The idea of sustainable development remains to be incomplete without addressing growth, social justice and environmental issues simultaneously as they all are interlinked and can’t be taken in isolation, Professor Dr Tariq Banuri, a pioneer development expert and academic says.
“Other issues will not be resolved if we simply focus on growth as we did in the 1960s. In the 60s, the ideology was to just focus on growth, and that is when the East Pakistan started feeling deprived,” Professor Banuri asserted.
According to him slower growth will remain an issue unless other issues associated with it – population growth, rising poverty, dearth of renewable resources, income distribution, religious minorities’ woes women empowerment, and conflicts were not addressed.
A professor of economics at University of Utah (USA), Banuri acquired degrees in civil engineering and development economics, before completing a doctorate in economics at Harvard University in 1986.
Dr Banuri’s extraordinary resume includes honours such as serving as a member of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. He was also awarded Sitara-i-Imtiaz in recognition of his services in 2003.
For future direction of the country, Professor Banuri believes issues such as climate change, industrialization, energy, income inequality, needed to be translated into a concrete map just about now.
Foundation of SDPI
While a fellow at the World Institute for Development Economics Research (WIDER), the professor adopted a similar model to set up Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in Pakistan.
The idea was to establish an independent institute forum, which did not require government funding, while achieving interdependent goals of economic development, social justice and environmental solutions through research.
“Things never came together at that time but eventually they did fall into place,” the well-respected academic says. The institute was planned to have a culture where everyone’s input and services were welcomed.
In our monthly meetings held during his tenure at SDPI every staffer, even gardeners and security guards, would participate and on occasions chair the meetings. “The practice was adopted to build a culture where everyone felt responsible.”
About his achievements, he cited the input in the formulation of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997, research on World Trade Organisation-related issues and the position paper on climate change for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992 among some of the institute’s early achievements.
Banuri supported ideas and projects where baseline and quality standards were not far from each other.
While slightly touching upon the issue of Kalabagh Dam, he said that if the experts say that we, as a nation, were losing millions by not building some dams it was up to provincial governments to come up with a solution, which may provide them shares up to their satisfaction in any such programme. “I’m neither a supporter nor an opponent of Kalabagh dam.” He supports projects whose benefits outweigh their costs.
China has been producing 25,000mw of electricity every year for the last decade whereas we were roughly dealing with a total 20,000mw in the entire country.
Following the 18th Amendment, he says provinces claimed that they collected more money than before but ‘no evidence of [that] revenue being spent on things’ so far.
To Banuri, rental power plants are just stopgaps.
MDGs vs SDGs
On the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), he said that at the global level many of the targets were met. But disagrees with the notion that Pakistan has failed to achieve a single target, Banuri said that despite the low growth rate, the country did comparatively well at the global level.
He admitted that performance in water and sanitation areas was subpar, but added, “things have not worsened to the extent they should have due to low growth”.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an extension to the MDGs, which include several other targets, in areas such as climate change, industrialisation, energy and income inequality.
“In 2000, people thought growth would continue, but now they are sure that it won’t unless certain measures are taken to address these issues,” Banuri says.
Climate change was not as big a problem in 200 as it is now he says adding multiple issues were linked.
According to Banuri $100 billion-a-year is needed to address climate issues in developing countries adding world is focusing more on such areas.
Integrated problems also prevail in the economic sector, he says, while explaining that the state’s capacity to lead and guide by increasing the tax-to-GDP ratio will solve a number of issues. “The triangle of money, capacity and institutions needed to be strengthened.”
He believes that the solution to Pakistan’s economic problems was in building the capacity of the state, concentrating on export-led growth and the industrial sector, building urban infrastructure instead of just communications, encouraging investment, and above all by controlling population growth.
Dr Banuri is currently building a research institute – Centre for Advance Studies on Water (CAS-W) in Jamshoro, a joint venture between the University of Utah and Mehran University of Engineering and Technology (MUET).
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