Intellectual Property Regime Undermines Equity, Progress Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Over the last few decades, people in the developing world have been rejecting the intellectual property (IP) regime as it has been increasingly imposed on them following the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) including its trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPs) regime. IP rights (IPRs) have been further enforced through ostensible free trade agreements (FTAs) and investment treaties among two (bilateral) or more (plurilateral) partners. Despite their ostensible rationale, the IP standards rich country governments insist on have never been intended to maximize scientific progress and technological innovation. Rather, the IPR regime serves to maximize the profits of influential…

Wealth Concentration Continues to Increase Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury

As the ‘masters of the universe' gather for their annual retreat at Davos, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has just published its Inclusive Development Index (IDI) for the second time. After moderating from the 1920s until the 1970s, inequality has grown with a vengeance from the 1980s as neoliberal ascendance unleashing regressive reforms on various fronts. Sensing the growing outrage at earlier neo-liberal reforms and their consequences, as well as the financial sector bail-outs and fiscal austerity after the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, politicians and business leaders have expressed concerns about inequality's resurgence. The record is more nuanced. While national…

PPPs Likely to Undermine Public Health Commitments Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury

The United Nations Agenda 2030 for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is being touted in financial circles as offering huge investment opportunities requiring trillions of dollars. In 67 low- and middle-income countries, achieving SDG 3 — healthy lives and well-being for all, at all ages — is estimated to require new investments increasing over time, from an initial $134 billion annually to $371 billion yearly by 2030, according to recent estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) reported in The Lancet. Selling PPPs Deprived of fiscal and aid resources, none of these governments can finance such investments alone. The United…

Trade Multilateralism Set Back Yet Again Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury

As feared, the Eleventh Ministerial Conference (MC11) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 10-13 December 2017, ended in failure. It failed to even produce the customary ministerial declaration reiterating the centrality of the global trading system and the importance of trade as a driver of development. Driven by President Donald Trump's ‘America First' strategy and his preference for bilateral trade deals, instead of multilateral or even plurilateral agreements, United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer was key to the outcome. The USTR also refused to engage in previously promised negotiations on a permanent solution to…

Arming Poor Countries Enriches Rich Countries Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Although the Cold War came to an end over a quarter century ago, international arms sales only declined temporarily at the end of the last century. Instead, the United States under President Trump is extending its arms superiority over the rest of the world. The five biggest importers were India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), China and Algeria. Indian arms imports increased by 43 per cent. Its imports during 2012–2016 were far greater than those of its regional rivals, China and Pakistan, as Pakistan’s arms imports declined by 28 per cent compared to 2007–2011. UAE imports increased by…

Strengthening Governments to Cope with PPPs Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have emerged in recent years as the development ‘flavour of the decade' in place of aspects of the old Washington Consensus. Instead of replacing the role of government or consigning it to the garbage bin of history, corporations are increasingly using governments to advance their own interests through PPPs. On the one hand, in a contemporary variant of previously condemned ‘tied aid', developed country governments have been persuaded to use their aid or overseas development assistance (ODA) budgets to promote their own national – read corporate – interests, e.g., by providing ‘blended finance' on concessional terms to…

Beware Public Private Partnerships Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are essentially long-term contracts, underwritten by government guarantees, with which the private sector builds (and sometimes runs) major infrastructure projects or services traditionally provided by the state, such as hospitals, schools, roads, railways, water, sanitation and energy. Embracing PPPs PPPs are promoted by many OECD governments, and some multilateral development banks – especially the World Bank – as the solution to the shortfall in financing needed to achieve development including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since the late 1990s, many countries have embraced PPPs for areas ranging from healthcare and education to transport and infrastructure with problematic…

Coping with Foreign Direct Investment Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury

Foreign direct investment (FDI) is increasingly touted as the elixir for economic growth. While not against FDI, the mid-2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) for financing development also cautioned that it "is concentrated in a few sectors in many developing countries and often bypasses countries most in need, and international capital flows are often short-term oriented". FDI flows UNCTAD's 2017 World Investment Report (WIR) shows that FDI flows have remained the largest and has provided less volatile of all external financial flows to developing economies, despite declining by 14% in 2016. FDI flows to the least developed countries and ‘structurally…

Finance Following Growth Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury

Economists of all persuasions recognize the critical role of finance in economic growth. The financial sector's stability and depth are widely considered important in this connection. Thus, many believe that the lack of a well-developed financial sector constrains growth in developing countries. Neoliberals generally attribute this to excessive regulation, especially the role of state-owned financial institutions, interest rate limits and restrictions on short-term cross-border capital flows. It is often assumed that banks and financial markets allocate capital to the most productive endeavours, and that the financial infrastructure for credit reduces ‘information inefficiencies', such as ‘moral hazard' and ‘adverse selection'. Another…

Emerging Markets at Risk Again Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Emerging market governments often draw lessons from previous financial crises – or at least claim to do so – to prevent their recurrence. However, such preventive measures are typically designed to address the causes of the last crisis, not the next one. Hence, some measures adopted may inadvertently become new sources of instability and crisis. Very rarely are the root causes of crises and vulnerability addressed. In their efforts to prove themselves as worthy emerging markets, they tend to be pro-active in joining the financial globalization bandwagon. But premature financial liberalization – with hasty integration into the international financial system,…