• Wednesday, Feb 20, 2019
  • Last Update : 09:35 pm

Food security and renewable energy imperative to meeting SDGs

  • Published at 08:03 pm September 8th, 2018
Prof Jomo Kwame Sundaram along with other guests at CPD anniversary lecture 2018 at a city hotel on Saturday UNB

The renowned economist Prof Jomo Kwame Sundaram questioned why Bangladesh is not producing solar panels for domestic needs and export

Visiting international economist Prof Jomo Kwame Sundaram on Saturday suggested that Bangladesh needs to address its malnutrition problem and start adapting to renewable energy.

“I strongly recommend the countries like Bangladesh to pay attention to two issues. One is the question of food. Don’t leave the problem of malnutrition entirely to the Ministry of Health, rather recognize that the nutrition is a multi-dimensional,” said Prof Sundaram, an expert on political economy of development.

He made the recommendation while delivering the CPD anniversary lecture 2018 at a city hotel.

Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), a civil society think tank, arranged the lecture titled “Assessing the Challenge of SDG Implementation: Food, Energy and Inequality.”

Prof Sundaram, also a former assistant secretary general of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), said the production and distribution of food is very important. “There are many serious issues which are not often recognized.”

The Malaysian expert said the use of agro-chemicals is compromising food safety. “We’re all consuming the food and our bodies will be affected sooner or later.”

His second recommendation is for the adoption of renewable energy in the wake of global warming, adding that Bangladesh is one of the countries which is very sensitive to the problem.

“The sea-level rise will have profound implications not only on the future of the country but also on the future of its agriculture,” he said.

Prof Sundaram, currently a distinguished member of “Council of Eminent Persons,” Malaysia, said almost all the countries have regressed from diesel to coal-fired plants.

He stressed the need for government leadership to promote renewable energy and engage private enterprises in the sector.

Noting that the costs of solar panels and wind turbines came down tremendously, the renowned economist questioned why Bangladesh is not producing solar panels for domestic needs and export.

“Malaysia is the single largest exporter of solar panels to the USA. There’s no reason why Bangladesh can’t be a major solar panel producer not only for the needs of Bangladesh but also for export. You have all necessary ingredients, tremendous human resources. I think it’s extremely important as we’re going to reduce carbon emission in the world.

“You can’t rely on market loan to solve the problems. The government needs to intervene and needs some collective actions to make progress.”

Speaking on the second Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he said malnutrition is still widespread and some 800 million remain hungry which is some 10% of the world population.

Prof Sundaram said the total costs of malnutrition may be as high as 5% of the global GDP, equivalent to $3.5 trillion.

He said there are three dimensions of malnutrition -- macronutrient (hunger), micronutrient (minerals and vitamins) deficiencies or hidden hunger and obesity (non-communicable disease).

“I think it’s very important to recognize that women and children suffer most from malnutrition,” said the visiting fellow at Initiative for Policy Dialogue, Columbia University, USA.    

He said some two billion people suffer micronutrient deficiencies and 45% of 6.9 million child deaths annually linked to malnutrition. Some 2.1 billion people are overweight and suffer obesity.

About Bangladesh’s development in health sector, Prof Sundaram said Bangladesh has been very successful in building pharmaceuticals industry. The two largest generic pharmaceuticals producers and exporters are actually India and Bangladesh. “This is a very important development.”

Talking about inequalities, he said inequalities increased sharply between the 20 richest countries and the 20 poorest countries, including Bangladesh. The capital flow occurs from the poor countries to the rich ones mostly through mispricing and tax evasion.

CPD Chairman Prof Rehman Sobhan chaired the event which was moderated by CPD Distinguished Fellow Prof Mustafizur Rahman. CPD Executive Director Dr Fahmida Khatun delivered introductory speech.