Posts Tagged ‘Globalization’

Around the World with Joseph Stiglitz

1 December, 2008

BWPI Chair and Nobel Laureate Joe Stiglitz has a new documentary just out. ‘Around the World with Joseph Stiglitz’ is a hard-hitting look at globalization. Joe takes two journeys. His own journey began in Gary, Indiana. The documentary returns to his hometown to see what shaped his thinking. It then heads across the world, taking in Botswana, Ecuador, India and China. It weaves together the social and economic effects of globalization, recommending ways to manage it for the good of all.

If you are in New York you can catch it at the Lincoln center this Wednesday (3 December).

In the meantime, check out Joe’s interview with Alex Jones on YouTube on his book The Three Trillion Dollar War: the True Cost of the Iraq War, with Linda Bilmes. And Joe on the sub prime crisis on CNBC.

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?

Coping with Global Inflation

29 September, 2008

Our readers don’t need reminding that Inflation has been on the rise globally (although the present financial crisis could knock that on the head). The poor are being hit hard by rising food prices – the price of rice in Asia has doubled, causing real distress in countries without effective social protection. Africa is scrambling to respond.

Macro-economists in central banks and finance ministries are worried people. Today looks alarmingly like 1979-81: inflation pushed up by the second oil price spike and recession looming. That combination of inflation and recession – stagflation – is the worst scenario for policymakers. Inflation requires demand restraint, recession requires demand expansion – and policy-makers have a difficult time in choosing which direction to go down. The early 1980s are a warning of what can happen. Real interest rates (the interest rate minus the inflation rate) turned from negative to positive – pushing up the real cost of borrowing for firms already hit by weakening sales. Eventually the oil price collapsed, bringing inflation down with it, but also distress for over-borrowed oil producers such as Mexico and Nigeria. That then set the stage for the debt crisis that took a full decade to work itself out, with massive social fall out, and poverty spiking higher (the 1980s were Latin America’s “lost development decade”).

So what should today’s policy-makers do? The Centre for Development Policy and Research at SOAS has a new Development Viewpoint out on global inflation. The author, Terry McKinley, argues that they must be clear on the causes, otherwise the response could make the situation worse. Since the sources of recent oil and food inflation are ‘globalised’, developing countries cannot hope to maintain low domestic inflation by the standard practice of raising domestic interest rates, argues Terry. Such a misguided “monetarist response” would only heighten the risks of recession, he concludes. Go here for the paper, a timely contribution to the present debate — and a warning from the past.

Universal Right to Pleasure

21 September, 2008

We enjoy our grub here in Manchester. And so does Slow Food Nation which came together over Labor Day in San Francisco to celebrate an inclusive food movement to create a better American food system.

The slow food movement originated in Italy over 30 years ago, founded by Carlo Petrini. He was annoyed by a badly cooked pasta dish at a political meeting and wrote to the organizers to tell them so — who responsed that the comrades didn’t bother with such trivialities. Petrini retorted that the working class had every right to good food. And so the ‘universal right to pleasure was born’.

So, food quality shouldn’t be just a middle-class foodie concern – the way it is often presented. The link between poverty and bad nutrition remains an urgent issue in the UK (check out the Food Access Network). And then there are the 400 million-plus people in chronic poverty whose food – when they can get it – is often appalling: anyone for mud-cakes? (see this story from Haiti).

The BBC food programme covered the San Francisco event and includes a speech by Carlo Petrini himself, as well Raj Patel of Stuffed & Starved (one of our favourite books this year).

The Slow Food Story: Politics and Pleasure by Geoff Andrews traces the origins of the movement. In the UK it is still early days. The industrial revolution, rapid urbanization, and the second world war did much to destroy English food culture, and it has only really started to recover over the last 20 years.

Kate Colquhoun’s The Story of Britain’s Cooking tells a dismal tale. Ian Jack in the New York Times asks why we developed such a poor cuisine despite so many excellent ingredients (‘the roast beef of old England’) and finds it in “… the triad of the Industrial Revolution, empire and free trade. The first drove people from the fields to the factories; the colonies of the second grew what Sidney Mintz has called the tropical ‘drug foods’ (including sugar and tea); the cheap imports encouraged by the third drove out the homegrown”. By 1800 according to Colquhoun:

“… the poor in Britain were now subsisting not on a diet that had remained broadly unchanged for centuries of ale, grain and vegetables and a modicum of fatty meat, but on a vastly less nutritious mix of often adulterated white bread, cheese, tea and sugar”.

The slow food movement in the UK has so far focused largely on quality. It is only now taking on the ethical and political issues that Petrini championed, according to the BBC food programme. “What’s good, clean, and fair” are the watchwords, and Petrini urges us to be curious about food: because it tells us much about the culture of the people who produce and eat it.

To that end, to maintain the ‘Ark of Taste’, the movement has supplied vacumn packing machines to India to market more widely a rare variety of basmati rice. Globalization has made us aware of other food cultures but it has also endangered local food cultures as well. And as Petrini emphasizes, when a food culture is threatened, a whole life style is endangered.