Climate change in Asia: Why collective welfare comes before individual rights
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Climate change in Asia: Why collective welfare comes before individual rights

WHEN governments look at efforts to address climate change and ensure sustainability in Asian countries, collective welfare should take precedence over individual rights, an independent think tank said.

Chandran Nair, the founder and chief executive of Global Institute For Tomorrow (GIFT), said Asia must find its own model based on strong government policies instead of a Western-style free market and small government model to tackle these issues.

In other words, Chandran believes that in tackling problems unique to Asia, the West isn’t always best.

He said this is because unlike other continents, Asia is home to some of the most populated countries in the world.

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“In this part of the world, collective welfare needs to be paramount because of the constraints and the population,” he said when met on the sidelines of The Economist’s Sustainability Summit 2018 in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.

“If you live in Europe, the population is only 350 million people.”

He said densely-populated countries like India and China would struggle to survive the next 50 years of resource constraints using a free-for-all Laissez-faire economic model akin to 20th-century Western economic approaches.


Students wearing academic gowns attend their graduation ceremony at Wuhan University in Hubei province, China June 22, 2018. Source: Reuters

“To do that (in India and China) you need the instruments of societies or the institutions of societies to be able to organise and rationalise how things work,” he said.

Chandran pointed out that some countries like Malaysia have had “poor” governance over the past decade, but due to its smaller population numbering around 30 million, the Southeast Asian nation has been able to weather through turbulent times.

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“But if you’re in China with 1.3 billion people, misgovernance creates catastrophe.”

Chandran said if China decides to build a rail line, for example, the government may have to relocate people numbering in the tens of thousands with compensation, although there is little or no room for discussion. But overall, that project could benefit up to 50 million.

“In India, if you want to do the same, then you would have to go to supreme court and one person can stop everything, and 10 million people might benefit, but one person can stop that because they have apparently the right to do so.

“So in large countries, you have to decide, which is the way to get things done.”

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