Tuesday, June 25, 2013

People's govt protects people
By Editor
Mon 24 June 2013, 14:00 CAT

Government has the obligation to intervene and regulate all economic activities in order to ensure that the environment is protected.

Many business enterprises, left on their own, can cause a lot of damage to the environment and endanger the future of our people.

The motive of business should be not only to make profit but even more to contribute to the common good of society.

The decision by the Zambia Environmental Management Agency to stop First Quantum Minerals from constructing a dam that would destroy the water source on which thousands of our people depend is highly welcome and deserves the support of all. The common good is the reason for which all these public, state or government institutions or agencies are created. The common good is the reason for the existence of economic, social and political institutions. It enables people to express commitment and concern for each other. Common good calls upon all persons to contribute and commit themselves responsibly to building a just society for all.

Public institutions like the Zambia Environmental Management Agency must have as their aim the achievement of the common good. The whole reason for the existence of civil authorities is the realisation of the common good.

And businesses should be characterised by their capacity to serve the common good of society. The sense of responsibility in economic initiative should demonstrate the individual and social virtues necessary for the development.

A business enterprise must be a community of solidarity. And solidarity is a basic fact of human existence. No person is an island, cut off from others and self-sufficient. Remember the African proverb: "I am because we are, and we are because I am."

We should consistently ask ourselves: 'Is our business community responsibly promoting respect for the environment?'

The roles of business owners and management have a central importance from the viewpoint of society, because they are at the heart of that network of technical, commercial, financial and cultural bonds that characterises the modern business reality. For this reason, the exercise of responsibility by business owners and management requires constant reflection on the moral motivations that should guide the personal choices of those to whom these tasks fall.

Working for the common good requires us to promote the flourishing of all human life and of all God's creation. In a special way, the common good requires solidarity with the poor, who are often without the resources to face many problems, including the potential impacts of environmental degradation and climatic change.

Our obligations to the one human family stretch across space and time. They tie us to the poor in our midst and across the globe, as well as to the future generations.

The common good demands justice for all, the protection of the environment on which the poor depend.

Every civil authority must take pains to promote the common good of all, without preference for any single citizen or civic group. Everyone should be concerned to create and support institutions that improve the conditions of human life. Public authority must have the means to promote the common good.

Society as a whole, acting through public and private institutions, has the moral responsibility to enhance human dignity and protect human life. In addition to the clear responsibility of private institutions, government has an essential responsibility in this area. This does not mean that government has the primary or exclusive role, but it does have a positive moral responsibility in safeguarding human life and ensuring that minimum conditions of human dignity are met for all.
In a democracy, government is a means by which we can act together to protect what is important to us and to promote our common values.

The economy cannot be run in an institutional, juridical, or political vacuum: the state has its role to play, guaranteeing personal safety. David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people (2 Sam 8:15). As for the state, its whole raison d'etre is the realisation of the common good in the temporal order. It cannot, therefore, hold aloof from economic matters. It is the government's role to guarantee minimum conditions that make this rich social activity possible.

Furthermore, the state has the duty to prevent people from abusing their private property, wealth and the power that goes with it to the detriment of the common good.

The fundamental moral criterion for all economic decisions, policies and institutions is this: they must be at the service of all people, especially the poor. And the way society responds to the needs of the poor through its public policies is the litmus test of its justice or injustice. The impact of national economic policies on the poor and the vulnerable is the primary criterion for judging their moral value.

It is in this light that we welcome the decision by the Zambia Environmental Management Agency to stop First Quantum Minerals' dam project which failed to meet the requirements of the common good. The loss of five hundred jobs that First Quantum Minerals wants to tie to the decision by the authorities to stop their dam project is too small a bait. We know that in the desperate unemployment situation our people are in, every job counts. But it's not such jobs at any cost. There are costs that cannot be paid for with any number jobs. The lives of our people should be placed above any jobs. Of what value will it be to employ five hundred people at the expense of so many people's lives, including those not yet born?

It is good that public institutions are now starting to stand up to the power of business. For a long time, big business did what it wanted in this country and got away with it. Today, it seems there is a government in Zambia that is trying to function as a government of the people by the people for the people. The people's state protects the people. Big business, and indeed all businesses, have to be made to account. Authority is exercised legitimately if it is committed to the common good of society. Public and individual wellbeing should be developed out of the very structure and administration of the state. We are reminded in Proverbs 3:27: "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it." And "we know that the law is good, if it is used as it should be used" (1Tim 1:8). The virtue of truth gives another his just due.

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