, a city 112 miles southeast of Jakarta, churn out millions of pills, IUDs, injectables, and condoms annually.
These factories long depended on the Indonesian government to buy up most of their wares. The government has cut back on its purchases and shifted away from free distribution of contraceptives, encouraging couples to purchase them instead. To survive this transition, factories are anxious to exploit the export market.
"To be frank, it means a profit for us," says Kuswara, manufacturing manager at Kimia Farma, the state-owned factory in Bandung.
Condoms are a special case. Suharto's son, Bambang Trihatmodjo, has the nation's monopoly on condom production. In 1989, his company, Bimantara Artika Citra, took control of a newly privatized state condom factory built in Bandung with a loan from the Japanese government.
Despite growing awareness of AIDS, condoms remain unpopular in Indonesia, accounting for only 7 percent of contraceptive users. With an eye toward overstocked warehouses, the government has held off from further purchases this year. Export is the only solution.
Condoms, pills, and IUDs were displayed with other export products outside the NAM assembly hall in the Jakarta Hilton Convention Center. Each delegate received three voluminous brochures describing Indonesia's birth-control program and products.
The marketing appears to be paying off. By the end of the summit, delegates from Bangladesh visited Kimia Farma in Bandung to put in an order for pills and IUDs. South Korea will join Ecuador, Egypt, and Tanzania in purchasing IUDs. Meanwhile, China, India, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Nigeria, and even Uzbekistan are consulting officials here on adapting the program to local conditions.
Last April, Indonesia forged a unique bilateral agreement with Vietnam that could set a precedent elsewhere in the developing world. Indonesia will send experts to Vietnam to identify their birth control needs and reshape their population control program. For now, Indonesia's factories have donated 5.7 million condoms, 10,000 packets of pills, 10,000 injectables, and 1,000 IUDs. Vietnam backed off from a Kimia Farma purchase, complaining of high prices.
Despite Indonesia's low labor costs, smaller outputs lead to prices that match those in developed countries. Indonesia has pointed out that developing world consumers will benefit only if they show solidarity in placing big orders.
Some analysts view Indonesia's new global push as a positive development.
"If they go international, there is pressure to improve domestic activities," says Firman Lubis, executive director of the Kusuma Buana Foundation, a non-government organization in Jakarta involved in birth control research. In the past, the Indonesian government has been accused of sacrificing quality for quantity in the rush to boost the numbers of users.