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But he notes that ``in many parts of East Africa where the population growth rates are 4 percent - which means that the population will double for those countries in 17 years - the average female during her reproductive years will produce eight children.'' And in many cases, he adds, ``the females, when asked, state that they want six or seven children.'' To change `mind-sets' IN such situations, he notes, it's not enough to increase the availability of contraceptives. Instead, he says, ``one must change mind-sets.''Skip to next paragraph
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Unless that change is made, McNamara warns, the resulting population growth will produce such serious ``quality-of-life'' problems for Bangladesh, India, and sub-Saharan African countries that their governments will be tempted to take ``drastic action'' to reduce population. The example of China's one-child-per-family policy, he says, suggests that such actions can be imposed only autocratically.
``I will predict that if those nations of East Africa do not find a way to reduce the desired family size of seven or eight down toward two,'' he says, ``they are going to move - without any question by the end of the century, and certainly [by] the early part of the next century - to autocratic, repressive, dictatorial family systems that will restrict in the most brutal ways the size of families.''
In that situation, he says, families may kill children whose presence would otherwise ``place them above the prescribed limits [of] the state.''
In addition to controlling population growth, McNamara says, he sees a second way forward: an increase in the rate of economic development. In the 21st century, he says, the US must contribute more to international economic development as an expression of the nation's traditional ``concern for others'' and ``sense of compassion.''
During the period of the Marshall Plan following World War II, he says, when America's real income per capita was ``less than half of what it is today,'' the nation was giving some 2.5 percent of its gross national product in foreign economic assistance. Today, he says, ``we are spending on the order of [only] 0.21 percent of our GNP'' for such assistance.
``I mention this because I think it shows a loss of sensitivity to our responsibility to others,'' he says. ``It's a lack of compassion. It's a failure to pursue those values I felt we had traditionally respected in our society.'' Answers for developing nations PART of the answer for developing nations, he says, is a direct transfer of resources from the industrial nations. But it is even more important, he says, to ``accelerate our own rate of economic advance - because we are a market for their goods.''
``It [has] become a truism to say that the world is becoming interdependent economically,'' he says, adding that ``our economic welfare depends on the welfare of Brazil, Mexico, India, and China, [while] their welfare depends on ours.''
Finally, what about environmental degradation? McNamara ranks it as a serious problem, related in large part to the imbalance of population growth and economic development.
Despite a lack of certainty about the causes of certain environmental problems, such as acid rain, the destruction of the ozone layer, and the greenhouse effect, he says the developed nations should be ``willing to buy insurance that will help us avoid undesirable, irreversible effects'' by tackling what are thought to be the most likely causes of the problems.
``Later,'' he acknowledges, ``it might prove that those were not the causes. In that case we would have wasted those funds.''
``On the other hand, later it may prove that they were the causes, and we would have substantially reduced the cost'' of battling the problem, he says. ``But if we spent 1 or 2 or 3 percent of GNP to protect us against these uncertain environmental effects,'' he concludes, ``I would suggest to you it's money well spent.''
Next: Marina Whitman, economist, Dec. 23.