Stories written by Jomo Kwame Sundaram
Jomo Kwame Sundaram is United Nations Assistant-Secretary-General for Economic Development.

Trump’s Trade War in Perspective

US President Donald Trump’s recent announcement of steep tariffs on steel and aluminium imports seems to have shocked US allies, even though these were among his 2016 election promises. The European Union (EU), Australia and Canada reacted sharply, in contrast to the more restrained response from China, the main target of earlier actions.

Japan-led Pacific Rim Countries Desperate to Embrace Trump

The grandiose sounding Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) will be signed in Santiago de Chile today, 8 March. Instead of doing something to advance the condition of women on International Women’s Day, trade representatives from 11 Pacific rim countries will sign the CPTPP, which some critics argue will further set back the progress of humanity, including women who hold up ‘half the sky’.

Model Trade Deal Con

In early 2016, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement -- involving twelve countries on the Pacific Ocean rim, including the USA -- was signed in New Zealand. Right after his inauguration in January 2017, newly elected US President Donald Trump withdrew from the TPP, effectively killing the agreement as its terms require the participation of both the US and Japan.

Intellectual Property Regime Undermines Equity, Progress

Over the last few decades, people in the developing world have been rejecting the intellectual property (IP) regime as it has been increasingly imposed on them following the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) including its trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPs) regime. IP rights (IPRs) have been further enforced through ostensible free trade agreements (FTAs) and investment treaties among two (bilateral) or more (plurilateral) partners.

Tackling Inequality Talk Is Easy

At this year’s Davos World Economic Forum (WEF), Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau warned the world’s business leaders and fellow politicians, “tackle inequality or risk failure”.

Wealth Concentration Continues to Increase

As the ‘masters of the universe’ gather for their annual retreat at Davos, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has just published its Inclusive Development Index (IDI) for the second time.

PPPs Likely to Undermine Public Health Commitments

The United Nations Agenda 2030 for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is being touted in financial circles as offering huge investment opportunities requiring trillions of dollars. In 67 low- and middle-income countries, achieving SDG 3 — healthy lives and well-being for all, at all ages — is estimated to require new investments increasing over time, from an initial $134 billion annually to $371 billion yearly by 2030, according to recent estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) reported in The Lancet.

Trade Multilateralism Set Back yet Again

As feared, the Eleventh Ministerial Conference (MC11) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 10-13 December 2017, ended in failure. It failed to even produce the customary ministerial declaration reiterating the centrality of the global trading system and the importance of trade as a driver of development.

Arming Poor Countries Enriches Rich Countries

Although the Cold War came to an end over a quarter century ago, international arms sales only declined temporarily at the end of the last century. Instead, the United States under President Trump is extending its arms superiority over the rest of the world.

Strengthening Governments to Cope with PPPs

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have emerged in recent years as the development ‘flavour of the decade’ in place of aspects of the old Washington Consensus. Instead of replacing the role of government or consigning it to the garbage bin of history, corporations are increasingly using governments to advance their own interests through PPPs.

Beware Public Private Partnerships

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are essentially long-term contracts, underwritten by government guarantees, with which the private sector builds (and sometimes runs) major infrastructure projects or services traditionally provided by the state, such as hospitals, schools, roads, railways, water, sanitation and energy.

Coping with Foreign Direct Investment

Foreign direct investment (FDI) is increasingly touted as the elixir for economic growth. While not against FDI, the mid-2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) for financing development also cautioned that it “is concentrated in a few sectors in many developing countries and often bypasses countries most in need, and international capital flows are often short-term oriented”.

Finance Following Growth

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.

Emerging Markets at Risk Again

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.

Mounting Illicit Financial Outflows from South

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.

Why 1997 Asian Crisis Lessons Lost

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.

To Eliminate Poverty, Better Understanding Needed

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.

Hunger in Africa, Land of Plenty

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.

World Bank Must Stop Encouraging Harmful Tax Competition

One of the 11 areas that the World Bank’s Doing Business (DB) report includes in ranking a country’s business environment is paying taxes. The background study for DB 2017, Paying Taxes 2016 claims that its emphasis is “on efficient tax compliance and straightforward tax regimes”.

Greater Cooperation To Strengthen Taxation

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.

More Public Spending, Not Tax Cuts, for Sustainable, Inclusive Growth

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.

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