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Chapter Three: Policy Responses - West Asia

Social policies

In the past, social traditions, an improving economic climate and policies to encourage population growth have all resulted in increasing population during the past three decades. This growth has recently become difficult to control, and policies for controlling population growth are generally failing to produce significant results.

With nearly 92 million people in 1998, and an annual growth rate of more than 3.1 per cent, population pressure is now the core problem for economic development policies. The growth rate exceeds the anticipated growth rates of the region's economies, particularly in agriculture. The deficit in food production is growing and is aggravated by the scarcity of resources (land and water) which are nearly fully utilized. Water security and increased food production have been the dominant strategies behind most development policies during the past two decades. These have been only partially successful, mainly as a result of poor or ill-defined strategies to combat pollution, degradation and over-exploitation of resources, institutional weakness and lack of coordination, inadequate technical and financial resources and lack of public participation. A further major problem is that of refugees and dislocated people, especially in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, where nearly one million refugees live in poor conditions in camps around major cities, putting pressure on the already over-stretched infrastructure in these countries.


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