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The Founex Report - Limited Resources

The overriding constraint in the developing countries is, of course, the limitation of resources which poses fairly sharp choices between various objectives of planning. Since environmental improvement can be regarded only as one of the multiple objectives of planning, its priority in relation to other objectives should be determined by each society in the light of its own urgent economic and social problems and its own stage of development. Basically, this is a question of alternative uses of resources within the framework of comprehensive economic and social planning.

3.3. As we have already pointed out, the integration of environmental concern with development planning would require a broader definition of development goals than a mere increase in gross national product. The redefinition of development objectives must include greater stress on income distribution and employment, more attention to social services and welfare-oriented public goods, and greater provision for political participation. There should also be a quantification of social goals in development plans so that actual progress can be measured against these goals. Besides quantitative targets in the fields of income growth and employment, similar targets should also be spelt out for income distribution, public health, nutritional standards, housing and other welfare-oriented public goods. In other words, the quality of life in a poor society should be defined in terms of a selective attack on the problems of mass poverty, and development plans should attempt to quantify the improvement that is being sought in eliminating the worst forms of malnutrition, squalor, disease and ignorance.

3.4. One of the ways to quantify social goals in development plans would be to establish the concept of minimum environmental standards. Each developing country can define for itself the minimum environmental standards that it is seeking in various fields and sectors such as public health, nutrition, water supply, etc. The formulation of these environmental standards can facilitate redirection of the efforts and energies of these societies towards certain concrete goals.

Environmental indicators can then be devised to measure the progress of the society towards the norms it has established for itself. It should be stressed that environmental standards cannot be fixed for all time to come and must necessarily change over time as development proceeds. Again, it is quite possible that the resources of many of these societies may not be sufficient to achieve even the very minimum environmental standards in the short run. However, the advantage of establishing these standards is that they can serve as a focus for national effort. The concept of minimum - or threshold - environmental standards would also help in disaggregating the target of GNP growth. Many developing countries are increasingly turning from a preoccupation with "how much to produce and how fast" to "what is produced and how it is distributed". The formulation of quantitative social goals and minimum environmental standards merely gives a concrete expression to this growing concern.

3.5. The integration of environmental concern in development planning would require national action by developing countries on a fairly broad front. Some of the major policy areas will include location of industries, land use policy, urban-rural interaction and community development, and sectoral policies as described in the last chapter. Greater attention is also needed for physical planning of facilities so that individual development projects and programmes get integrated into the overall physical environment. There is some possibility that surplus labour in the developing countries could be mobilized in the cause of environmental improvement, especially through projects of community development in the rural areas, since such projects may be found particularly attractive by the community and since they may require a larger labour input. These possibilities should be carefully explored through further research and study, especially as many developing countries are currently faced with the prospect of growing unemployment and under-employment and they have not been very successful so far in mobilizing their surplus labour to promote economic development.