I’ve just heard something interesting from the French experiences, yesterday. Whether it was exaggerated or not, it is not important, but the idea is fundamentally correct and the impact has been very positive. They were talking about some policies on getting the locals actively involved in their nuclear energy program.
Well before the project commenced, the communities were actively engaged and the plans were presented transparently so that the public was aware about what was coming. Then as the works started (and even before that), training programs were launched to prepare the locals to be part of the nuclear power plant economy, which was expected to be massive. The lifecycle of a nuclear power plant is about a century. The design and engineering plus construction would take 10 years or so, operation is aimed to be about 60 years, and decommissioning would take another 20 years. So, it is 90 years. If you include the process of decision making and delays, it is a one century business that spans across 2 generations. So, it makes a lot of sense to invest on the locals.
Their definition of locals is as narrow as the people of the vicinity of the plant, the town folks themselves. They have certain policy installed to ensure the contractors, operators etc train and hire the locals.
When I heard their explanations, my mind drifted to the villagers in Paka and Kerteh. My heart is with the people of Pengerang (I visited Pengerang recently). The Kerteh petrochemical complex brought significant development to Trengganu and many people benefited. There are some “locals” working in the plant. The companies have some engagements with the communities such as safety awareness etc as required by the safety guidelines. My question is, how much do they benefit from the industry that has brought hazard to their homes? I recalled seeing an old lady squatting on the beach digging for “remis” or “kepah” (both are shellfish) not far from the ethylene and polyethylene plants. How much benefit has this industrialization provided to the villagers?
The cost of living increased significantly due to the higher purchasing power of the “oil people” working in the areas. Maybe it helped some of the food stall operators, but this is just a handful.
Somehow, I think the French was right in doing what they claimed they were doing. Maybe they had to be that way due to the nature of the population, but I am sure you would agree with me that a local would love the place more than the temporary migrants. I believe it would be nice if we can make the people feel that they are part of the development, and recognize the importance of those installations, and they themselves have some roles in them.
Perhaps we need some of those policies on “localization” of economic activities. Bottom line is, we don’t want to make the locals poorer by bringing developments to them. Teach them how to fish so that they can catch a lot more since there are many new species made available by the new “lubuk”.
Dr. AA (while waiting for a flight at KLIA)