The link between Sustainable Development and Economic Transformation


The aspiration for economic transformation is a globally cherished end goal, more so for a least developed country like Uganda, in a continent that has the dubious distinction of the being host to a disproportionate majority of the world’s paupers. It is envisaged that through economic transformation, nations with embarrassingly high prevalence of infant and maternal mortality, illiteracy, malnutrition, abject poverty, mass hunger etc will eventually curb the prevailing array of factors that constitute a chronic obstruction to decent livelihood.

Economic growth is credited as having lifted over 600 million people from the grips of poverty over the past two decades and raised the real income levels of millions more. On the flip side however, the realization of this otherwise impressive feat was achieved at the expense of environment and poor communities. The concomitant long term ramifications are dire, especially in regards to that to irreversible and costly damages to the environment.

The notion of sustainable development gained prominence as a development approach that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. At the core of this approach is the need for intra and inter-generational equity between the present and the future generations. Sustainable development recognizes that essential needs of the world’s poor should be accorded overriding priority and that the ability of the environment to meet present and future needs is limited and inelastic.

Sustainable utilization of social and natural capital should conform to the pillars of sustainable development viz; economic growth, environmental stewardship, and social inclusion, short of which the development can’t be deemed sustainable. For instance, urbanization lead to destruction of natural wetlands that hitherto filtered water between Nakivubo Channel and the inlet to Lake Victoria in Uganda. This has exacerbated water pollution, and in effect bloated the cost of water purification, since the piped water in Kampala comes from this highly polluted lake. Moreover, it is feared once a certain level of algae is reached in the lake, lack of oxygen will cause the entire ecosystem to break down all of a sudden – with some irreversible consequences. It is that looming debacle that will jeopardize the ability of future generations to utilize the same lake to meet their own needs.

The pillar of environmental stewardship offers insight to compare different valuable objectives, in this case the desired economic growth and the resultant cost of that growth on the environment. Typically, it is a cost-benefit analysis that juxtaposes the implication in both short and long term. This insight helps in validating that an industry that employs hundreds of people but pollutes the environment by releasing untreated industrial effluent is less sustainable in the long run than having no industry at all. A case in point was in May 2012 when KCCA public officials temporarily closed Mukwano industries because it didn’t treat the industrial wastes it released into drainage channels. In essence, the carelessness of not treating their industrial wastes is a grave health hazard to thousands, if not millions of human and non human inhabitants of the polluted ecosystem.

Sustainable development makes even more sense in management of non-renewable extractive resources. The real impact of environmental degradation and pollution may take decades to be detected, long after the company that caused the pollution might have already left the scene. Oil drilling is associated with hazardous wastes, which if not well disposed threatens the health of the mostly poor people dwelling near oil rigs. The crucial dilemma is that the benefits of natural or social capital depletion is privatized, but the costs are externalized, that is, they are not borne by the party responsible e.g foreign companies. It is the society in general and the poor locals in particular who are highly affected, yet they derive less or no benefit therein. Sustainable development advocates for social inclusion to address the interests of local communities who are worst affected by extraction related pollution.

Natural resources like forests have immense long term benefits in several ways, but sadly, the need to expand growth often sets a stage for depletion of such natural capital. Recently the Ugandan government attempted to allocate part of Mabira forest to Sugar Corporation of Uganda Ltd (SCOUL) to enable it expand sugarcane production. The government’s rationalization of the offer was to foster economic growth through revenue and employment opportunities the venture would generate. Environmentalists and activists vehemently opposed the offer compelling the government to back off. Forests like Mabira, not only provide the raw material for paper, which can be substituted quite easily, but they also maintain biodiversity, regulate water flow, and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, while providing oxygen to support life.

Destroying forests negatively impinge on water levels in lakes, thus affecting hydroelectricity generation; and is a precursor to climate change that constrains food security in detrimental proportions. It infers that environmental costs associated with annihilating forests far outweigh the perceived benefit.

Whereas sustainable development focuses on intergenerational equity, there is an emerging consensus that the Universalist approach should not ignore the deprived people today in trying to prevent deprivation of in the future. In this regards, sustainable development is intertwined with economic transformation, with the common denominator being elevating the living conditions of the poor.

The pursuit of economic transformation entails marked improvements in the economy in which the share of manufacturing will increase, and similarly the quantity and quality of manufactured goods increases. At the same time, economic transformation embodies a sustained diminution of the number of peasants involved in subsistence agriculture, while the share of labour force in other sectors of the economy rises dramatically. The economic activity in an economically transformed country shifts from rural to urban; implying that some places that are presently rural will experience urbanization. It is a continuous process that positively reflects in terms of modernization of the economy and standards of living.

It is worth noting that economic transformation can bring enormous improvements in living conditions, but if the economic growth that heralded the transformation wasn’t cognizant about the aspect of sustainability, such gains can be rolled back. In a way, sustainable development is an insurance policy that ensures that economic transformation so achieved continues progressively without regressing between now and the future.

In theoretical sense, the long-term consequence of environmental degradation is the inability to sustain human life. Such degradation on a global extent should imply extinction for humanity. In that case, it is practically useless to transform economies only for the planet to fail to support human life to enjoy the transformation. It is based on that premise that economic transformation should be pursued within the frame work of sustainable development.


Economic lessons from the most unlikely country – Eritrea


The recent drought and resultant famine that hit the horn of African countries has brought back Eritrea to the spotlight, with analysts saying Eritrea too is suffering silently, though Eritrea’s former Marxist rebel leader and current president Isaias Afwerki still maintains he is not ready to lead another “spoon fed” African country that relies on foreign aid as remedies to internal shortages. Eritrea is doing something unheard of in Africa – it is turning away millions of dollars in aid, including food donations from the World Food Programme. The poor country turned down offers of more than $200 million in aid from ‘hypocrite western donors’ last year alone.

Unlike its arch-rival Ethiopia whose citizens have for many years consecutively been beneficiaries of food aid, the U.N. World Food Program says it hasn’t distributed any food in Eritrea since 2005, nor has it received requests for food assistance.

“These are crippled societies” Isaias says of neighbors whom he described as relying on donors rather than developing their economies. “You can’t keep these people living on handouts because that doesn’t change their lives.” gloats Isaias who says nations who depend on donors are promoting beggary mentality amongst the masses.

Isaiah, a proud and feared general dubbed “bad man from the horn of Africa” for his alleged troublesome role in the region, heading a small, secretive nation on the Horn of Africa, is taking a path that not many African nations can claim to take. The revolutionary leader who was once praised as the George Washington of Eritrea insists he wants to instill the spirit of self actualization in his people, in order to avoid dependency syndrome and enslaving effects of foreign aid. The reason for walking out on aid, given in a January 26 2011 notification letter to UN from the country’s powerful Finance Minister, is that “aid only postpones the basic solutions to crucial development problems by tentatively ameliorating their manifestations without tackling their root causes. The structural, political, economic, etc. damage that it inflicts upon recipient countries is also enormous.”

While scores of diplomats say Eritrea is suffering from a self imposed sanction, there is some progress in areas of food security. A self-reliance program had been launched a decade ago, and was further accelerated sharply in 2005. Relying on its meager budget and the conscription of about 800,000 of the country’s citizens, the program so far has shown promising results. It might be one of the most ambitious social and economic experiments underway in Africa. But Eritrea isn’t getting much credit.
Instead, the government increasingly finds itself in the international doghouse, largely because of its poor human rights record, isolationism and belligerent stance toward its neighbors and the West.

It is rather unique that this country that many could possibly imagine as being very desperate of countries is faring quite well in meeting health related Millennium Development Goals. Measured on a variety of U.N. health indicators, including life expectancy, immunizations and malaria prevention, Eritrea scores as high, and often higher, than its neighbors, including Ethiopia and Kenya. Between 2000 – 2006 Eritrea managed to reduce infant mortality rate by 50% according to World Health Organization statistics, it still managed to eradicate polio and reduce of death due to malaria

The juxtaposition of Eritrea with other equally poor but aid recipient countries raises a very crucial question whether all the aid had been effective at all, given the fact that some aid recipient countries are not exactly far ahead of Eritrea as should have nominally been the case. Though a struggling one, Eritrea also boasts of a national Airline, a far cry for other aid taking countries who sold their planes a long time ago.

Even to those who don’t agree with Isaiah’s human rights record and autocratic credentials, his philosophy on self sustainability and ‘local solutions for local problems’ are indispensable lessons that all sound minded peer African heads of states can learn from him, since even after 50 years of foreign aid some African economies are regressing, yet their international debt burdens are on the increase.


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While it is tempting for any averaged Christian to outrightly regard Judas Iscariot as the most treacherous, thuggish and most visible face of the betrayal in discipleship, new accounts seems to point to the contrary.

Now renowned bible scholars, espoused by The National Geographic Society, have brought back Judas Iscariot into perspective. This time not as a traitor, but as Jesus’s trusted disciple who also wrote a gospel to his name despite the conspicuous absence of such as gospel in the current bible versions used by diverse Christian denominations. The scholars traces this from the unbelievable discovery in 1970’s of a Coptic papyrus codex (book) in a cave near Beni Masah, Egypt which appeared to be a 3rd-or 4th-century AD copy of a 2nd century original, describing the story of Jesus’s death from the view point of Judas. At its conclusion the text, identifies itself as “The Gospel of Judas” (Euangelion Ioudas).

Coptic experts who examined the document, revealed that the document sounds as reverent as any other gospel. In part, the gospel reads “The star that leads the way is your star, Jesus said to Judas… You will exceed all of them for you will have sacrificed the man that clothes me.”

Whereas the authenticity of this text is still questionable, some credence is lent to this supposition of Juda’s book having been deliberately prejudiced and subsequently deleted off the bible owing to the fact that even to this very day, some bible translations have non canonical books like song of Songs, which have been long been removed from other bibles. Scholars now believe that the gospel according to Judas suffered a similar fate.

Many things have been said about Judas Iscariot; he is fit for condemnation to the lowest circle of Hell, doomed to be chewed for eternity in the teeth of Satan. Judas is now synonym for betrayal in many languages. But it should not turn out as a surprise if indeed Juda wrote a book. He was disciple – among the chose few – like any of the other eleven, neither did he monopolize wrong doing. Peter and Paul whose writings constitute the canonical books of the bible, too had their share of mistakes. Peter despite being the most senior of all disciples, was the very person who denied Jesus, not just once but three times. Paul, hitherto called Saul on his part was a well known and reputed persecutor of Christ.

The Gospels suggest that Jesus foresaw (John 6:64, Matthew 26:25) and allowed Judas’s betrayal (John 13:27-28). That the acts of this man had been foreseen and allowed in fulfillment of Gods plan, should be a clear testament that Judas acted with Jesus’ full knowledge and consent in “betraying” his master. Instead, Judas should be showered with praise for being a catalyst that set in motion events that were later to salvation of all mankind – through the death of Christ.

Many theologians insist that it is the height for scriptural and historical distortion, as much as grave hypocrisy to portray Judas as a traitor, or whatever nasty name, knowing full well that Jesus came to die, and the truth is that Judas did make some reasonable contribution towards that process.

Whether or not this book is genuine, its has no chance of reentering the bible, but the Maecenas Foundation in Switzerland — which is the owner of the document — will be donating the document to the government of Egypt, which is where it was found, and will be housed eventually in the Coptic museum in Cairo.

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