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SIDS – The uncommon sense of the developing world and the common nonsense of …

This year we are celebrating the International year for Island biodiversity together with the holding of the SIDS summit in Samoa. Can the Samoa meeting make a difference for SIDS or will it be simply another talk shop? This is the big question.  When we talk about SIDS, we are referring here to 600 million people, nearly 1/10 of the actual population, whose existence and life are becoming dangerous by the doings of other powerful industrial nations. Since the Barbados summit, there have been no serious commitments despite the pledges made by some of these powerful nations. Now suddenly after twenty years the SIDS, the “Cinderella of nations”, has again become the center of interest. We have lived such moments before, in 1994, with the Barbados summit.
I keep asking myself what is cooking behind the scene again.
The Barbados Plan of Action (BPOA) efforts have produced mixed results and performances in varying degrees in Small Islands despite the lack of real support as promised. At the macro level, the SIDS have performed relatively well showing some positive direction. On an average there has been positive growth, improvement in the HDI, improvement in the literacy rate as well as in the health sector – all these have been achieved with decreasing ODA, FDI and global merchandise trade within the SIDS. What more do we need to prove, at a time where renowned Europeans countries are failing the tests of the economic crisis? Technological and knowhow transfer have been mere slogans, instead we are witnessing an economic colonization in the name of renewable energy and other ecological projects in many SIDS.
As SIDS, we are on the extreme negative side of the chain, vulnerable with little means to fight the challenges of climate change.  The real awareness campaign should be within the other side of the chain – the polluting countries; the emerging economies as well as the developing industrial world – those countries, which have changed the chemistry of our atmosphere, our land and our seas. They are the ones that are polluting continuously. They need to be sensitized more than we do. The SIDS countries are well aware of their challenges, their strength and their weaknesses. These are the political dynamics of climate change issues that PARIS 2015 need to address.
Challenges and constraints
Let me leave the debate on the political and democratic imperatives with the hope of witnessing some bold actions and move to some policy and technical aspects that need customized consideration.
We are most vulnerable and less culprit than any other emerging economies or the developed world- more vulnerable due to a series of issues namely significant challenges and constraints still remain in the area of environment, economy, and society. In the area of environment: climate change, fragile ecosystems, soil erosion, land degradation, land-based pollution, limited freshwater resources, untreated sewage, inadequate sustenance in agriculture and fisheries, lack of technological capacity, lack of physical infrastructure etc…. I can go on to add other parameters and less culprit as all the SIDS together emit less than 1% of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The evil doers are elsewhere but we are the eternal victims. 
SIDS are moving from one unique common factor: “smallness” to multiple factors leading to vulnerability. This is the hard reality of all SIDS including Mauritius.
What are our challenges in Mauritius?
–            Increase the quality of life of all Mauritians
–            Increase the local economic and productivity base while maintaining the ecological integrity of all our eco-systems
–            Reduce the poverty gap
What we need to meet the challenges from my point of view is a sustainable global integration vision in order not to be trapped into the dependency of anything or become the prisoner of circumstances and lobbies.  This task is not achievable without having a comprehensive understanding of the complexities of our society in the context of globalization. We need to understand fully the past and present dynamics of our island. The dynamics are manifold and I will rest my case on few facts that I believe have been sidetracked.
Before independence the economy of our country was mostly geared towards meeting the needs of the colonial masters even at the expense of losing our endemic biodiversity. The rich and unique biodiversity of this island has been destroyed successively for wood and food. The effect of colonization on the endemic biodiversity of islands is a fact to be considered but often ignored.The development was based on cash economies to the detriment of natural capital.
After independence the nature of the development approach has been one based on “subsistence”. McElroy and de Albuquerque 1991 stated that “The subsistence approach was partly a response to the colonial legacy without taking into account the transformation produced by colonialism, which developed cash economies by liquidating natural capital”. On top of losing natural capital, we do still remember the external stresses we had and they were so huge that obviously it created a situation of disequilibrium in the country leading to the anthropological dogma of many institutions. The World Bank and IMF structural adjustment programs have impacted a lot on the development model of the island in those days. We did not achieve much. The subsistence approach not only ignored the colonial impact but fail to consider the realities of the SIDS within the geo-political framework and the mindset of the islanders. 
Later we moved to the modernization policy paradigm with the core concept of development embracing “self-sufficiency”. “Self-sufficiency” in those days were built around the nationalism factor but when analyzed deeply proves to be (at least for me) a radical concept as no country today can stay isolated. It is simply not realistic. This could be the reason or a reason for the failure of the regional integration in those days. In this era we may have had a lot of economic success(while most of the SIDS failed) and the lifestyle of Mauritians improved a lot, but that does not mean that we were getting the fundamentals right. We have had a lot of weaknesses which I would not wish to highlight here as I want lay emphasis on one particular factor – “the harmonization of modern influence and the traditionalism”. Again we have not addressed this issue adequately and there is a serious disbalance in the society due to two styles of life. (Views may differ but I am expressing mine). During that time modernization has gradually made its way and today our greatest challenge among others remains the cultural integrity, which I need not point out, is so complex and diverse in the country. Our modernization policy paradigm has failed to conceive this empirical reality. The result is that we have dual tracks of thinking in the process of development leading to fragmented information, analyses and suggestions for the sustainable development efforts which has had mitigated impacts on the lives of SIDS.
Now we are embarking in the post-modern society moving from the modernization paradigm. This new movement of societies has given birth to the concept of sustainability and sustainable development, which we have so proudly endorsed through the MID vision and societal concept. We also want to jump to another economic level through the ESTP. To achieve this new target our thinking mode should also jump to another level. We need more of systems thinking and holistic planning and a full length ecological preservation program.
To successfully embark on this new agenda we need to provide honest answers to these few but important questions. Is it going to be business as usual (BAU)? – Will GDP growth be the only concern in macro management of the economy? – Are we going to operate through fragmented sectorial policies or will we develop a global plan? – Are we going to choose financial accounting in lieu of economic policies? – Are we going to favor the “BLACK BOX MANAGEMENT” style with no forward looking plan?
Horizontal Integration
These questions are important and relevant and need to be addressed by all policy makers, as we no longer have any planning mechanism since the dismantling of the Ministry of economic planning. We need to look at things holistically because all issues are interconnected. Nothing can be viewed in isolation. We need to move quickly from the vertical integration mode to the horizontal integration. A quick survey will reveal the extent we are duplicating efforts and wasting precious resources thus minimizing the impacts. Problems are becoming more complex as the failed policies are further loading the existing problems. We should not define strategy as cost competitiveness and seek efficiency through cost reduction. These are null initiatives. We have new complex problems which necessitate new methods. Conventional methods are obsolete.
We must not pretend to be the best but simply different.
We must stop doing the wrong things.
The better we do the wrong things, the worse we become so it is better we do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right.
Putting an end to the common nonsense is the responsibility of one and all.

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