This paper aims to investigate whether economic growth must be a higher priority than sustainability for developing countries. For the purpose of the annual e-mail debate between the Universities of Rhode Island and Braunschweig the assigned topic shall be viewed from the opposing side, hence defending the resolution that for developing countries sustainability must be more important than economic growth.
What turns out to be a major task is finding appropriate definitions of the resolution's
key words as there have already been three hundred documented definitions for
sustainability and sustainable development by 1996 (Dobson (1996) in Keiner (2006)) and there is a lack of operative definitions (Jabareen, 2008). Therefore, this paper will, as it is commonly done by recent research, refer to the term 'sustainable development' as the meeting of the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs_ (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). Moreover, sustainable development will be referred to as growth not simply based on exploitation of natural resources and environment (Stiglitz and Walsh, 2002b) but rather as an integrated concept including environmental, social, economic and technological dimensions (Howells et al., 2005).
Traditionally, economic growth is seen as the increase of goods and services produced in an economy, measured by comparison of total output of the economy at different times (e.g. GNP); (Terleckyj, 1982). Contemporary definitions of economic growth, however, include the concept of rising economic well-being as well as the capacity to support a growing population with increased volume of commodities per capita (Kuznets, 1973). Sustainability eventually interfaces with economics through the social and ecological consequences of economic activity (Daly and Cobb, 1989).
Although Keiner (2006) claims that sustainable development cannot be realized if understood as sustainable growth, sustainability itself will be regarded as sustainable development for the purpose of this paper. It will eventually point out that economic growth does not take place despite sustainable development, but rather through sustainability. Therefore, the major fields of sustainable development, technological, economic, environmental and social aspects shall be investigated and searched for interdependences, especially those related to economic growth.
As these processes are to be researched with a main focus on developing countries, this paper will refer to those as countries with an income per capita of less than 725 $ p.a., as defined by the World Bank (Stiglitz and Walsh, 2002a). Since not all countries concerned can be dealt with, this work will mainly concentrate on selected countries and regions in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and East Asia.
Economic Growth Versus Sustainable Development
Economic growth and sustainability are no antagonists. However, the question may arise whether one is a crucial step towards the other. Growth can take place without sustainability because increases in economic output do not contribute to improve per capita income if the population grows even faster. Incomes and productivity are also reduced by poor education, malnutrition, and poor health care (Stiglitz and Walsh, 2002a).
Recent statistics show that GDP of Sub-Saharan countries have grown around an
annual average of 5.1 %, which has simultaneously been accompanied by an average population growth of 2.5 % and inflation of up to 10.8 % (The World Bank, 2009). Growth can only have an impact on poverty and human development if key factors like education, technology, environment, and the economy are sustainably managed.
The Role of Technology
One key technology which is capable of improving the life of millions of people in developing countries is energy technology as modern energy is crucial for modern industry, medicine, and education (Ebenhack and Martínez, 2009). With 2.4 billion people relying fully on traditional fuels for cooking, mainly firewood, dung, and biomass (Howells et al., 2005; Ebenhack and Martínez, 2009) there is an urgent need for investments in energy efficiency and thus a great potential to reduce poverty in all of its major dimensions (United Nations Development Programme & EC, 1999). These fuels are highly inefficient and polluting (The World Bank (2000) in Alazraque-Cherni (2008)) and, moreover, expensive as they require intensive labor for collecting (World Health Organization (2000) in Alazraque-Cherni (2008)). There is an evident interdependence between poverty and the dependence on traditional sources of fuels, which means that with higher incomes people will switch to modern forms of energy if available (Alazraque-Cherni, 2008). The use of renewable energy technologies (RET) could play a major role in national development as for job creation and thus income generation, not to mention the impact on the protection of the local environment (Karekezi and Kithyoma (2003) in Alazraque-Cherni (2008)). Broad access to RET would result in improved productivity of millions of people across the developing world, e.g. by providing lighting for an extended workday, and simultaneously reduce the need for collecting firewood, hence providing time for labor
There are forms of RET already in use today in developing countries' remote rural areas, predominately micro-scale hydropower, solar, wind and biomass. Since many developing countries are located in areas with a high amount of sunlight available, photovoltaic (PV) technology has become the most considerable alternative to fossil fuels. However, the greatest macro problem for broad spread of RET in developing countries remains a financial one (Reddy and Painuly, 2004). As the lack of technology is no longer a barrier to the widespread of RET, the biggest obstacle nowadays is finding and attracting companies and institutions willing to invest in relatively unstable markets (Cone (2001) in Alazraque-Cherni (2008)).
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- Institution / Hochschule
- Technische Universität Carolo-Wilhelmina zu Braunschweig – Institut für Marketing
- Nachhaltigkeit Sustainability Wirtschaftswachstum Economic Growth Entwicklungsländer Developing Countries