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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.

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”).

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.

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.” 


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