Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia

Indonesia—Working Together to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals

September 13, 2005 02:45 PM

Q & A

by Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs

Jeffrey Sachs: I'm not going to keep you long because we're late and I'm late to
get to the U.N. but if there is an urgent question or two I'd be happy to take one
question at each mic, brief, if there is. Yeah, please step up to the mic and just
introduce yourself.

Unknown: Hi Jeff. (Inaudible) Global Watch. So you just shared that you
completed your millennium project.

Jeffrey Sachs: No.

Unknown: No. I mean--

Jeffrey Sachs: Yeah.

Unknown: --for the millennium summit.

Jeffrey Sachs: Yeah.

Unknown: So you have gotten to a point where you're going to present, you
know, the calculations and the prospects of how they could partner with you. So
how many governments are really committed to actually have it implemented and
to seeing that it is fruition in practical terms because, you know, when you are
talking about (inaudible) there is a resistance.

Jeffrey Sachs: Yeah.

Unknown: But there are other governments which also might be having
resistance because it is about them creating their budgets.

Jeffrey Sachs: Okay. Thanks. Sorry, I am going to just be brief because I
know people have to leave including myself. Poor countries actually don't want
to be poor and with very few exceptions poor countries have leadership that
would also like real economic development in those countries. So the idea that
the poor are poor basically because their governments are miserable is one of
the false stereotypes and generalizations that we have. No government is
pristine, let's say, with the possible exception of Norway and Sweden, which are
as close to pristine as we get on the planet, but certainly not Washington and not
other places. So most governments want development, most are committed to
the Millennium Development Goals, but the poorest countries can't achieve them
on their own.

If they go way out and say, "We want them," as President Yudhoyono said, but
they can't afford them, it's tough, it's a tough place to be to state all these
ambitious goals and then not have your international partners actually helping
you, because you set yourself up for failure in a way. And this is one of the
dynamics that we have been grappling with, which is we are urging countries, be
bold, be out there, be aggressive, state bold ambitions, bold plans, and they
should. And I tell them though, "I can't guarantee you are going to get the help to
achieve these but if you don't ask for it there is no way you are going to get the
help." So I say, "Better to ask and not get it than not to ask at all." But for a
politician the calculation's actually a little bit more complicated than that because
they don't want to be way out there on something that can't be achieved. Having
said all of that, we had a real test of this when Ambassador Bolton said the
Millennium Development Goals don't exist, you know, you might have thought,
"Well, 50 countries would have said, 'oh, we're off the hook for that one.'" And it
didn't happen that way.

The whole world, the corridors of the U.N., leaders around the world,
newspapers, editorials said, "What do you mean they don't exit? These are
goals for us." And so there was a tremendous real ownership of this that I
thought was extremely exciting actually and very, very important and it bodes
well for the chance to get on with this. Now, Europe has promised to reach 0.7.
If they follow through we're going to have some headway. It's still not enough.
We have to get the U.S., Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Switzerland,
because Switzerland not as an E.U. member but as very much a European donor
has also not committed to a timetable to 0.7. I am still optimistic the United State
is going to do it. I don't know exactly when but I think the American people are
way ahead of the White House on this one and that we still have a chance.

Peter Mison: Is that on?

Jeffrey Sachs: Yes.

Peter Mison: My name is Peter Mison. I am from San Diego. I run the Global
Energy Network Institute. We work on delivering electrical services to the 1.6
billion people who have none.

Jeffrey Sachs: Um-hum.

Peter Mison: Twenty-five percent of the world, you and I flip a switch and it's
always there. You make the case in your book, I'd like to have you speak maybe
your experience in Africa of what basic electrical services does to a village, to a
community when it shows up.

Jeffrey Sachs: Thanks. I want to talk to you about this because this is really
important. I am just writing a paper with my colleague, Klaus Lachner, about
sustainable energy in the 21st century. And one of the pictures is a graph that
shows on the one axis the income level and on the other axis the electricity use,
kilowatts, kilowatt-hours per capita. And it fits almost perfectly aligned because
actually economic development to an extremely large extent is energy
throughput, because energy is the ability to do work and the ability to do work is
the ability to have a complex system operating above a subsistence level of an
economy. Even subsistence requires energy. We get it from our biomass. And
many people don't get enough even for the basal energy level that they need to
stay alive. But electricity is critical. So are other energy sources of commercial
energy variety.

But in a village without electricity you don't have a clinic that can conceivably
operate. You don't have obviously connectivity, a cell phone or a computer or
Internet, which is all extremely vital. You don't have a water pump probably that
can effectively irrigate fields. You don't have illumination to read. Almost
everything about schooling becomes difficult. Food can't be refrigerated and
protected, so there is lots of illness. And the list goes really on quite endlessly.
And so villages without electricity are villages condemned to impoverishment.
Now, I am very eager to hear about some of your solutions, because it's a
complex question what to do in very poor settings.

Solar can do certain things. A solar panel can help a clinic refrigerate or a
freezer to operate but it might not be able to provide the nighttime power very
easily for nighttime illumination. It might not be reliable in certain areas or give
enough power for many different kinds of functions for even light industry work,
metal welding and other things that are really part of a local economy where you
need electricity. I should have added for milling, for threshing, for food
preparation, for lathe work, for may other kinds of operations, electricity is
absolutely vital. So more than a billion people, your number is 1.6 billion, we
sometimes use 2 billion, it's a bit of a question of definitions, lack basic energy
sources above biomass.

And one of the goals of the rural development strategies which we are trying to
implement in a project called Millennium Villages is to ensure that there is an
electricity supply in every village as a very vital part of the basic infrastructure
investments. And this can be done at a quite low cost. That's the whole theme
of the project. Practical investments at low cost are enough to help communities
lift out of the poverty trap. Let me thank everybody for coming to see President
Yudhoyono and let's hope for success this week. Thank you.

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