Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Guess who are the Best Developed?

Guess which nation is the best developed in the world? When we say the "best developed", we mean it. Don't confuse that with something like "with highest per capita income" or "highest pollution rate".

Green Left, Australia quotes The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Global Footprint Network.s 2006 report, Living Planet, released last October:

"..human activities are outstripping the natural world's capacity to regenerate. The worst offenders are also the wealthiest. for example the US, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Australia and New Zealand produce 50% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.. It also revealed that Cuba was the only country to have achieved sustainable development.."

The report goes on to say that "Cuba's rating was based on the fact that it is the only country in the world that has a high level of social development, including good health and education systems, and does not use up more resources than is sustainable."

Now, what makes Cuba take the sustainability route, when everyone else is competing with one another in their race towards an impending doom? The communist parties, or the ideologies itself, have no special inclination towards environment-friendly development, or to be more precise, development that lasts.

The report says that "Cuba's achievements are all the more extraordinary because the country, already very poor, has pulled this off in despite the five-decade-long US economic blockade". Despite the blockade? I believe it was the Blockade itself that made this possible.

Cuba did not have much choice.

With a sanction in place for almost 50 years, they had to do with what they had within. They could not steal oil or share the benefit from those who did. They could not live in illusions.

Let us check what is happening in India. Our media has been raving about the new "shining" India, for which both NDA and UPA claim the credit. The "left", once widely seen as the "red" that stops this "development boom", is now going all out to beat everyone else in that game.

EPW Editorial ("Nandigram: Taking People for Granted", Economic and Political Weekly, Jan 13-19 2007) calls it a "race to the bottom":

"And with globalisation, capital, whether Indian or Foreign, has to be given better terms than what is on offer by governments in other potential locations in other countries. When capital finally decides to make an investment in the domestic economy, state governments then compete with one another in offering better terms to enhance their respective location advantages. The revenue loss such terms entail does, of course, compound their problem of financing programmes in health, education and other important public services, forcing them to either cut back on these programmes or turn to the "aid" agencies that willy-nilly impose their "conditionalities". Frankly, it is really a "race to the bottom" in which the state governments have limited options.."

[We had talked about this in the comments here once.

"..it is not profitable to account for the exploitation of our resources. Ooze all the water out of our wells and give it to MNCs. Shut all the schools down in the rural areas, have no hospitals, health care, or even better, shoot all those people..

The media, with enough money backing it, play the "let the market decide" tune loud enough to make sure any other voice goes unheard. [A boycott in Nandigram of newspapers or of journalists belonging to some news organizations suggests a feeling of media disenfranchisement, writes Aloke Thakore; Singur smokescreen: Part 1, 2 and 3 by Anirudha Dutta]

Unfortunately, even when a Singur or Nandigram makes it to the news, at best it is used to "expose" the double-talk of the major left parties in India (and to feel glad that the "Left" is also coming "our" way). Hardly anyone bothers to raise questions about the development model itself.

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