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,…

Mounting Illicit Financial Outflows from South Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Zera Zuryana Idris

Although quite selective, targeted, edited and carefully managed, last year's Panama Papers highlighted some problems associated with illicit financial flows, such as tax evasion and avoidance. The latest Global Financial Integrity (GFI) report shows that illicit financial outflows (IFFs) from developing countries, already at alarming levels, continue to grow rapidly. Illicit financial flows growing rapidly  With international financial liberalization enabling investments abroad, ‘legitimate outflows' have also been growing rapidly, heightening macro-financial risks to countries. Many of today's financial centres compete intensely to attract customers by offering lower tax rates and banking secrecy. It is generally presumed that IFFs are related…

Why 1997 Asian Crisis Lessons Lost Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Various different, and sometimes contradictory lessons have been drawn from the 1997-1998 East Asian crises. Rapid or V-shaped recoveries and renewed growth in most developing countries in the new century also served to postpone the urgency of far-reaching reforms. The crises' complex ideological, political and policy implications have also made it difficult to draw lessons from the crises. Conventional wisdom  The conventional wisdom was to blame the crisis on bad economic policies pursued by the governments concerned. Of course, the vested interests favouring the international financial status quo or further liberalization also impede implementing needed reforms. Such interests continue to…

To Eliminate Poverty, Better Understanding Needed Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury

As the United Nations' Second Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008-2017) comes to an end, more self-congratulation is likely. Claims of victory in the war against poverty will be backed by recently released poverty estimates from the World Bank, entrusted by the UN system to monitor poverty. Mismeasuring Poverty The latest Bank data on global poverty suggests that 767 million people, or 10.7% of the world's population, live in extreme poverty, compared to some 42% of the world's population in 1981. Earlier figures suggested that most progress was due to East Asia, especially China. The Bank's international poverty line…

Hunger in Africa, Land of Plenty Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury

Globally, 108 million people faced food crises in 2016, compared to about 80 million in 2015 – an increase of 35%, according to the 2017 Global Report on Food Crises. Another 123 million people were ‘stressed', contributing to around 230 million such food insecure people in 2016, of whom 72% were in Africa. The highest hunger levels are in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) according to the Global Hunger Index 2016. The number of ‘undernourished' or hungry people in Africa increased from about 182 million in the early 1990s to around 233 million in 2016 according to the FAO, while the global…

Greater Cooperation To Strengthen Taxation Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Since the 1950s, there has been a popular dance called the ‘limbo rock', with the winner leaning back as much as possible to get under the bar. Many of today's financial centres are involved in a similar game to attract customers by offering low tax rates and banking secrecy. How Low Can You Go?  This has, in turn, forced many governments to lower direct taxes not only on income, but also on wealth. From the early 1980s, this was dignified by US President Ronald Reagan's embrace of Professor Arthur Laffer's curve which claimed higher savings, investments and growth with less…

More Public Spending, Not Tax Cuts, for Sustainable, Inclusive Growth Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury

The Trump administration's promise to increase infrastructure spending should break the straightjacket the Republicans imposed on the Obama administration after capturing the US Congress in 2010. However, in proportionate terms, it falls far short of Roosevelt's New Deal effort to revive the US economy in the 1930s. To make matters worse, reducing budget deficits remains the main economic policy goal of all too many OECD governments. Governments tend to cut social spending if they can get away with it without paying too high a political price. But OECD governments' belief that social spending -- on health, education, childcare, etc. --…

Out of Africa: Understanding Economic Refugees Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury

Not a single month has passed without dreadful disasters triggering desperate migrants to seek refuge in Europe. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at least 2,247 people have died or are missing after trying to enter Europe via Spain, Italy or Greece in the first half of this year. Last year, 5,096 deaths were recorded. The majority – including ‘economic migrants', victims of ‘people smugglers', and so on – were young Africans aged between 17 and 25. The former head of the British mission in Benghazi (Libya) claimed in April that as many as a million more were…

Much more Climate Finance Now! Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury

Funding developing countries' climate change mitigation and adaption efforts was never going to be easy. But it has become more uncertain with President Trump's decision to leave the Paris Accord. As a candidate, he threatened not to fulfil the modest US pledge of US$3 billion towards the 2020 target of US$100 billion yearly for the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The GCF was formally established in December 2011 "to make a significant and ambitious contribution to the global efforts towards attaining the goals set by the international community to combat climate change". In the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, developed economies had promised…