Mletiko, 9 September 2014
The UN has declared “The Future We Want” as sustainable development, rather than a growth oriented development.
If we follow the UN concept of “The Future We Want”, we need evaluate some economic concepts we often heard today. One of them is poverty trap or middle income development trap. Indonesia is often feared to fall into a middle-income development trap, being as a middle-income country for a very long time. However, this concept is very growth oriented. It needs to be evaluated to suit the UN’s concept of “The Future We Want”.
Therefore, we need to introduce the concept on “unsustainable development trap”, rather than poverty trap or middle-income development trap. Conceptually, country or a community is “trapped” in unsustainable development when it cannot escape from a situation of continuously destroying its own environment. When members of a community cut trees from their close-by forest, the forest may suffer and eventually harm the community itself. When the cutting of the trees is still minimum, the forest can recover the trees. But when the cutting become more extensive and intensive, the forest lost its ability to recover the trees. The community suffers. Then, it seeks other forest or natural resources to destroy. It is ironic, that people destroy their own resources simply to survive.
The same thing for a country. A country may increase the production of natural resources and it may even export it to raise economic growth and per capita income. But, often, it is done at the expense of the environment. People often forget that environment is the most important natural resources for people. Without energy, people cannot modernize. But, without energy, people can still live happily if they can eat delicious and healthy food. Worse, without food, people can still survive if they have sufficient fresh and healthy water. Even in the worst situation where there is no energy, no healthy food, no healthy water, people can still be alive if they live in clean, unpolluted, air.
A country may leave “middle-income development trap” or “poverty trap”, but it is not a guarantee that it also escapes from an unsustainable development trap. Worse, it may go deeper into unsustainable development trap. Indeed, the concept of “middle-income trap” is still growth-oriented, rather than a concept focusing on sustainable development.
The problem with this concept, as also encountered with the concepts of middle-income development trap and poverty trap, is on the measurement.
We have to gather statistics to measure the destruction of the environment. It must be reported quarterly by the President. If the rate of destruction does not decline within one year, the country is in an unsustainable development trap. The period is short, only one year, because the impact of environment on well-being of people is much worse than the impact of poverty or being in middle-income country. (*)