New debate on development in Europe


Responding to the criticism of pollution caused by economic development, US President George W. Bush said at the Earth Summit in Rio – America’s lifestyle is non-negotiable. The lifestyle he was defending believed in amassing more and more wealth by exploiting more and more resources to make life more and more comfortable. 30 years after the Earth Summit, countries in Europe are seriously rethinking their lifestyle. Recently, an international conference called Beyond Growth was held in the Brussels-based Parliament of the European Union, in which the need to create a model of development was emphasized, which is not based only on the growth of GDP, but on the happiness and economic equality of the people. Are.

Growth in GDP is also necessary for development. Without it, it was not possible to get rid of poverty, nor was it possible to develop education, health and things that make life comfortable. America and Europe increased their GDP in the last century and earned immense wealth from Asia, Africa and Latin America through trade and raised the standard of living of their people. Recently, China has raised about 800 million people above the poverty line on the strength of its GDP growth in the last four decades and improved the country’s infrastructure. But the delegates participating in the conference said that development policies based only on GDP growth have led to serious problems like climate change, pollution, economic inequality and debt crisis.

In the wake of the Covid pandemic, the energy and inflation crisis triggered by the Russian attack on Ukraine, and the ever-increasing climate change crisis, Europe has begun to worry about the sustainability of economic growth based on GDP growth. So opening this year’s Beyond Growth conference, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen admitted that biofuels are now useless for growth. There is a need to adopt the path of balanced development with clean energy. The conference was organized by a group of 20 European parliamentarians. Apart from these, non-governmental organizations working in the fields of environment and development, organizations of the world of economics and finance and intellectual organizations like the Club of Rome, and scientists and intellectuals associated with universities and research institutes also gathered.

Dr. Vandana Shiva, the founder of Navdanya and Beej Vidyapeeth was also called from India. Economists advocating Beyond Growth say that there is a limit to increasing GDP due to limited natural resources. It cannot be increased infinitely. Second, GDP-based growth concentrates resources and capital in a few hands, increasing economic inequality. For example, 70 percent of America’s wealth is held by only the richest 10 percent. The condition of India is worse than that of America. 77 percent of India’s wealth is with only 10 percent of the rich. Despite being a country with almost a quarter of the world’s economy, America has a debt of Rs 2500 lakh crore and in the coming decades it will have to provide pension and social security services of Rs 16000 lakh crore to its people. Almost the same burden of debt, pension and social security is on the countries of Europe and Japan.

Natural problems like pollution and climate change are also becoming serious due to GDP based development. For example, half of the world’s energy is spent by one billion rich people of the world. The remaining seven billion people run on the remaining half of the energy. That is why the rich countries of the northern hemisphere are responsible for 80 percent of the gases released into the atmosphere. But, the real brunt of the changing climate from these gases is being faced by the poor countries of the Southern Hemisphere, which have played a negligible role in the climate change that has happened so far. Therefore, instead of increasing the GDP, the economic policies of Europe need to be diverted towards the welfare of the people. That will happen only when the people of Europe will leave biofuel and use clean and renewable energy. Will try to bridge the gap of economic disparity, curb consumption and wastage and emphasize on quality rather than quantity of production.

The trouble is that as logical as these things seem, they are equally difficult to implement. Governments have been taking loans on the basis of the future growth rate of GDP. The governments of the European Union have taken a debt of more than 91 percent of GDP. The debt of Italy, Spain and France is 1.25 times the GDP. In such a situation, if governments adopt clean energy instead of increasing GDP and instead of increasing production, implement policies that curb consumption, then how will they repay the debt? Countries like France and Sweden earn a lot of money by selling defense goods which does not fit any criteria of Beyond Growth. Similarly, Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic sell cars that run on petrol and diesel. In the conference, there was talk of imposing a carbon tax on machines running on biofuel and stopping their trade.

But, can Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic take the risk of stopping their car business? There is no doubt that European leaders and government organizations want to change the direction of development and take it towards environmental balance and prosperity. But looking at the arguments of the European Union in the ongoing free trade agreement talks with India, it does not seem that the European governments are ready for major changes. She is using the terms emanating from conferences like Beyond Growth as a weapon in trade negotiations. They are worried about the economic disparity here and are considering measures to remove it, but their trade policies so far have done nothing to remove the economic disparity between the countries of the northern and southern hemispheres. I want She wants to use the principles of Beyond Growth to consolidate her economic progress instead of sharing it.

(These are the personal views of the author)


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