Big Business Capturing UN SDG Agenda? Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury

Over the last two decades since the Global Compact, the United Nations has increasingly embraced the corporate sector, most recently to raise finance needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), i.e., for Agenda 2030. But growing big business influence has also compromised analyses, recommendations, policies and programme implementation, undermining the SDGs. Changing financing arrangements Inadequate funding of the UN and its mandates by member States has required this search for additional finance, initially with philanthropy and ‘corporate social responsibility' efforts by private business, but increasingly, by viewing profit-seeking investments as somehow contributing to achieve the SDGs. While the global…

Multilateralism Undermined by Globalization’s Discontents Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram

On 24 October 1945, the world's most inclusive multilateral institution, the United Nations, was born to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, ... reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, … establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom" (UN Charter: Preamble). Thus, one major purpose of the UN is to foster international cooperation to resolve the world's socio-economic problems and to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms (UN Charter: Article 1.3).…

Inequality undermines democracy Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury

Economic inequality – involving both income and wealth concentration – has risen in nearly all world regions since the 1980s. Gross economic inequalities moderated for much of the 20th century, especially after World War Two until the 1970s, but has now reached levels never before seen in human history. No more inclusive prosperity The World Inequality Report 2018 found that the richest 1% of humanity captured 27% of world income between 1980 and 2016. By contrast, the bottom half got only 12%. In Europe, the top one percent got 18%, while the bottom half got 14%. OXFAM's Reward Work, Not…

Did post-Soviet Russians drink themselves to death? Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Vladimir Popov

Although initially obscured by The Economist, among others, the sudden and unprecedented increase in Russian adult male mortality during 1992-1994 is no longer denied. Instead, the debate is now over why? Having advocated 'shock therapy', a 'big bang', 'sudden' or rapid post-Soviet transition, Jeffrey Sachs and others have claimed that the sudden collapse in Russian adult male life expectancy was due to a sudden increase in alcohol consumption, playing into popular foreign images of vodka-binging Russian men. In fact, the transition to the market economy and democracy in Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics dramatically reduced life expectancy owing to…

Improving Infrastructure Planning In Developing Countries Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury

Infrastructure investment is necessary, but hardly sufficient to enable developing countries to transform their economies to achieve sustainable prosperity, according to this year's UNCTAD Trade and Development Report: Power, Platforms and the Free Trade Delusion (TDR 2018), released in late September. For various reasons, infrastructure projects in developing countries are receiving broad endorsement. Multilateral financial institutions – such as the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank – are scaling up investment, and several international initiatives – such as the Belt and Road Initiative of China – prioritize infrastructure. Yet, such efforts may still not accelerate industrialization. Nevertheless, most recent discussions still tend…

Trade War Due To Deeper Malaise Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram

The world economy remains tepid and unstable a decade after the 2008 financial crisis, while growing trade conflicts are symptoms of deeper economic malaise, according to a new United Nations publication. While the global economy has picked up since early 2017, growth remains hesitant, with many countries operating below potential. The year ahead is unlikely to see much improvement as the world economy is under stress again, with rising tariffs and volatile financial flows. Underlying such threats to global economic stability is the failure to address fundamental weaknesses in global economic governance which have been fostering global economic inequities and…

Another Global Financial Crisis for Developing Countries? Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram

George Soros, Bill Gates and other pundits have been predicting another financial crisis. In their recent book, Revolution Required: The Ticking Bombs of the G7 Model, Peter Dittus and Herve Hamoun, former senior officials of the Bank of International Settlements, warned of ‘ticking time bombs' in the global financial system waiting to explode, mainly due to the policies of major developed countries. Recent events vindicate such fears. Many emerging market currencies have come under considerable pressure, with the Indonesian rupiah, Indian rupee and South African rand all struggling since early this year. Brazil's real fell sharply in June, and Argentina…

Great Recession, Greater Illusions Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram

In 2009, the world economy contracted by -2.2%. Growth in all developing countries declined from around 8% in 2007 to 2.6% in 2009 as the developed world contracted by -3.8% in 2009. The collapse of the Lehmann Brothers investment bank in September 2008 symbolized the US financial crisis that triggered the Great Recession of 2008-2009. Demise of Keynesian consensus In its immediate aftermath, a new consensus reversed the neoliberal Washington Consensus of the last two decades of the 20th century. Proclaimed by the G20's London Summit of 2 April 2009, it envisaged return to Keynesian macroeconomic policies, including large-scale fiscal…

Revisiting Privatization’s claims Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Several arguments have been advanced to justify privatization since the 1980s. Privatization has been advocated as an easy means to: Reduce the government's financial and administrative burden, particularly by undertaking and maintaining services and infrastructure; Promote competition, improve efficiency and increase productivity in providing public services; Stimulate private entrepreneurship and investment to accelerate economic growth; Help reduce the public sector's presence and size, with its monopolistic tendencies and bureaucratic support. Moot case for privatization First, privatization is supposed to reduce the government's financial and administrative burdens, particularly in providing services and infrastructure. Earlier public sector expansion was increasingly seen as…

Demonizing State-Owned Enterprises Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Historically, the private sector has been unable or unwilling to affordably provide needed services. Hence, meeting such needs could not be left to the market or private interests. Thus, state-owned enterprises (SOEs) emerged, often under colonial rule, due to such ‘market failure' as the private sector could not meet the needs of colonial capitalist expansion. Thus, the establishment of government departments, statutory bodies or even government-owned private companies were deemed essential for maintaining the status quo and to advance state and private, particularly powerful and influential commercial interests. SOEs have also been established to advance national public policy priorities. Again,…