Since the 1980s, the world has been moving once again to the greatest level of national level income inequalities observed in recorded human history. A study by the Credit Suisse Research Institute suggested that the income share of the rich has increased at the expense of the ‘middle class’ in most of the world.
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’ was the cause of recent financial crises.
Unlike Wikileaks’ exposes, the recent Panama revelations were quite selective, targeted, edited and carefully managed. Most observers attribute this to the political agendas of its mainly American funders. 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.
While the main US motivation for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been to counter China’s influence in the region, it has also been used to undermine the Doha ‘Development’ Round of trade negotiations to better advance politically influential US corporate interests. Hence, it has become all the more necessary to legitimize the TPP in terms of its ostensible benefits. Touted as a ‘gold standard’ 21st century trade deal, it is nonetheless necessary to ascertain what gains can really be expected and whether these exceed its costs.
In the wake of releasing the IMF’s latest assessment of the global economy, Chief Economist Maurice Obstfeld noted in his blog, “Global growth continues, but at an increasingly disappointing pace that leaves the world economy more exposed to negative risks. Growth has been too slow for too long.”
The Chinese character for crisis combines the characters for ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’. Our ability to improve the human condition depends critically on our ability to recognize and address dangers, but also to seize opportunities made possible by recognizing that crises offer rare opportunities to pursue extraordinary options not normally available.
Many well-meaning people believe that “good governance” is key to inclusive development. But research claiming that “good governance” is essential for rapid growth suffers from serious methodological or conceptual limitations. Existing definitions are extremely broad, suffer from functionalist tautology, or mainly refer to corruption.
Creating healthy and sustainable food systems is key to overcoming hunger and all forms of malnutrition (undernourishment, micronutrient deficiencies, obesity) around the world. Food production has tripled since 1945 while average food availability per person has risen by 40 per cent. Current food systems are not delivering well on ensuring healthy diets for all. We have to fix the problem. The most efficient and sustainable approach will be to reshape and strengthen food systems that support healthy diets for all.
About 2.1 billion people are regarded as overweight or obese today, or almost thirty per cent of the world’s population. With over 800 million people estimated to be chronically hungry in the world, it appears that the number of overweight is more than 2.5 times the number of undernourished.
Nutrition is complex and multi-dimensional. Micronutrient deficiencies or ‘hidden hunger’ are much more widespread than chronic undernourishment or hunger, understood as inadequate dietary energy. Micronutrient deficiencies refer to the lack of essential vitamins, minerals and other substances required over the human life cycle by the body in small amounts. Micronutrient undernutrition has long-term effects on health, learning ability and productivity, leading to high social and public costs, reduced work capacity in populations due to high rates of illness and disability, and loss of human potential.
2015 proved challenging for multilateralism, especially in relation to development concerns. July’s Addis Ababa third Financing for Development (FfD) conference delivered little real progress. Nevertheless, the September Sustainable Development Goals summit redeemed hopes with an ambitious and universal Agenda 2030.
A new paper* on the implications of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement for New Zealand examines key economic issues likely to be impacted by this trade agreement. It is remarkable how little TPP brings to the table. NZ’s gross domestic product will grow by 47 per cent by 2030 without the TPP, or by 47.9 per cent with the TPP. Even that small benefit is an exaggeration, as the modelling makes dubious assumptions, and the real benefits will be even smaller. If the full costs are included, net economic benefits to the NZ economy are doubtful. The gains from tariff reductions are less than a quarter of the projected benefits according to official NZ government modelling. Although most of the projected benefits result from reducing non-tariff barriers (NTBs), the projections rely on inadequate and dubious information that does not even identify the NTBs that would be reduced by the TPP!
The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), negotiated in Atlanta in October 2015 and to be signed in Auckland in February 2016, privileges foreign investors while imposing substantial costs on partner countries. Touted as a ‘gold standard’ 21st century trade deal, it is critical to ascertain what gains can really be expected and whether these exceed costs.
With the increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events adversely affecting agricultural outputs and farmers’ incomes, commercial crop insurance has been touted as the solution for vulnerable farmers all over the world. Financial and farm interests have been promoting US crop insurance as the solution. It is instructive to consider lessons from the 2012 drought.
The US once led the post-war global effort against hunger and food insecurity, but corporate influence on government trade negotiators now seek to prevent other countries from using some of the very measures it pioneered.