by Goh Leng Chua
WHEN Sarawak’s Chief Minister Taib Mahmud embarked on the first phase of his “Politics of Development”, the State was at the threshold of essentially developing its basic needs like any other under-developed Asian countries. Emphasis then was setting up infra-structures and amenities in the towns, rural centres and resource pools like timber camps, plantations and mineral sites.
Political stability proved to be a necessary contribution that underpinned the rapid process that transformed an under-developed Sarawak to be a developing state today. Many of the Government policies have been translated into realities. Those areas of development that have underperformed or have yet to reach the desired targets continue to have the Government’s as well as the people’s attention. Development progress is an on-going process wherein policies and management approaches must by necessity change and adapt with changing times to be successful in avoiding pit-falls.
Encouraged by the satisfactory achievements of the State government and its implementation machinery, the Chief Minister shifted gear into what he aptly termed as phase 2 of the Politics of Development. In brief, that concept places greater emphasis which can be earmarked as sustainability coupled with mindset enrichment.
Leadership is making the right decisions. Like in any family discussions and in any business judgments, political leaders make government polices that affect the well-being of its stakeholders. The politics of development becomes the politics of sustainable economy. Growth must be balanced with sustainability. Sustainability has been with us since the beginning of time. In a nutshell, its long term survival. We experienced and practised this in our family unit, business enterprises, religious congregations, social gatherings, political groupings and governmental exploits.
“Sustainable Development” has been defined as “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”: Brundtland Report, World Commission on Environment and Development (1987). The moral basis for such development extends from fairness to contemporaries to fairness to posterity of generations yet unborn. Countries must consider living within their stock of natural resources without depleting it entirely. We live in a finite world with resource constraints which are increasingly and inevitably binding. This requires us to gradually change the way we live, adapting our economy and our lifestyles. What and how then does one do to embrace this?
At the global level, environmental issues highlighted by world leaders include climate change, global warming, biodiversity, deforestation, pollution, the haze, clean water, nuclear energy, population explosion, food shortage, etc. The effects that arise from such activities are not restricted by nation’s imaginary boundary lines. Treaties are forged between nations but many of which either fall on deaf ears or lacked the political will to effectively implement them in their own countries for various selfish considerations. Obviously rich, developed nations have agendas that differ from the poor, less developed countries which progressed at uneven pace and on different societal level. Poor countries live off the environment by ultilising their natural resources to survive. And the rich nations exploit their poverty by buying the raw materials with little regard for environmental consideration for those less fortunate countries. Between business growth and greenery most people, in most countries would go for growth. Business as usual.
Malaysia, and in particular the Sarawak Government at its local level has embarked on the first stage of protecting its natural resources: environmental awareness. Towards this aspect, speeches by politicians are a great help as publicity naturally comes to them and with it public awareness of the subject-matter when it refers or relates to environment issues. Malaysians are now familiar with such words as recycle, solar energy, renewable energy, green technology, sustainability, environmental protection, biomas, clean energy, etc. The first few such green labels that have been referred to in Sarawak include reforestation, logjam, nature tourism, green building index, Bakun Dam with the latest being SCORE. All such references create society’s awareness of the need in not unnecessarily costing the earth while carrying out development in the name of growth and prosperity
“The government will ensure that this growth is sustainable and that the benefits of a stronger economy, more jobs, better education and health facilities will outweigh the environmental impact which is being tightly monitored to ensure that it is kept to minimum”, assures the Chief Minister. Economic growth policies are being designed and formulated to combine with effective environmental policies.
Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) sets the benchmark of the state’s main thrust in clean energy. Rather than dependent on fossil energy such as oil and coal which are finite in supply and therefore depleting in nature, reliance on solar, wind and water in generating the much needed energy to power the State’s new economic policies and programmes is a step in the right direction. Initial financial, environmental and social impacts are “costly” but with effective environmental protection schemes in place the long term benefits will outweigh such concerns. Clean energy generated will be ultilised by the various downstream industrial and business activities in Sarawak’s central region and beyond. It is imperative for corporates and industries to implement “cradle to grave” approach in their production lines to ensure sustainability of resources.
While leadership is making the right decision, management is making things right. Implementation of policies makes that difference between positive or negative results and perceptions.
Local authorities, district offices, departments, government agencies and community bodies are entrusted in carrying out government projects, schemes and programmes efficiently and diligently. Waste management, sewage control, recycling programmes, green garden, water purification, solar lighting, and educational environmental programmes are some of the efforts and activities that are carried out at local level. Notable of such programmes are Agenda 21 and 3R projects. Changing the mindset of the populace is the most crucial and challenging task that leader face with their communities. Political courage as well as communal acceptance make up the necessary elements for a meaningful mindset change to face new things, new challenges. “Hence, our mentality need to change and this starts at the lowest level”, advised seasoned the Chief Minister. It is not possible to have a good government unless there was a good disciple among the people. Implementers must be efficient. With SCORE in mind, Sarawakians must not be scoreless.
The environmental whirlwind swept through the business world and company boardrooms too as consumers start thinking green labeling, origins of green product and ISO certification. For instance, there are also business opportunities such as recycling, composting and biogas in wastes. Waste is opportunities lost if not converted to usables. To think of the environment in economic terms is a useful way of understanding environmental problems. Government and company with corporate social responsibility become more concerned with environmental issues once they acknowledge them as benefiting their economic interest. Compliance with environment conservation and protection requirements such as Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) are instruments of corporate governance to improve and enrich their products and services. Many business instruments such as carbon trading and green-technology based equipments are now available to stakeholders of green consumerism. In a world where money talks the environment needs value to give it a voice. Sustainable development is sustainable business. The world of business and the world of environment need not collide.
Government has a stewardship role which extends to the environment and policy makers implicitly judge the costs and benefits of environmental action when carrying out development and community projects. Of course, political pressures are often the way governments measure environmental benefit with environmental fashionism being whipped up by environmentalists, conservationists, and political opponents. There should be less politicking by politicians on both sides of the divide and start focusing on sustainable well-being of their populance. Voters do not get most excited about things that do the most environmental harm. The voice of the green movement is now easily accessible through the cyber network which also chant such mantras as transparency, accountability and corruption – free governance.
In carrying out development, politicians through political courage balance their populist mileage with sustainability which encompasses the political, economical and resource landscapes: the Politics of Sustainable Development.