Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

The MDGs and armed violence

1 October, 2010

A recent post on the Eldis conflict and security blog discusses how the growing global trend of non-conflict armed violence (NCAV) fundamentally threatens progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Violence within local communities strikes at the very core of development and progress, perpetuating poverty by destroying infrastructure and livelihoods, diverting resources, and contributing to loss of life. The cost of such violence is estimated to be a staggering US$163 billion, a figure that dwarfs the US$119.6 billion global spend on international aid last year. As such, violence can be said to potentially have a drastic impact on the very area that is crucial to achieving the MDGs – government spending on social services. Although the international community has been slow to tackle non-conflict armed violence, policymakers are beginning to recognise the need for more holistic and targeted development approaches to armed violence – as evidenced by the upcoming World Development Report on conflict, security and development. reducing violence in all its forms must now become a development priority. Although the MDGs did not target violence as a core objective, post-2015 there is real scope to integrate the aim of reducing violence into poverty reduction strategy papers, UN development assistance frameworks and post-conflict needs assessments. Whether the current politics of development permit such an innovation remains to be seen, particularly when considering the underlying causes of conflict and violence. See the full original blog posting here.

The Monfort Plan

28 October, 2009

The Monfort Plan is a modest proposal that describes the new architecture of capitalism. Jonathan Swift wrote his Modest Proposal in 1729, in which he identified three classes of readers: the superficial, the ignorant and the learned. According to Swift “the superficial reader will be strangely provoked to laughter”, whereas “the ignorant reader will find himself disposed to stare”. For years the diagnose of extreme poverty targeted Swift’s truly learned readers and forgot the superficial and the ignorant.

In a recent article on This is Africa, Columbia Professor Jeffrey Sachs wondered if the world leaders would be “brave enough to invent new programmes and institutions that have the legitimacy and commitment to pull the world through this crisis to a fairer and more sustainable future”. A new architecture is the only path to the world of 2050, a world of cornucopia (food abundance) and eutopia (universal welfare). A new architecture is the only approach to building up new programs and institutions that have Sachs’ legitimacy.

Extreme poverty continues to perpetuate because we have failed to eliminate its causes. Extreme poverty is originated and perpetuated because developed countries have failed to reform in six areas that represent the Axis of Feeble, an Axis that has to be defeated in an intellectual war with Weapons of Mass Persuasion. The six components of the Axis of Feeble are agriculture, trade and labor rights, small arms trade, extractive industries, financial architecture and brain drain.

Past wars defeated the Axis Powers and current wars aim at defeating the Axis of Evil. Past and current wars had to identify and defy the enemy and the opposition forces to be defeated. The Axis of Feeble is maintained and perpetuated by the Pirates of Heartless Capitalism and the Bretton Woods Elites, who will use their propaganda tools to oppose a paradigm shift.

In the first part of his autobiography, the American diplomat George F. Kennan pointed out that “We of this generation did not create the civilization of which we are part and, only too obviously, it is not we who are destined to complete it. We are not the owners of the planet we inhabit; we are only its custodians”. The Axis of Feeble will not be defeated unless all custodians become passengers of a Journey of no return, and not simple spectators.

My forthcoming book may be appealing to the truly learned readers. We must all become passengers of the Journey of our lifetime. The Monfort Plan is designed having in mind every audience. It proposes new content with the ability to entertain every audience. It is through entertainment that the average citizen in Europe and North America can be educated in issues that are vital for the future of our planet and the humankind. It is through education that the average citizen can raise his or her level of awareness. Only if we, as a society, raise our level of awareness, will we welcome reform in the six components of the Axis of Feeble.

For decades we lived with an architecture that played its role, an architecture that has become a caricature of what it once was, a vintage architecture not designed for the challenges of the twenty-first century.

We live the best world we have ever inhabited. We are approaching our tipping point as a global society. We must become men and women of stature. I identified the One Hundred Expert Dreamers that will become the best team of experts that has ever been put together to serve the global public interest. With their combined wisdom and intellectual strength the Expert Dreamers will defeat the Axis of Feeble and the Pirates of Heartless Capitalism.

We are not the dwellers of the blue planet, only its custodians. We must recuperate the courage of the visionaries of the 1940s and 1950s who created an architecture that changed the world for good. The Expert Dreamers are the disciples of Marshall and Truman, of Clayton and Kennan, of Monnet and Schuman. The orthodox thinkers and the current political leaders condemned the imagination and creativity in the policy-making process to perpetuate in the cage of the orthodox. We must start living a life in full color. We must again love and dream. The Sleeping Beauty must wake up and embrace the forgotten continent. The American friends will fall in love, one more time, with the Sleeping Beauty.

It is time. It is our time. Let’s move ahead.

Jaime Pozuelo-Monfort is Author of The Monfort Plan (Wiley Finance, April 2010). More information can be found at http://themonfortplan.com

Keynes is Back. But What to Do, Darling?

24 November, 2008

Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling is praising Keynes – along with just about everyone else. He’s boosted public spending (go here). The present focus on fiscal policy reflects the fear of a ‘liquidity trap’ – which Keynes first identified in the 1930s. The Bank of England is set to cut interest rates further, but this might not encourage banks to lend. So monetary policy alone can’t do the trick (it is said). Hence public spending. And now tax cuts.

Today we hear the Chancellor’s plans (at 3.30 pm: go here). The government’s spin machine was busy over the weekend so a VAT reduction will hardly come as a surprise. The FT reckons it will be a £12.5 bn package:

“At the heart of the stimulus package is an expected “temporary” cut in the VAT rate from 17.5 to 15 per cent, the lowest standard rate allowed in the EU. Food, children’s clothing and some other items have always been zero-rated in Britain”.

Will a VAT cut work? Canada cut its sales tax at the beginning of 2008, but this had modest effects on total spending, according to the ‘Undercover Economist’, Tim Harford interviewed on the BBC Today programme this morning. For a critique of the Canadian tax cuts from a poverty perspective see GrowingGap. Canadian readers: send us your views.

To cut taxes now, taxes have to rise later. Economists describe this as borrowing from ourselves. Spending won’t rise if we fully anticipate the future tax increase. Or at least that’s what some macro-economists say (see Robert Barro). It’s called Ricardian Equivalence (drop that into your next pub conversation on the economic crisis: sure to impress). Economist readers: please up-date us on whether Barro is right.

Will businesses cut prices following a VAT reduction? They are slashing prices in any case, in advance of Xmas – a last ditch hope that the sales can carry them through the new year. Buyers stormed Marks & Spencers last week, following a 20% price cut. So we might all now afford fresh underwear. But will stores cut prices further, or take some of the VAT cut to rebuild their margins?

Ann Pettifor of the New Economics Foundation interviewed on the BBC yesterday was skeptical about tax cuts (Ann was one of the first people to predict this crisis). She believes that people will instead save the VAT cut (i.e. you will still buy the same basket of goods, but now the basket will be cheaper and you won’t add any more items. Your money is then deposited in one of Britain’s hopeless banks or under your mattress). Ann points out that if the money is spent then a lot will go on foreign imports (true, but I don’t think this is necessarily as bad as is often believed. The Americans need help too. I’ll do my bit by buying a new Apple Mac).

Other ideas I have come across: delay VAT payments by small businesses for six months. Many small businesses are penalized by the larger firms not paying their suppliers on time (a zero-cost way for the latter to fund themselves). Peter Mandelson promised a crack down, but doesn’t seem to have achieved much yet. In the recession of the early 1990s, small business failures were running at a 1,000 a week. So maybe government could help with a delay in VAT payments. Housebuilders want a continuation of the present holiday on stamp duty to get the housing market re-started. Readers might like to comment on the merits of each.

But there are two ideas from the Get Fair campaign that I really like.

First, immediately invest £4bn in measures to halve child poverty by 2010. Child poverty costs at least £25 billion each year in losses to the Exchequer and in reduced GDP, according to research from the Joseph Rowntree foundation. So spending tax revenue on eliminating child poverty now would actually save public money in the future. Surely a good idea.

Second, Get Fair says improve the take-up of existing benefits: they estimate that this would help 500,000 pensioners out of poverty. Here in the UK we have just had Remembrance Sunday, a day on which we remember those who gave their lives to defend Britain – especially in the Two World Wars. A 20-year old in 1940, is now 88. Helping our pensioners now, especially those in poverty (2.5 million of them) will be one of our last chances to thank their generation.

So, over to you Darling.

Addicted to Aid?

19 November, 2008

Next week’s Panorama on BBC One is running a programme on aid to two countries for which Britain is one of the biggest donors. To judge from the blurb, it’s going to be very critical:

“Reporter Sorious Samura visits Uganda and his home country of Sierra Leone to reveal how aid money is lost, stolen and frittered away. He stops at a showpiece hospital, run by a well-funded health department, that looks like a warzone – yet its carpark is home to dozens of new 4x4s for ministry staff. He questions a former minister accused of stealing funds and offers his vision of how Africans can take control of their own destiny”.

Sorious Samuara has done some brilliant films exposing Africa’s “big men” and their corrupt ways, the other side of the coin to the region’s hunger and poverty (go here). But I do hope that he offers more than the usual critique of aid in the Panorama programme.

Yes, corruption is rife in Sierra Leone (it was a big issue in the last elections, with a clean-up promised: see this BBC report). And on a recent visit to Uganda I saw that the local media is full of stories of corruption (the benefits of a free press in Africa! See The New Vision). DFID is presently “ghost-busting” in Uganda (go here).

But I very much doubt that either Sierra Leone, Uganda (or Mozambique – another post-conflict country) would be where they are today without the aid they received to help reconstruction.

This is not in any way to argue that graft or misuse of aid money should be tolerated. But I get tired of the one-sided criticisms of aid that are trotted out repeatedly. For some background reading before the programme check out: the Chronic Poverty Report for Uganda, Joe Hanlon on corruption in Sierra Leone, a special issue of the Swedish Economic Policy Review on aid, and Roger Riddell Does Foreign Aid Really Work? – the best account by far of what aid can, and cannot, do.

So we shall see what Panorama concludes – especially, as Sorious Samura asks: how can Africans take control of their own destiny and graduate the continent away from aid dependence? Let us know what you think of the programme – and the big issues that it tackles.

Leading the Global Debate from the South

12 November, 2008

The debate on global policy, including such critical issues as climate change and globalization, is still dominated by the North. Northern universities and media are well resourced. But the majority of humanity lives in the South. Recent years have seen some exciting ideas emerging from southern scholars, research institutes, and think tanks. The media in the South is exceptionally vigorous – I was impressed by the quality of debate in Uganda’s newspapers during a visit to Kampala last month.

The South Centre has played a major role in expanding the debate – especially South-to-South – and has now initiated INSouth.org. INSouth (the Intellectual Network for the South) was launched by Benjamin Mkapa, President of Tanzania (1995-2005) recently. Tanzania under the late Julius Nyerere was a hotbed of ideas about development. Walter Rodney wrote his influential How Europe Underdeveloped Africa in Dar. Not all of the ideas worked out – for Tanzania was a young country and it was very much learning by doing – but there was a time in the 1970s when Dar es Salaam was the place to be.

We are now at a defining moment in the global economy. Many of the seemingly well-established principles of how to run the global economy lie in tatters. The international financial crisis is a shock that emanates from the North with a profound impact on the South – the collapse back in global commodity prices from their highs earlier in the year is leading many governments to revisit their assumptions about economic growth for 2008-2009. The IMF is warning of a synchronised global slowdown, with potentially deep recession in the economies most severely hit by the financial meltdown. Iceland not to mention Eastern Europe look badly exposed. China has initiated an expansionary programme to offset the impact of its rapidly slowing export growth.

Appropriately INSouth has initiated a debate on revamping the global financial architecture. Will we see a new system for regulating global capital markets to ensure that future blowups don’t hit world economic prosperity? Or will it just be another patch-up that ignores the interests of the poorer and weaker economies?

Get Fair on UK Poverty

19 October, 2008

The UK has got a lot richer over the last twenty years – we are the world’s fifth richest country – but not fairer. Inequality has risen, and 12.8 million Brits live in poverty (30% of children, and 17% of older folk). That’s the message of Get Fair – a national campaign calling for an end to poverty in the UK by 2020.

The coalition now consists of more than 50 organizations. They work on poverty right across society, including among children, older people, refugees, and the disabled. Get Fair includes housing groups, as well as faith and community groups.

Two at least of their recommendations could help Britain dig itself out the recession, namely invest £4bn measures to halve child poverty by 2010 and improve the take-up of existing benefits (they estimate that this would help 500,000 pensioners out of poverty).

On 4 October, Britain’s biggest ever event to end child poverty was held in Trafalgar Square, London, organized by End Child Poverty. And Poverty Action Week takes place 31 January to 8 February 2009, organized by Church Action on Poverty.

Unpacking the Sri Lankan Conflict with PACT

19 October, 2008

Sri Lanka’s conflict is now one of the world’s longest running. Its ramifications spread beyond Sri Lanka itself. The Centre for Poverty Analysis’s PACT web site hosts a ‘live debate’ on the issues. The time line of historial events and the exploration of its successive phases are especially useful. It unpacks the layers of complexity and could well help the peace process to renew itself.

p.s. CEPA also hosts a resource portal on poverty in Sri Lanka. And for research relevant to Sri Lanka do check out the BWPI and CPRC web sites.

Institutions for Pro-Poor Growth

12 October, 2008

How institutions do and do not work for development is intensely debated, especially the link to economic growth. And state-business relations are of immense importance. For the latest research check out the redesigned website of Institutions for Pro-Poor Growth (go here).

IPPG is running a panel session at the Development Studies Association Annual Conference in London on 8 November (go here), with Adrian Leftwich, Kunal Sen, and John Morton. And Kunal Sen is giving a lecture ‘What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been: Reflections on India’s Economic Growth in the Twentieth Century’ at the British Association of South Asian Studies in November (details here)

Other IPPG highlights include discussion papers on:

‘Land Tenure, Farm Investments and Food Production in Malawi’ by Ephraim Chirwa, Universty of Malawi

‘Exploring the Politics of Land Reforms in Malawi: A Case Study of the Community Based Rural Land Development Programme (CBRLDP)’ by Blessings Chisinga, University of Malawi

‘Informal Institutions in Transition: How Vietnam’s Private Sector Boomed without Legal Protection’ by Liesbet Steer (ODI) and Kunal Sen (University of Manchester)

Property Refuses to Dance

29 August, 2008

Talking of politics trying to cope with capitalism’s erratic moves (see our last post), UK Chancellor Alistair Darling has come up with another wheeze to try and save Britain’s collapsing property market — now on the floor after a speculative frenzy to the tune of easy credit. Repossessions are dramatically up, not least in Manchester, a city often labeled as the ‘UK’s debt capital’.

First, the Chancellor tried to encourage the banks to clear up their own mess — with a bit of public money. Interesting isn’t it how (private) banking crises always try and turn themselves into (public) fiscal crises? And in both rich and poor countries, too (see Jay Rosengard on East Asia hereWillem Buiter’s blog, and Managing a Bank-Specific crisis: A UK perspective from the Bank of England, no less).

Now, the Chancellor is going to help local authorities and housing associations buy up unsold properties and help people facing repossession with mortgage rescue schemes. We leave it to our readers to figure out whether this is good or bad social policy (it’s good for the banks since the schemes reduce their bad debts: that fiscal connection again). It certainly reflects the political battering the government is taking. Today’s Times — with a nice photo of the ‘Chimney Pot’ regeneration in Salford — sums it all up:

“This latest strategy highlights the increasing influence of Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrats’ Treasury spokesman, a man as deft at articulating the concerns of Middle Britain as he is at the paso doble in the ballroom”.

Meanwhile, the UK property market seems unable to get to its feet. Dance on.

Far from Correcting the Distortions of Unbridled Capitalism, the Political Process Makes Them Worse

29 August, 2008

So says Sam Brittan in today’s FT, reviewing Robert Reich’s Supercapitalism: the Battle for Democracy in an Age of Big Business. You’ll remember Reich as Bill Clinton’s secretary for labor.

In a nutshell, Reich argues that the golden age of capitalism — the rebuilding of the post-war years up to the 1970s — delivered enough prosperity to win the allegiance of most ordinary folk. That got replaced by ‘supercapitalism’ which has delivered our present mess.

For Brittan the novelty in Reich’s book lies in his rejection of a central role for corporate social responsibility. Instead, Reich gets into the intellectual bed of Milton Friedman — who famously argued that it’s the job of businessmen to make lots of dosh, and that’s their sole responsibility. For Reich we need to strengthen states to ensure that dosh-making is compatible with society’s goals — as set out by democracy.

Brittan likes this (unexpected) approach. But he’s less optimistic about democracy pushing business in the right direction. US energy policy is Brittan’s example (presumably excessive subsidies for biofuels driving up world food prices). And Brittan cautions that this might also let business off its (moral) hook:

“… there is a danger that the Friedman-Reich position could inadvertently give sustenance to the “I was only doing my job” defence for evil actions”.

We continue to think this one over while awaiting our copy of Reich’s book. In the meantime, you can read his excellent blog here.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 28 other followers