This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Contraceptives Being Priced Out of the Market in Egypt

A few days ago I blogged about Egypt's continuing struggle with population growth. This week's Economist adds some detail to the dilemma. Contraceptives, like other medicines in Egypt, have been in short supply because the government has for decades set the price of medicines, but the fact that most are imported, or rely on imported ingredients, means that the drop in value of the Egyptian pound has created a situation in which drug firms would have been losing money if they sold the medicines at the government-fixed price.
By the time the government agreed to raise the price of medicines in January, 95% of the local factories that make drugs had stopped production, says Ali Ouf of the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce. For now, shortages are easing. “Most missing medicine is now available, but in very small quantities,” says another pharmacist. “For contraceptives, one person cannot buy more than one pack.”
There has been talk of the government playing a larger role in the drugs market. (When there was a shortage of baby formula last year, the army intervened.) But its bureaucracy is already part of the problem. Several ministries regulate the import, manufacture and sale of drugs. The IMF has urged Egypt to abandon fixed prices. Locals want the government to widen and improve coverage.
The Economist notes that access to contraceptives is rarely a matter of life and death. But, of course, while that may be true in the short term, in the long run a population that is already exceeding its available resources is facing a genuine life-or-death situation. And, to its credit, the Economist hints at this when it says that "...Egypt’s population is growing at 2.4% a year, much faster than most other developing countries. Water and food are in short supply. The government can hardly serve the 92m Egyptians alive today."

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