(VI Congreso Red Española de Políticas sociales, Sevilla 16-17 February 2017)
In the current period of uncertainty and anxiety for the future, it gives confidence to look back at the not so far away past, in order to see what was possible then and what has been real only fifty years ago: national social pacts within developing welfare states in the North and global agreements on the need for social progress in the South. It is also good to remember that it is not the recent crisis of 2008 that has put an end to these pacts and agreements. Indeed, the real turn came with the crisis of the 1970s and the ‘structural adjustment’ programmes in the South from the 1980s onward. More recently and everywhere, social protection acquired a new meaning, aimed at ‘human capital’, protecting the most vulnerable while promoting markets and growth. What is new today, is that we are also faced with fundamental changes in modes of production and consequently changes on the labour markets. While several innovative proposals for social protection are being made, the need for a new and global social pact in order to promote the sustainability of life, for humans and for nature, is particularly urgent.
A couple of days ago, I received the most recent newsletter of BIEN (Basic Income Earth Network). As always, this is very interesting literature, though one must read it with one major fact in mind: the network does not necessarily communicate about basic income … it talks about ‘basic income’ (for all, rich and poor) but almost all the items concern guaranteed minimum incomes (for those who need it).
There is a very obvious reason for this: nowhere in the world has a basic income been introduced. Of course, there are the always repeated examples of one poor village in Namibia, there are the ‘pilots’ in India, but these concern poor people and the money they get is hardly sufficient to survive.
A new protectionist device is being planned in the United States that could devastate the exports of developing countries and cause American and other foreign companies to relocate. The complexities and implications of the proposed border adjustment tax are explained in this article. A version of this article was published by IPS. A second article on this issue will be published soon.
A new and deadly form of protectionism is being considered by Congress leaders and the President of the United States that could have devastating effect on the exports and investments of American trading partners, especially the developing countries.
The plan, known as a border adjustment tax, would have the effect of taxing imports of goods and services that enter the United States, while also providing a subsidy for US exports which would be exempted from the tax.
The aim is to improve the competitiveness of US products, drastically reduce the country’s imports while promoting its exports, and thus narrow the huge US trade deficit.
IFC investments in FIs supported at least 41 coal power plants since 2013
Investments contravene 2013 Bank policy on coal, contribute to climate change and deforestation
Lack of disclosure on FI sub-projects continues to deprive communities access to grievance mechanism
The negative development impact of the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC, the World Bank’s private sector arm) investments in financial intermediaries (FIs) has once again been brought to light (see Observer Spring 2014). An October 2016 report, Disaster for us and the planet, by US-based NGO Inclusive Development International (IDI) and partners, provided evidence that “IFC-supported financial institutions have funded at least 41 new coal projects … since the World Bank announced its coal ban in 2013”. While the IFC has claimed that the concerns of civil society organisations have largely been addressed through its response to previously highlighted harmful projects that it funds, the report demonstrates that the IFC remains exposed to highly damaging projects.
In 2013 Mozambican government officials formed three private companies and took out illegal secret loans totaling $2 billion. Donors suspended credit to Mozambique because of the loans as the national currency fell by 70% in 2016. Restructuring the illegal loans means imposed austerity on a population already living in extreme austerity and eventually repaying the creditors from revenues derived from Mozambique’s natural gas deposits that on the market in 2023.
Mainstream economic thinking often tries to explain the trend of high and rising inequalities by referring to the forces of technology. Technological progress, so the argument goes, works to destroy middle pay routine jobs while at the same time creating many high skilled jobs. There is, however, increasing recognition that this ‘technology’ factor is but part of the story and there are other important forces at work. (see for example here).
The failure of this classical skills-related argument in explaining all of the wage inequality trends has not gone unnoticed by the OECD either. In a recently published working paper from their Economics department, the authors conclude that cross-country diverging experience “suggests that longer-term trends such as technological change and globalisation cannot fully account for decoupling of wages and productivity”. Country-specific public policies are also important as these shape the effects of global trends on inequalities.
The open-ended working group (OEIGW) on transnational corporations (TNCs) and other business enterprises with respect to human rights successfully held its second meeting in October 2016, in Geneva. The OEIGW was established by a Human Rights Council resolution adopted in July 2014. According to this resolution, the next meeting of the OEIGW, expected in October 2017, will see the Chairperson rapporteur “prepare elements for the draft legally binding instrument [on TNCs and other business enterprises with respect to human rights] for substantive negotiations” (hereinafter referred to as “the Instrument” or “binding Instrument”).
In the movie “The Big Kahuna,” the character played by Danny DeVito tells a young salesman that he does not have any character, “for the simple reason that you do not regret anything yet.” “Are you saying,” the young man asks, “that I won’t have character unless I do something that I regret?” “No, Bob,” DeVito answers, “I’m saying that you’ve already done plenty of things to regret. You just don’t know what they are.”
The South Centre recently published Research Paper No. 73: "Inequality, Financialization and Stagnation," authored by Dr. Yılmaz Akyüz, Chief Economist of the South Centre.
The failure of exceptional monetary measures pursued in response to the financial crisis in advanced economies to achieve a strong recovery has created a widespread concern that these economies suffer from a chronic demand gap and face the prospect of stagnation. This paper reviews and discusses the alternative views on the causes of the slowdown in accumulation and growth and the policies implemented and proposed to deal with it.
In an unprecedented and historic move, the Sixth Committee of the UN General Assembly recently granted observer status to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). The resolution was submitted by France, Albania, Colombia, the Netherlands and Tunisia and was adopted during the seventy-first session of the General Assembly. The resolution sets out the ICC’s position as observer in the General Assembly from 1 January 2017 on.
For the first time, the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly (GA) has approved a business organization as an observer to the UN General Assembly. So far, the current list of non-Member States, entities and organizations with observer status in the General Assembly was mainly limited to non-Member States, like the Holy See and the State of Palestine, and intergovernmental organizations like the African Union and the OECD. Trade unions and civil society organizations are not on the list.
The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development commits UN member states to “leave no one behind.” One crucial component of that commitment – encompassed in the International Labor Organization’s own agenda – is decent work for all. At a time when worker frustration and disillusionment is being expressed in elections across the world, this goal could not be more important.
Nowadays, the expectation that each generation will be better off than the previous one, both socially and economically, is no longer automatic. For many, downward mobility has become the new normal.
Little wonder, then, that long-simmering frustration with the way globalization has been handled and resentment at the unfair distribution of its gains have fueled the political backlash sweeping the world of late. This disillusionment arises, at least partly, from people’s own experience of work, whether exclusion from the labor market, poor working conditions, or low wages.