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Editorial: Sustainable development on Romanian land

Virginia MIRCEA

There are nations that plan on the long-term and develop strategies with this stated purpose. The Chinese plan their future for 50 years; the Japanese do the same for 40 years, and the Americans for 25 years. Nevertheless, there are also nations that go only to short-term plans. Romanians fall under this heading, since they can only make their planning for 5 years tops (like in the communist period). Long-term thinking, future plans based on research and prognosis, on the concern for the generations to come, all these could be integrated under the general term of sustainable development. This is a global concept, which targets the idea of development for the entire humankind, with high benefits and low costs, in particular as regards debts paid in the long run, yet having serious consequences for the future, mainly regarding the continuous erosion of environment.
Unfortunately, for Romania, this notion is just a fancy, a word devoid of significance. This happens because, although our country needs such a strategy more than ever (especially since it never existed to begin with), our politicians regard it as just another Western fad which can be used as such in trying to pretend that "we are interested in the concerns of the West".
Therefore, we have symposiums, round tables and even forums featuring the political high life, but their results are limited to purely theoretical statements. There are also a handful of programs whose titles dub them as being concerned with the subject in question, but which develop projects within the span of several years at best. Unfortunately, this making believe does nothing but cause an increasing prejudice to our present and especially to our future.
In fact, generally speaking, sustainable development is an attempt to reconcile economic and social progress with environment protection. The simplest definition of sustainable development refers to the capacity to meet the requests of present generations without destroying the future of generations to come, meaning that economic prosperity and environment protection have to go hand in hand. Consequently, the fundamental principle of sustainable development should be the equity within a generation, meaning that wealth should be equally distributed in society, and also equity between different generations. The purpose of economic development should not be confined to meeting basic human needs, but also raising the living standard of people, which implies attaching increased importance to health, education, social development and environment.
I made this theoretical presentation in order to emphasize a simple idea: Romania did not have and does not have a viable sustainable development strategy. Even if such documents were elaborated, they only remain items tackled on the external agenda, never applied in practice, since governmental objectives lack any consistency. Each post-revolutionary Romanian government had its own agenda, which as a rule utterly ignored the programs of the prior government and offered only patch-up solutions. During the first years after 1989, we grew accustomed to the (false) idea that the accomplishments and, more importantly, the failures of governments can be inherited. Thus, the "burdening legacy" of the prior regime is constantly blamed by all governments - the current cabinet is the one which probably resorted the least to this strategy - which were permanently concerned with finding temporary solutions, in response to internal and external stimuli. Romania's economic programs in the last 14 years lacked vision and were enforced because of Western requests or internal challenges. A permanent task was that of avoiding economic collapse and disaster, but none of the governments that lead Romania considered a long-term economic development (20-30 years), nor did it pursue social equity (for the present or for the future) or environmental protection.
The first Sustainable Development Strategy for Romania was drawn up in 2000, during Radu Vasile's term as head of Government. Yet, it remained a mere draft, because the following cabinet came with its own objectives, quite different from those of the team which outlined the Strategy. Unfortunately, no international organisation, be it economic (IMF, World Bank) or political (European Union) could offer, up to now, the premises of a viable sustainable development strategy, since their requests were punctual and referred to periods of a couple of years.
Moreover, since Romania is unlikely to create a strategy on its own, even if the internal and external requests are supportive of this at all times, the only hope we have to meet global standards is our integration, in the near or distant future, in the European Union, organization that has such a strategy for all its Member States.
Looking at the newest Members of the European Union, we may wonder: what if such a strategy had existed and had been applied by Romania, starting 1992, when the U.N. coined the term? Of course, finding an appropriate answer is quite difficult, yet by comparing Romania with the Western states which enforced sustainable development strategies, we can presume the following: the average salary would not account in 2004 for only 75% of the one paid in 1989, the healthcare system would not be in a permanent crisis, three quarters of the Romanian people would not be living on the verge of poverty, and environment would not represent just a chapter with no chances of being closed in the negotiations with the European Union. 

There are nations that plan on the long-term and develop strategies with this stated purpose. The Chinese plan their future for 50 years; the Japanese do the same for 40 years, and the Americans for 25 years. Nevertheless, there are also nations that go only to short-term plans. Romanians fall under this heading, since they can only make their planning for 5 years tops (like in the communist period). Long-term thinking, future plans based on research and prognosis, on the concern for the generations to come, all these could be integrated under the general term of sustainable development. This is a global concept, which targets the idea of development for the entire humankind, with high benefits and low costs, in particular as regards debts paid in the long run, yet having serious consequences for the future, mainly regarding the continuous erosion of environment.
Unfortunately, for Romania, this notion is just a fancy, a word devoid of significance. This happens because, although our country needs such a strategy more than ever (especially since it never existed to begin with), our politicians regard it as just another Western fad which can be used as such in trying to pretend that "we are interested in the concerns of the West".
Therefore, we have symposiums, round tables and even forums featuring the political high life, but their results are limited to purely theoretical statements. There are also a handful of programs whose titles dub them as being concerned with the subject in question, but which develop projects within the span of several years at best. Unfortunately, this making believe does nothing but cause an increasing prejudice to our present and especially to our future.
In fact, generally speaking, sustainable development is an attempt to reconcile economic and social progress with environment protection. The simplest definition of sustainable development refers to the capacity to meet the requests of present generations without destroying the future of generations to come, meaning that economic prosperity and environment protection have to go hand in hand. Consequently, the fundamental principle of sustainable development should be the equity within a generation, meaning that wealth should be equally distributed in society, and also equity between different generations. The purpose of economic development should not be confined to meeting basic human needs, but also raising the living standard of people, which implies attaching increased importance to health, education, social development and environment.
I made this theoretical presentation in order to emphasize a simple idea: Romania did not have and does not have a viable sustainable development strategy. Even if such documents were elaborated, they only remain items tackled on the external agenda, never applied in practice, since governmental objectives lack any consistency. Each post-revolutionary Romanian government had its own agenda, which as a rule utterly ignored the programs of the prior government and offered only patch-up solutions. During the first years after 1989, we grew accustomed to the (false) idea that the accomplishments and, more importantly, the failures of governments can be inherited. Thus, the "burdening legacy" of the prior regime is constantly blamed by all governments - the current cabinet is the one which probably resorted the least to this strategy - which were permanently concerned with finding temporary solutions, in response to internal and external stimuli. Romania's economic programs in the last 14 years lacked vision and were enforced because of Western requests or internal challenges. A permanent task was that of avoiding economic collapse and disaster, but none of the governments that lead Romania considered a long-term economic development (20-30 years), nor did it pursue social equity (for the present or for the future) or environmental protection.
The first Sustainable Development Strategy for Romania was drawn up in 2000, during Radu Vasile's term as head of Government. Yet, it remained a mere draft, because the following cabinet came with its own objectives, quite different from those of the team which outlined the Strategy. Unfortunately, no international organisation, be it economic (IMF, World Bank) or political (European Union) could offer, up to now, the premises of a viable sustainable development strategy, since their requests were punctual and referred to periods of a couple of years.
Moreover, since Romania is unlikely to create a strategy on its own, even if the internal and external requests are supportive of this at all times, the only hope we have to meet global standards is our integration, in the near or distant future, in the European Union, organization that has such a strategy for all its Member States.
Looking at the newest Members of the European Union, we may wonder: what if such a strategy had existed and had been applied by Romania, starting 1992, when the U.N. coined the term? Of course, finding an appropriate answer is quite difficult, yet by comparing Romania with the Western states which enforced sustainable development strategies, we can presume the following: the average salary would not account in 2004 for only 75% of the one paid in 1989, the healthcare system would not be in a permanent crisis, three quarters of the Romanian people would not be living on the verge of poverty, and environment would not represent just a chapter with no chances of being closed in the negotiations with the European Union. 
Publicat în : English  de la numărul 15

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Institutul de Proiecte pentru Inovatie si Dezvoltare The National Centre for Sustainable Development

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