As the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic shifts from China to the developed West, all too many rich countries are acting selfishly, invoking the ‘national interest’, by banning exports of vital medical supplies.
The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic is hard to predict as events are still unfolding, and estimates vary dramatically. UNCTAD
estimates lost output in the order of US$1 trillion, just over a third of Bloomberg
’s expectation of US$2.7 trillion in losses. The OECD
expects global economic growth to halve from already anaemic levels.
As the outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 threatens a global pandemic, major stock markets around the world have suffered their worst performance since the 2008 financial crush.
Meeting the President of the Republic of Korea in September 2019, President Donald J Trump bragged
that the “US economy is the envy of the world”. Trump reiterated such claims in his State of the Union address
in early February, hailing his own policies with typical humility.
In an annual ritual early in the year, most major economic organizations have released forecasts for the global economy in 2020
. Incredibly, almost as a reminder of where financial power resides in this day and age, the International Monetary Fund
(IMF) released its forecasts at the World Economic Forum’s 50th annual meeting in Davos.
The latest November 2019 UBS/PwC Billionaires Report
counted 2,101 billionaires globally, or 589 more than five years before. Earlier, Farhad Manjoo
had seriously recommended, ‘Abolish Billionaires’, presenting a moral case against the super-rich as they have and get far, far more than what they might reasonably claim to deserve.
Much recent unrest, such as the ‘yellow-vest’ protests in France and the US ‘Abolish the Super-Rich’ campaign
, is not against inequality per se, but reflects perceptions of changing inequalities. Most citizens resent inequalities when it is not only unacceptably high, but also rising.
Historically, most social security systems have developed in the formal sector of rich economies. However, most of the poor and hungry in the world live in rural areas, surviving in the informal economy.
Industrial policy refers to the promotion of new investments and technology by governments to encourage the growth and development of specific economic sectors. However, scepticism
persists about the feasibility and desirability of using industrial policy, especially of the ability to ‘pick winners’, often accused of leading to ‘propping-up failing industries’.
The US-China trade war has flared up again less than two weeks after US President Donald Trump delayed new tariffs of US$160 billion on Chinese imports until December, purportedly to avoid harming the holiday shopping season.
According to their own internal evaluations, both the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have huge credibility deficits due to the policy conditionalities and advice they have dispensed to developing countries in recent decades.
July 2019 saw the 75th anniversary of the historic conference of 44 countries held at the Bretton Woods (BW) resort in New Hampshire during July 1-22, 1944.
At BW, John Maynard Keynes, representing the UK, and Harry Dexter White, for the USA, both sought a new international monetary system following the Great Depression, which many attributed to the functioning of the gold standard before World War II.
On 17 June, a Facebook white paper
proposed a new global digital currency it plans to launch in the first half of 2020. The Libra will be managed by a ‘not for profit’ Swiss-based Facebook-led consortium of ‘for profit corporations’, with Uber, eBay, Lyft, Mastercard and PayPal among its founding members.
Over the last four decades, growing concentration of market power in the hands of oligopolies, if not monopolies, has been greatly enabled by ostensibly neo-liberal reforms, worsening wealth concentration and gross inequalities
in the world.
The World Bank has successfully promoted its ‘Maximizing Finance for Development
’ (MFD) strategy by embracing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, internationally endorsed in September 2015.
It has also secured support from the G20 of twenty biggest economies, and effectively pre-empted alternative approaches at the third UN Financing for Development summit in Addis Ababa in mid-2015.
The World Bank’s Enabling the Business of Agriculture
(EBA) project, launched in 2013, has sought agricultural reforms favouring the corporate sector. EBA was initially established to support the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition
, initiated by the G8 to promote private agricultural development in Africa.
The World Bank has successfully built a coalition to effectively advance its ‘Maximizing Finance for Development’ (MFD) agenda. The October 2018 G20 Eminent Persons Group’s (EPG) report
includes proposals to better coordinate various international financial institutions (IFIs) in promoting financialization.
The World Bank has successfully legitimized the notion that private finance is the solution to pressing development and welfare concerns, including achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through Agenda 2030.
A recent McKinsey report
estimates that the world needs to invest about US$3.3 trillion, or 3.8 per cent of world output yearly, in economic infrastructure, with about three-fifths in emerging market and other developing economies, to maintain current growth.
As the possible implications of Britain’s self-imposed ‘no-deal’ exit from the European Union loom larger, a new round of imperial nostalgia has come alive.
After turning its back on the Commonwealth since the Thatcherite 1980s, some British Conservative Party leaders are seeking to revive colonial connections in increasingly desperate efforts to avoid self-inflicted marginalization following divorce from its European Union neighbours across the Channel.
Despite all the evidence to the contrary
, and substantial opposition from community groups, public-private partnerships (PPPs) are still being promoted to deliver sustainable development.
Public-private hospital partnerships are supposed to ensure that the private sector will offer much needed efficiency in healthcare provision.