East Asia’s real lessons Jomo Kwame Sundaram

International recognition of East Asia's rapid economic growth, structural change and industrialization grew from the 1980s. In Western media and academia, this was seen as a regional phenomenon, associated with some commonality, real or imagined, such as a supposed ‘yen bloc'. Others had a more mythic element, such as ‘flying geese', or ostensible bushido and Confucian ethics. Every purported miracle claims a mythic element, invariably fit for purpose. After all, miracles are typically attributed to supernatural forces, and hence, cannot be emulated by mere mortals. Hence, to better learn from ostensible miracles, it is necessary to demystify them. The World…

Why International Financial Crises? Jomo Kwame Sundaram

International currency and financial crises have become more frequent since the 1990s, and with good reason. But the contributory factors are neither simple nor straightforward. Such financial crises have, in turn, contributed to more frequent economic difficulties for the economies affected, as evident following the 2008-2009 financial crisis and the ensuing Great Recession still evident almost a decade later. Why international coordination? Why is global co-ordination so necessary? There are two main reasons. One big problem before the Second World War was the contractionary macroeconomic consequences of the ‘gold standard'. In 1944, before the end of the Second World War,…

International Finance Governance Undemocratic Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Why is it so difficult to achieve meaningful coordination when everybody agrees that it is desirable, if not necessary? President Richard Nixon's withdrawal of the US from and hence termination of the Bretton Woods system in 1971 confirmed the end of the post-war Golden Age. This led to slower growth, greater volatility, more instability, and reduced progress in raising economic welfare, among other consequences. Multilateral governance compromised The Bretton Woods institutions (BWIs) -- World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) -- were initially conceived as part of a post-war system of multilateral governance to ensure the conditions for peace, growth,…

Genetically Engineered Disappointments Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Tan Zhai Gen

Advocates of genetically engineered (GE) crops have long claimed that genetic engineering is necessary to raise crop yields and reduce human exposure to agrochemicals. Genetic engineering promised two major improvements: improving yields affordably to feed the world, and making crops resistant to pests to reduce the use of commercial chemical herbicides and insecticides. Genetic modification of crops through natural evolution or artificial crossbreeding has been happening for millennia, giving rise to more productive or resilient crop species. Thus, the term ‘genetic engineering' more accurately refers to the artificial introduction of genetic material to produce new GE varieties. Trans-Atlantic divide A…

World Bank fudges on inequality Jomo Kwame Sundaram & Anis Chowdhury

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – collectively drafted and then officially agreed to, at the highest level, by all Member States of the United Nations in September 2015 – involves specific targets to be achieved mainly by 2030. The Agenda seeks to "leave no-one behind" and claims roots in universal human rights. Thus, addressing inequalities and discrimination is central to the SDGs. Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2016: Taking on Inequality is the World Bank's first annual report tracking progress towards the two key SDGs on poverty and inequality. Annual reporting on poverty, inequality This particular report evaluates progress towards…

Growing Inequality under Global Capitalism Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury

Income and wealth inequality has increased in recent decades, but recognition of the role of economic liberalization and globalization in exacerbating inequality has never been so widespread. The guardians of global capitalism are nervous, yet little has been done to check, let alone reverse the underlying forces. Global elite alarmed by growing inequality The World Economic Forum (WEF) has described severe income inequality as the biggest risk facing the world. WEF founder Klaus Schwab has observed, ‘We have too large a disparity in the world; we need more inclusiveness… If we continue to have un-inclusive growth and we continue with…

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…