IT HAPPENS ONLY IN INDIA,
GREAT JOB MR. PARMAR
it is good to eat as many as vegetables and fruits (totally vegetarian), but my aurvedic doctor asked me to stop eating every...
NATURAL RESOURCES, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND THE STATE: THE PHILIPPINE EXPERIENCE· Germelino M Bautista· Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
the way humankind has dealt with the environment has undergone numerous changes over the ages. The earliest civilisations revered the personifications of nature. This attitude changed over time and the environment is now used as a resource-base and a dumpyard. This metamorphosis, if one may call it so, has been brought about by the slow but steady influence of economics in human life, which places everything in context of the forces of demand and supply operating in the market.
This book discusses the environmental impact of shortsighted economic policies and faulty resource management. The author charts the course of economics-led resource management and culminates the study with a brief on the current state of the environment in the Philippines.
In the 17th century, when colonial powers set out in search of new lands to exploit, resource extraction was cheap as the price of the resources extracted did not reflect the costs borne by the people and the environment. This kind of incompatibility between the price and the real costs could have been due to two reasons: one, the concept of exploitation; second, the belief that there is no limit to the availability of resources and that nature has a limitless capacity to regenerate itself. The latter is based on the belief that the market system would automatically adjust itself by increasing the prices of those resources that are becoming scarce and, correspondingly, there would be a demand for its lower-priced complement.
The author proves this point by giving the example of the 1992 World Bank ( wb ) report which uses the downward trend in metal prices since the mid '70s to state that there would not be any resource depletion or degradation. The wb model uses scarcity value as a yardstick to measure environmental decline and resource depletion. What the report ignores is the constant improvement in technology, which enables the extraction of resources from areas that were previously difficult to access. Technology, therefore, kept down prices and led to further economic growth and environmental decline. This wb concept does not take into consideration discoveries of new resources and technological innovations, nor does it consider the fallout of extraction, which could include destruction of an endemic species and relocation of human settlements.
Such attitudes continue to be prevalent, as is evident from the burning of rainforests in Brazil, the logging contracts given in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, and the water harvesting scheme in Libya, which could dry up all its aquifers in a few years time. Such cases are not restricted to developing nations alone. Spain, in its attempts to connect all regions by road, has been uprooting trees indiscriminately, which is increasing the incidence of floods and landslides. All these schemes are governed by current economic needs and not by a principle that harmonises the need for economic growth and environmental stability.
The author gives a graphic example of the Philippines. Almost 90 per cent of the country's natural old growth forest has been destroyed or is being used for commercial purposes and its marine and land ecosystems have been destroyed in the interest of economic growth. The author explains this sacrifice in terms of government policy and foreign demand. The author goes on to state that a growing population need not be the foremost reason for environmental destruction. There is weight in this argument as the p hilippines has a land area of 296528.17 sq km and a population of 38,61,300 (1970 estimates). In other words, the population density is 13 per sq km.
The author explains the basis on which the Philippine government has been manag ing its resources. Being the 'owner-manager', it has formulated policies and fiscal measures specifying the basis and terms of access to natural resources and their habitat, the level of technology to be used for extraction, and the valuation of extracted resources including waste and destroyed resources.
According to the author, the philosophy behind the current policy on resource management in the Philippines and the world views the environment in terms of its extractable resources or as a final resting place for waste. It does not consider the environment as a system of interrelated phenomena that makes life possible on the planet. Moreover, guided by economics, each component of nature has been given a definite value. Thus, each plant species will have a different value depending on its economic use. The common role of trees in keeping the soil together and providing food and shelter to humans and animals is not considered. At a micro level, taking the example of a tree once again, the author points out that only certain parts of a tree are valued. For example, only the timber may be priced but the value of the roots, bark and fruits, which may not have an economic value but all of which play a role in the ecosystem, may not be considered.
A market economy is based on the concepts of utilitarianism and income maximisation. Thus, all major players in an economy try to increase their income by increasing their productivity. As the author states, "Both the resource granting state and the private extracting or processing units want greater revenues or a larger share of the excess profit from the sale and processing of natural resources." Thus, the Philippines government levies an arbitrary fixed tax that enables it to earn a sufficient income. Since there is no ceiling on the extractable limit, this allows for a sufficient margin, which goes into the extractor's kitty.
In the final chapter, the author provides guidelines for the formulation of policies on resource management. These guidelines demand a restructuring of the current growth process. The author suggests a two-pronged attack, which would not only be a defensive effort to arrest the degradation but would also change the current liberal fiscal and monetary policies that favour uncontrolled extraction.
This is one of the very few books that points out what ails in the prevailing world economic order vis-a- vis environment and resource management. However, the suggestions provided by the author in the last chapter may be difficult to implement because of fallouts such as an increase in prices of goods and a decrease in job opportunities.