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How green is the dollar?


By Amit Mitra
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

The rich got clean air and wat ADVANCE copies of the World Bank's prestigious World Development Report, 1992, duly printed on recycled paper, focusses on development and environment this year. It came bound with a paper seal bearing the words, "Embargo until May 18".

The report, taken in its entirety, is truly an embargo on greening the world, although the World Bank will never admit this.

The writers of this report are Obviously very concerned with the "challenge facing the human race of achieving sustained and equitable development", and they have set out to explore the "two-way relationship between development and environment". We are informed that "despite the good progress over the past generation, more than one billion people still live in poverty and suffer grossly inadequate access to the resources ......

The report can be credited for highlighting the connections between development and environment, especially its, emphasis on the community. But the World Bank's own policies militate against this trajectory.

The report describes how environmental problems can and do undermine the goals of development. We should believe that there are two ways in which this can happen. "First, environmental quality - water that is safe and plentiful and air that is healthy - is itself part of the improvement in welfare that development attempts to bring.... Second, environmental damage can undermine future productivity".

The Indian sub-continent was projected as a nation of fakirs by the British. Fakirs do not need to eat, but can live on air and water. And if we really feel very hungry, we can eat the burgar so graciously sent to us by the West. But as loyal, obedient schoolchildren, we'cannot question the high income countries. And. the King Emperor, with a per capita GNP of US. $21,790, is above all reproach.

We will have to tighten our belts and consume increasingly less to subsidise our western siblings. To do that, we will have to remove our subsidies, as a part of "win-win actions", that encourage the excessive use of fossil fuels, irrigation water, and pesticides and excessive logging." We cannot ask the World Bank why despite its emphasis on "taking measures to empower, educate and involve farmers, local communities, indigenous people, and women so that they can make decisions and investments in their own long term interest", we cannot decide what is global and what is national.

Only the second last chapter of this "North bank" report talks of "international environmental concerns". Substantive issues like how unequal trade and aid practices, including that of the World Bank, creates environmental degradation in the developing countries are ignored. To be fair, the report does say that high income countries must assume the primary responsibility for... having created the problems of greenhouse warming and ozone depletion iii-4p first place, but that is said in passing. I Of the 62 specill boxes in the World Bank report, 32 focus on developing countries, while the rest deal with general issues. We will have to get rich fast. That is the only way to solve our problems.

Of course, "our trade and capital markets will have to be open". We will have to acquire credit worthiness through policy reform while, at the same time, promote robust environmentally-responsible growth and by AD 2030 we'll all be leading better lives. No matter how many Bhopals occur and our trade treaties will be increasingly unequal.

The Report repeatedly emphasises that high income countries must finance the protection of natural habitats in developing countries from which the,whole world benefits. To clean up the environmental mess that we are in, some 70 billion to 140 billion US dollars a year will be needed by the end of the decade. The crux of the report is to make us greenhorns, support the GEF facility. The GEF will not be very different from the IMF. After all, the dollar too is green.

Certainly all this will embargo true greening, unless we take one bit of advice in the report seriously: "Governments need to build constituencies for change - to curb the power of vested interests, to hold institutions accountable" and "to increase willingness to the costs of protection". After all, if we are serious about greening the world. the World Bank and USA should think in terms of reparations for the damage they have done, with the victims deciding the amount.

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