Dispute Settlement Becomes Speculative Financial Asset Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions in bilateral investment treaties (BITs) and free trade agreements (FTAs) have effectively created a powerful and privileged system of protections for foreign investors that undermines national law and institutions. ISDS allows foreign corporations to sue host governments for supposedly causing them losses due to policy or regulatory changes that reduce the expected profitability of their investments. Very significantly, ISDS provisions have been and can be invoked, even when rules are non-discriminatory, or profits come from causing public harm. ISDS will thus strengthen perverse incentives for foreign investors at the expense of local businesses and the…

Economic Recovery Crucial to Sustainable Development Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury

More than eight years after the global financial crisis exploded in late 2008, economic growth remains generally tepid, while ostensible recovery measures appear to have exacerbated income and other inequalities. Yet, despite the G-20 group of the world's largest economies raising the level, frequency and profile of its meetings, effective multilateral cooperation and coordination remains a distant dream. Little reason to cheer The United Nations' recent World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) 2017 offers little cause for comfort: the world economy has not yet emerged from the protracted slow growth following the 2008 financial crisis; significant uncertainties and risks weigh…

Can the SDGs be financed? Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury

Investment in the least developed countries (LDCs) will need to rise by at least 11 per cent annually through 2030, a little more than the 8.9 per cent between 2010 and 2015, in order for them to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The United Nations' World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) 2017 focuses on the difficulties in securing sufficient financing for the SDGs given e global financial system and current economic environment. Big financing gaps The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)'s 2014 World Investment Report estimated that developing countries would need US$2.5 trillion annually until 2030…

Sweetened Research, Sugared Recommendations Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Tan Zhai Gen

In 2015, Coca Cola's chief scientist was forced to resign after revelations that the company had funded researchers to present academic papers recommending exercise to address obesity and ill health, while marginalizing the role of dietary consumption. Coca-Cola, the world's largest producer of sugary beverages, had provided millions of dollars to fund researchers to downplay the links between sugar and obesity, tooth decay and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Corrupt research This was not new. In September 2016, a New York Times article highlighted a JAMA Internal Medicine research article showing that sugar industry interests had paid scientists in the 1960s to…

Most Financial Inflows Not Developmental Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury

Recent disturbing trends in international finance have particularly problematic implications, especially for developing countries. The recently released United Nations report, World Economic Situation and Prospects 2017 (WESP 2017) is the only recent report of a multilateral inter-governmental organization to recognize these problems, especially as they are relevant to the financing requirements for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Resource outflows rising Developing countries have long experienced net resource transfers abroad. Capital has flowed from developing to developed countries for many years, peaking at US$800 billion in 2008 when the financial crisis erupted. Net transfers from developing countries in 2016 came…

Another Somalian Famine Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Last month, the United Nations declared another famine threat in Somalia due to yet another drought in the Horn of Africa. Important lessons must be drawn from the Somalia famine of 2010-2012, which probably killed about 258,000 people, half of whom were under-five. This was the greatest tragedy in terms of famine deaths in the 21st century, and in recent decades since the Ethiopian famine of the late 1980s. A 2013 report, for the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS Net) and the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU), used a variety of sources to estimate the likely death…

Stemming Illicit Financial Outflows Jomo Kwame Sundaram

International capital flows are now more than 60 times the value of trade flows. The Bank of International Settlements (BIS) is now of the view that large international financial transactions do not facilitate trade, and that excessive financial ‘elasticity' has been a major cause of recent financial crises. Illicit financial outflows  Illicit financial flows involve financial movements from one country to another, especially when funds are illegally earned, transferred, and/or utilized. Some examples include: A cartel using trade-based money laundering techniques to mix legal money, say from the sale of used cars, with illegal money, e.g., from drug sales; An…

Tax Evasion Lessons From Panama Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Unlike Wikileaks and other exposes, the Panama revelations were carefully managed, if not edited, quite selective, and hence targeted, at least initially. Most observers attribute this to the political agendas of its main sponsors. Nevertheless, the revelations have highlighted some problems associated with illicit financial flows, as well as tax evasion and avoidance, including the role of enabling governments, legislation, legal and accounting firms as well as shell companies. The political tremors generated by the edited release of 1.1 million documents were swift. No one expected Iceland's prime minister to resign in less than 48 hours, or that the then…

Washington Rules Change, Again Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Over the last four decades, the Washington Consensus, promoting economic liberalization, globalization and privatization, reversed four decades of an earlier period of active state intervention to accelerate and stabilize more inclusive economic growth, associated with Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Maynard Keynes. The Golden Age The US Wall Street Crash of 1929 led to the Great Depression, which in turn engendered two important policy responses in 1933 with lasting consequences for generations to come: US President Roosevelt’s New Deal and the 1933 Glass-Steagal Act. While massive spending following American entry into the Second World War was clearly decisive in ending…

Major Crisis, Minor Reforms Jomo Kwame Sundaram

The 2008-2009 financial breakdown, precipitated by the US housing mortgage crisis, has triggered an extended stagnation in the developed economies, initially postponed in much of the developing world by high primary commodity prices until 2014. Yet, the financial crisis and protracted economic slowdown since has not led to profound changes in the conventional wisdom or policy prescriptions, especially at the international level, despite global economic integration since the 1980s. To be sure, the spread of the crisis caused the G20 group of US-selected important economies to convene for the first time at a heads of government level in a mid-November…