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Offshoring Critical Industries Is So Harmful It Should Be Treason (Covid Edition)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 25/03/2021 - 4:05pm in

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trade

I was impressed how fast the UK and the US were vaccinating their population. How were they doing it, after they had been so incompetent during the rest of the pandemic?

Simple enough. Restrictions on vaccine exports.

Meanwhile:

India delays big exports of AstraZeneca shot, including to COVAX, as infections surge

And then there’s this:

(Spare me the self-serving arguments that breaking the patents wouldn’t have helped because it takes too much time to ramp up production. However long it takes, the sooner  your open up the IP, the faster it happens.)

And we could make it happen faster:

But the global capacity for producing vaccines is about a third of what is needed, says Ellen t’Hoen, an expert in medicines policy and intellectual property law.

….

To make a vaccine you not only need to have the right to produce the actual substance they are composed of (which is protected by patents), you also need to have the knowledge about how to make them because the technology can be complex.

The WHO does not have the authority to sidestep patents – but it is trying to bring countries together to find a way to bolster vaccine supplies.

The discussions include using provisions in international law to get around patents and helping countries to have the technical ability to make them.

Rich countries use IP law to keep poor countries poor, and to kill and impoverish their citizens to make even larger profits.

And, of course, if you’re stupid enough to believe neoliberal bullshit about how your countries will be OK and don’t take steps even though you have manufacturing capacity, (Europe), well, your citizens die. The EU is now restricting imports to the UK. I wonder how many Europeans will die because of not having those 10 million doses?

“I mention specifically the U.K.,” said EU Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis. Since the end of January, “some 10 million doses have been exported from the EU to the U.K. and zero doses have been exported from U.K. to the EU.”

OK. I have said this for years and years but I’m going to say it again now that it is being illustrated brutally: if you can’t make it yourself, you can’t be sure you’ll have it when you need it, since countries that can make it will tend to prioritize themselves.

You must make and grow everything essential to your country domestically if you can. Any international laws that forbid you from doing so are illegitimate. They may exist; they are not Just. This doesn’t mean completely breaking patent law (though it needs to be much less draconian and a lot less long), it does mean, at the least, writing in mandatory licensing provisions at reasonable prices.

A lot of people are going to die who didn’t need to because neoliberal “free trade” orthodoxy said you didn’t need to be able to both design and make vaccines in your own country: the “market” would supply you.

Eventually.

This isn’t just about behaviour now. It is about behaviour that has been encoded into law and trade practice over decades.

Don’t offshore anything that matters. If your citizens have to pay 5% or 10% more, slap on tariffs.

To not do so, if you think the welfare of your citizens is your duty, is treason.

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Banking with purpose

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 11/03/2021 - 5:36am in

This 15 minute video was linked to by BBC economics correspondent, Andy Verity, who seemingly had just discovered it – although it was a presentation that was delivered in February 2018. If you haven’t seen it before it is well worth watching if you are wondering how the UK manages to have a ‘booming’ property... Read more

Globalisation 3.0

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 10/03/2021 - 2:34am in

By Diego Castañeda Garza

Some scholars would argue that the world was first globalised as far as five centuries in the past when the European conquests of the new world brought its sinews to the old. When silver began to circulate the globe as the first truly global commodity (Flynn & Giráldez 2004). However, for most economists, the world was first globalised as close as two centuries ago, after the end of the Napoleonic wars, with the rising industrial power of the British nation and the peak of its imperial power (O’Rourke & Williamson 2002).

In any case, five or two centuries ago, globalisation has always implied distributional effects, winners and losers in each corner of the world it has reached. First, the enrichment of political and economic elites in the colonial powers and its colonised countries and then again at the time of the great divergence when countries started to industrialise, but most of their populations at either time did not. Today’s globalisation is not different; we have designed it that way.

Since the beginnings of trade theory with David Ricardo’s Principles of Political Economy and Taxation and the introduction of the idea of comparative advantage, the existence of distributional effects was a distinct aspect of international trade. Trade specialisation following national comparative advantages strongly favoured some sectors and industries and hurt others. The gains for trade were never distributed equally among all sectors; the distribution of wages, benefits and rents entailed by necessity winners and losers. Nevertheless, for a long time, economists, when engaging the public about international trade and its benefits, when speaking and teaching about Ricardo’s ideas (and their extensions through the Hecksher-Ohlin model, i.e equalising international prices and wages entails winners and losers) obviated this basic result:often not all benefit from trade.

As Polanyi (1944|2017) argued, the attempt to disembed politics from the economy entails risks. In the past, the negligence encouraged by not recognising the distributional consequences of globalisation and the failure to address them have been a source of social and political instability. Ignoring the people propelled backlashes against globalisation more than a century ago. At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, one of those backlashes occurred. The consequence of the backlash was that several countries (i.e. Germany, France, Sweden) that previously had been moving towards trade liberalisation halted their movement. They started to look backwards to protectionist policies. In time, the outbreak of the Great War finally ended the so-called first globalisation (O’Rourke & Williamson 1999). 

From this historical experience, we should have learned an essential lesson in our times, but we failed to do so. The lesson is that there is nothing natural nor granted in the process of achieving a sustainable global economic integration. Similarly, there is no linear path of development that necessarily arrives at a hiper-globalised world. Globalisation today, or in the 19th century, is an international political construct supported by the equilibrium of power and interests between existent states. The inequality embedded in our economic systems, in the same way, exists largely due to political economy reasons.

After the 1970s, the end of the trente glorieuses, a new policy framework characterised by deregulation, liberalisation and the capture of the state by private interests took root around the world. It propelled the new second globalisation. Over the last four decades, we have been living in an increasingly interconnected world. For decades, the rate of growth of international trade surpassed the growth rate of the world economy, a phenomenon often called hyper-globalisation. Underlying this era, we have witnessed high-speed economic growth in some regions, but also growing inequalities and accelerated environmental degradation. Now, at the end of this period, there is a trend break in which the costs of the politics of previous years are manifesting themselves. We are witnessing a reversal of fortune in which China is returning to a prominent role in the global economy. Meanwhile, the advanced countries that defined the rules of the world economy are riddled again with backlashes, political instability, and economic stagnation.

These already turbulent times got compounded with the pandemic and the economic fallout it unleashed. However, this bleak scenario also presents us with opportunities. The current sense of crisis around the world, especially in the advanced countries, provides the imperative to solve the “twin problems” of the 21st century: rising national inequalities and climate change. It is a unique opportunity to redesign globalisation under new principles. It represents a chance to redesign it around principles that privilege equality, sustainability, and the existence of global public goods, like global public health and our environment. 

The Great Lockdown, a necessary response due to the Sars-CoV-2 pandemic, has served as a mirror for nations to look at themselves, it has made their problems even more evident. The global nature of the current crisis and the way it interacts and exacerbates within-country economic inequalities exhibits economic weaknesses, intensifies geopolitical conflicts, and highlights the need for global solutions. History has yielded us with a perfect context to change globalisation. It is an opportunity to work towards the solution of the twin crisis and, in the process, create a new globalisation 3.0. 

Globalisation 3.0 should be constructed as a more sensible process of economic integration. It should be embedded with different rules and norms of good behaviour, that privileges the needs and preferences of the world population and not the preferences of global elites. Instead of focusing on capital flows and finance, it should focus on public health, climate change, labour rights. It should do a better job of representing the priorities of developing countries. Historical experiences either in the times of the gold standard, Bretton Woods or the current one, shows to us that the rules give the shape of globalisation. The rules we agree to uphold, the priorities we set.

The construction of globalisation 3.0 should ensure countries have enough policy space to guarantee economic, political, and social stability. In that sense, instead of reaching from the global to the national in what constitutes a politically fragile architecture, the new rules should reach from the national to the global. It should ensure the states liberty to pursue pragmatic policies that enhance their development capabilities. Room to do active industrial policy, to correct economic inequalities through adequate taxation. That space implies the need to accept the embeddedness of politics in economic matters, to accept that economic policy is unsustainable without addressing mass politics.

To fix our problems, the existence of tax havens, climatic disaster, the surge in inequalities, and their feedback loop towards political life is a necessity of our time. But it will not be possible if we choose to preserve globalisation in its current form. There is no need for a tradeoff between national policies and true global imperatives. Both can be aligned, but they require that we finally learn the lessons of history and redesign our global economy in such a way to leave room for both. In the end, it is only the harmony between national and global interests that will allow us the capacity to respond to our challenges. Redesign the functionings of the world economy is the path to preserve social stability, develop our countries and respond to the crises of our times.

About the author: Diego Castañeda Garza is an economist and economic historian; he is the head of the economic cluster at Agenda for International Development (A-ID) and a coordinator of the Economic History Working Group at the INET’s Young Scholar Initiative.

This article is a runner up in an essay competition held by the UNCTAD YSI Summer School on Globalization and Development Strategies. Participants of the school worked with senior scholars to fine-tune their drafts, and the top-5 articles were published here. For other articles in the series, please click here.

About UNCTAD UNCTAD is a permanent intergovernmental body established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1964. Its headquarters are located in Geneva, Switzerland, with offices in New York and Addis Ababa. UNCTAD is part of the UN Secretariat, reports to the UN General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, and are also part of the United Nations Development Group.

The UK budget offered no vision for sustainable economic growth

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 06/03/2021 - 6:32am in

Council Member Josh Ryan-Collins:

This week’s budget appeared at first to be seismic shift away from conservative economic orthodoxy by the government. Alongside a further major expansion in borrowing to support jobs and incomes over the next six months, the chancellor adopted the previous left-wing Labour party’s policy of a major rise in corporation tax (from 19% to 25% of profits) to close a record peacetime budget deficit.

But as the dust has settled and the numbers interrogated, the budget looks rather less radical.

Firstly, it cannot be described as a rejection of austerity. The budget contained no explicit additional resources beyond the coming financial year for public services to deal with the legacy of the pandemic. Rather, as pointed out by the government’s own spending watchdog, the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR), it involved an additional £4bn spending cut, alongside £11bn previously announced, beyond next year. For the most vulnerable, the proposed £20 cut in universal credit remains, even if pushed back to September. The freezing of income tax thresholds will also hurt lower paid workers, assuming wages do rise.

Annual revaccinations, ongoing test and trace capacity, a huge NHS catch up program on thousands of missed operations, and rising unemployment bills will all be somehow funded on pre-pandemic spending plans. Meanwhile, NHS workers can look forward to a miserly 1% pay rise in return for their heroic pandemic efforts.

Secondly, the budget was singularly lacking in ambition when it came to the government’s role in creating a sustainable, inclusive and investment-led recovery.

There was no mention of investment in social care, a sector that is badly organised, extremely low paid and clearly vital in improving the resilience of an ageing population and economy to future pandemic-type shocks.

There was no new green stimulus despite the UK facing a £100bn funding gap to reach its net-zero by 2050 target and despite its hosting of the global COP26 climate change summit this November. Neither was there any major program to help young people find work. Both the latter two challenges could have been tackled with green jobs and apprenticeships program focused on renewable energy and environmental conservation.

Meanwhile, the new National Infrastructure Bank will be capitalised with just £12bn (equivalent to just 0.5% of GDP) and again, be heavily reliant on private sector co-investment.

Indeed, it appears the government may have abandoned industrial policy altogether, shutting down the Industrial Strategy Council lead by Andy Haldane and moving industrial policy out of BEIS and in to HMT.

Reverting to economic orthodoxy

Instead, the Treasury is reverting to free-market economic orthodoxy, relying on business and the housing market to do the heavy lifting.

A 130% ‘super deduction’ tax break for capital investment by businesses in machinery and plant was the key pro-growth policy announcement. Whilst it makes sense to reduce tax on productive investment, it is highly questionable whether the majority of British firms believe there is sufficient demand in the economy for major new capital investment outlays. The OBR is predicting not, forecasting a return to anaemic growth of just 1.7% in 2023, following a boom in 2022.

“The Treasury is reverting to free-market economic orthodoxy, relying on business and the housing market to do the heavy lifting.”

The policy may bring forward some existing planned capital spending but is unlikely to create the structural shift in investment the economy needs. The exception may be those firms already doing rather well in pandemic conditions. Amazon, for example, has racked up record profits over the past nine months as physical retail has collapsed and may use the supertax break to wipe out its UK tax bill completely.

The corporate tax profits hike is a sensible policy. However, its timing — not being introduced to 2023 — is suspect and will likely mean it is subject to ferocious counter lobbying if the economy improves. If businesses are to be taxed, a more sensible approach would have been a phased in rise in corporate tax starting immediately, accompanied by a windfall tax on those companies — like Big Tech, Private Equity and the Supermarkets — that have done so well out of the pandemic.

On housing, the budget was an opportunity to push forward a big capital investment in public housing and retrofit of existing stock and rethink the country’s highly regressive property taxation system. Reducing property tax for the poorest would be a fair way of stimulating stagnating demand.

Instead, the government extended the stamp duty tax cut on home purchase into the summer and announced it will guarantee 95% mortgages. These are expensive policies that reveal the Treasury remains fixated on the idea that ever-rising house prices are the best way to stimulate the economy and private sector house building. This debt- and consumption-lead economic growth model is inefficient, leads to greater financial fragility as well as increasing inequality as more people are priced out of the housing market.

Meanwhile, there was no sign of any reform of property taxation, nor even a commitment to raise capital gains and remove exclusions as had been rumoured.

In summary, whilst the extension of government support to the Autumn should be welcomed and will help the country avoid a much more severe recession, this Budget was not the economic reset the country needed. It will do little to stimulate a sustainable recovery and help Britain on to a more progressive economic trajectory. Now was surely the perfect time to shift the focus of taxation on to economic rents and away from labour. Instead, it is a budget that mainly favours the rentier sectors already doing well — Big Tech, banks, developers, homeowners — at the expense of the public sector, lower paid workers and renters.UCL IIPP Blog

This blog first appeared on the blog for the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose

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The post The UK budget offered no vision for sustainable economic growth appeared first on The Progressive Economy Forum.

Global economic justice: from aspirations to transformative action

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 03/03/2021 - 3:00am in

By Sergio Chaparro Hernández

The unfulfilled promise of a just global order

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which her rights can be fully realized. However, the functioning of the global economy today is far from aligned with the kind of order the Declaration prescribes.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, inequalities between and within countries were already alarming. But confronted with disturbances such as pandemics, the world seems to move towards a greater concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the few, while disadvantaged populations are left behind. Lower-income countries face severe restrictions on their policy space in trade, fiscal, industrial, digital and monetary matters, and the global financial architecture exposes these countries to increasing systemic risks. International cooperation, which is highly necessary to address pressing global challenges, is replaced by competition between States against a background of increasing corporate power. The global order is not enabling the full realization of rights, but rather restricting human flourishing for the many while reinforcing privileges for the most powerful.

Neoliberalism and (the lack of) global democracy

Neoliberalism, understood as the project of creating a world tailored to the needs of capital, faces a serious crisis but has proven its ability to reinvent itself. It is true that some of the entrenched policy myths that its advocates had turned into ‘conventional wisdom’, such as the benefits of fiscal austerity or free trade for all, have been called into question in the context of the pandemic. But they might be revived under more friendly packaging. It is worth remembering how corporate attempts to capture the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement are well advanced. In fact, international financial institutions (IFIs) are prioritizing private finance mechanisms -such as public-private partnerships- over domestic resource mobilization through progressive taxation or through development banks to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and building ‘green’ infrastructure. Then, it would not be surprising that, in the absence of orderly and massive debt relief and restructuring, a new wave of austerity will be presented sooner than later as the only way to restore trust in domestic economies and let the private sector play the role of ‘Building Back Better’.

In this context, the lack of democratic governance on economic matters goes without saying. Currently, key decisions to address the unparalleled risks and instability that hyper globalization has created are being taken on an ad hoc basis in spaces such as the G-20, when not in opaque instances in which corporate interests prevail. These spaces lack any grounds in international law to operate as the captains of the global economy. International financial institutions continue to function under a plutocratic model that assigns decision-making prerogatives based on the outdated balance of power of the post war economy. In other fields, such as in global tax matters, the OECD controls the agenda and works as the de facto standard-setting global institution, in the absence of a multilateral body in which all countries can participate on an equal footing. On the investment side, there is a semi-private justice system in which investors can sue States before arbitration tribunals for exercising regulatory power to protect people’s rights, arguing that their expected profits will be reduced as a consequence. On the monetary front, while central banks in high-income countries absorbed the economic shock of COVID-19 by expanding their balance sheets in unprecedented ways and without meaningful democratic accountability, lower income countries struggled to overcome harsh liquidity constraints awaiting for global responses that haven’t occurred.

This democratic deficit and the consequent asymmetries of power in the global economy may seem, in principle, disconnected from the daily struggles of ordinary people or social movements. But they have everything to do with the unmet demands for better health care systems, adequate budgets to combat gender violence, or achieving substantive racial equality. Indeed, they are an important factor undermining the capacity of domestic institutions to deliver as well as a driving force behind the way opportunities for human flourishing are unevenly distributed. Among the interests neglected by the way the global economy works are not only those of marginalized communities in the Global South. As it is the case with the dollar hegemony in the international monetary system, hierarchical arrangements do not necessarily benefit the working class neither in the US nor in other rich countries. 

Expanding human capabilities in our shared world

Prior to the pandemic, there was an influential narrative that despite widespread pessimism and malaise the world was going through impressive progress, and things were essentially changing for the good. Champions of these views argued that world poverty had been declining and poor countries were progressively catching up with the richest, without explaining that the so-called ‘convergence’ is driven almost entirely by China and East Asian countries. Furthermore, any criticism of the global order calling for structural transformations used to be rejected under the idea that it could end up throwing the baby out (all the supposed benefits and successes achieved by the global order) with the bathwater (the sources of indignation or rage against this order). 

This line of thinking falls within the old way of economic reasoning that we must overcome. Countries have gone through paths of poverty reduction and improvements on basic indicators of well-being (not for everyone, and not evenly distributed), while putting more pressure on planetary boundaries and exacerbating inequalities and power asymmetries. Now we are seeing how decades of progress in the fight against poverty in several countries are being erased by factors that cannot be considered merely incidental to the way the global economic works. As scientific evidence has shown, pandemics are not exogenous shocks to economic systems: zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19 arise from the accelerated intervention and degradation of ecosystems by unfettered human activity. Likewise, preventing the catastrophic consequences of climate change depends on our determination to make major shifts in the way we produce, distribute, consume and value in order to adequately address the greatest collective action problem we have ever faced.  Even if States were to adopt pro-growth policies that lead to poverty reduction (such as carbon-intensive strategies of development) they could end up reinforcing power arrangements to preserve the status quo and precluding the emergence of the kind of coalitions that are needed to successfully address the risk of extinction and other systemic threats.

Therefore, we need an alternative framework for action – one that enables us to find solutions to our collective challenges in a world with ecological ceilings, while expanding the capabilities of communities and individuals to live according to their own values. Under such a framework, it should not be enough to make progress in basic indicators of well-being regardless of the path chosen, but also to build more equal relationships among States, communities and individuals and create the material conditions for cooperation. To that end, not only institutions and rules matter, but also the distribution of resources, voice, and power. 

Global economic governance and a new set of policies

The quest for global justice has focused on the institutional global arrangements that would enable individual States, and particularly low- and middle- income countries, to choose and implement a set of policies that allow them to catch up with the ‘developed’ nations of the world. Such a linear and monolithic view of progress ignores how far the world can go if resources, power and voice were given to communities to seek their own development paths under fairer global rules. 

Rather, global justice must be geared towards creating the power arrangements and the material conditions to allow the expansion of human capabilities in our common and interdependent world, leaving no one behind.

This means at least three key shifts in priorities as part of a broader effort to move towards a rights-based economy

First, expanding lower-income States’ policy space and supporting them for providing comprehensive social protection and implement an audacious set of policies to manage increasingly disruptive risks that could throw millions to poverty and unemployment in a matter of days. Public institutions must be in a position to fulfil basic rights that people can be deprived of due to the intricate network of interdependent connections the global economy has become, including through quality care services and the right to benefit from a compensated general reduction in working hours.  

Second, move towards a multi layered global governance system aiming to correct power asymmetries, and give voice and decision power to multiple actors in truly democratic global forums (including social movements, civil society organizations, grassroots, small-scale business and emerging actors). Such a multi layered system should prioritize ambitious targets in terms of carbon pricing, climate change adaptation, free access to public goods, debt restructuring, combating tax evasion and avoidance through taxing multinationals as units (not as separate entities) and the definition of a minimum effective corporate tax rate.

Third, creating the institutional, legal and material conditions for every person in the world regardless of their nationality, gender, race or socio-economic status to use the best available knowledge, technology, data, and a basic capital endowment to pursue their own goals, as well as to benefit from scientific progress and its applications (including free and timely access to COVID-19 treatment and vaccines as public goods). 

Geopolitics and collective action for justice

It would be naive to think that these changes can be achieved in a top-down direction and outside of geopolitical dynamics, but it wouldn’t be accurate either to ignore the contradictions of the current global order, and the increasing demands for systemic change. These changes require going beyond the narrow logic of nation-states as the main channels through which human interests in the global order are represented and negotiated. The gap between the possibilities that technological and productive advances have opened up and the inability to put them at the service of fundamental human needs reflects, in turn, the magnitude of what alternative schemes of social cooperation could achieve. For example, the same technological tools used for State surveillance, can also be used for emancipatory purposes if those tools were reappropriated by social movements and democratic forces, as  the spread of climate justice, anti-racist or feminist mobilizations beyond borders have shown. Amid the crude exploitation of fear and despair in times of Covid-19, it is worth pushing for transformative joint action and remember Thomas Fuller’s words: ‘the darkest hour is just before the dawn’.

About the author: Sergio Chaparro Hernández is an Economist and M.A in Law from the National University of Colombia. He serves as Program Officer at the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR). Twitter: @SergioChaparo8. Email address: schaparro@cesr.org

This article is a runner up in an essay competition held by the UNCTAD YSI Summer School on Globalization and Development Strategies. Participants of the school worked with senior scholars to fine-tune their drafts, and the top-5 articles were published here. For other articles in the series, please click here.

About UNCTAD UNCTAD is a permanent intergovernmental body established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1964. Its headquarters are located in Geneva, Switzerland, with offices in New York and Addis Ababa. UNCTAD is part of the UN Secretariat, reports to the UN General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, and are also part of the United Nations Development Group.

Cloudy with a chance of tariffs: the impact of policy uncertainty on the global economy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 26/02/2021 - 8:00pm in

Ed Manuel, Alice Pugh, Anina Thiel, Tugrul Vehbi and Seb Vismara

Average tariffs on goods traded between the US and China increased by 15 percentage points from early 2018 to 2019. By making it more costly to buy goods from abroad, higher tariffs have reduced global trade flows and spending by households and businesses. But ‘direct’ effects of tariffs are not the only ways in which trade-related issues can affect global growth. Trade-related uncertainty has risen sharply since the escalation of trade tensions in 2018, which may have caused businesses to postpone costly investment decisions and financial conditions to tighten. In this post we investigate the size of these ‘indirect’ channels.

Higher uncertainty depresses business investment

Uncertainty has risen since the onset of trade tensions in 2018. Chart 1 shows two text-based measures of uncertainty produced by Baker, Bloom and Davis, which quantify newspaper coverage of economic and policy-related uncertainty. The orange line shows the evolution of uncertainty in the US, while the blue line shows developments in uncertainty globally for the period 1997–2019. Both measures have risen since tariffs started to increase in 2018. 

In the first stage of our analysis, we quantify the effects of higher uncertainty on US business investment. We estimate a vector autoregression (VAR) model that contains three variables: one of the uncertainty measures shown in Chart 1, and the quarterly growth rates of US business investment and GDP. Results from the VAR show that a one standard deviation rise in uncertainty reduces US business investment by 1% after a year (Chart 2). The results are robust to the choice of uncertainty measure including a trade-only measure of uncertainty.

The VAR specification allows us to calculate the contribution of the rise in uncertainty to US business investment growth since 2018. We find that elevated uncertainty has been an important driver of US business investment over that period. By the end of the second quarter of 2020, business investment is estimated to be 5%–7% lower than it would have been without the rise in uncertainty.

Chart 1: Uncertainty has risen since 2018

Note: US economic policy uncertainty measure is constructed using media citations of terms related to economic policy uncertainty. Global economic policy uncertainty measure is constructed similarly based on GDP-weighted average of the 21 national economic policy index values.

Source: ‘Measuring Economic Policy Uncertainty’ by Scott Baker, Nicholas Bloom and Steven J. Davis at www.PolicyUncertainty.com.

Chart 2: Response of US business investment to uncertainty

Note: Exogenous movements in uncertainty are identified using a recursive (Cholesky) ordering. We order the uncertainty variable first in the model, followed by the investment and GDP. The model uses quarterly data and is estimated for the period 1990 Q1–2019 Q2.

Effect of uncertainty on global growth

The results in the previous section tell us how much uncertainty has depressed investment spending in the US, however we want to assess the effects of uncertainty on global growth. This will depend not just on the direct effects of uncertainty on investment within a given country, but also on ‘spillovers’ between countries: weaker investment spending will reduce demand for both domestic and foreign goods, meaning that other countries will experience lower demand for their exports.

To calculate these global spillovers, we start with the finding from the previous section that the rise in uncertainty since 2018 will reduce US business investment by 7% in total. We assume that China experiences the same hit to investment from uncertainty, and that uncertainty also weighs on investment in the euro area, although to a lesser extent. Businesses in some euro-area countries rely heavily on external demand, and annual business investment growth has fallen from around 4% in mid-2018 to around 2% in 2019 Q2. 

We calculate the spillovers from this reduction in business investment using the National Institute’s Global Econometric Model (NiGEM), a trade-linked model covering 60 countries and regions. Based on the historical correlation of variables, this allows us to track how shocks to one country impact the rest of the world including via trade and financial channels. In aggregate, we find that the reduction in business investment has reduced the level of PPP-weighted world GDP by 0.4% by 2019 Q2. (In other words, the effects of uncertainty on investment have accounted for around 1/3 of the global slowdown.) That effect on global growth rises to -0.7% by 2022 Q2, assuming uncertainty remains elevated at its pre-Covid elevated levels observed in mid-2019 (Table A).

Table A: Peak uncertainty impacts on the level of GDP in per cent

By 2019 Q2Total (2019 Q2 to 2022 Q2)United States-0.6-1.1China-0.7-1.2Euro area-0.3-0.5Emerging markets, excluding China-0.2-0.4World (PPP)-0.4-0.7World (UK)-0.3-0.6

The risk premium effect

Besides the effects of trade-related uncertainty on investment, trade tensions can affect financial asset prices. Suppose market participants become less confident about companies’ ability to generate profits in future. In response, equity risk premia – the compensation investors require for holding equities rather than less-risky government bonds – and corporate bond spreads could rise. Market participants might also allocate a higher proportion of their investments to safer assets, such as government bonds. This could serve to push down on term premia, the compensation investors require for holding longer-term bonds rather than less-risky shorter term government bonds.

To assess the effects of trade tensions on asset prices between 2018 and 2019 Q4, we conducted an ‘event study’ of major trade announcements using the following steps:

  • First, we calculated the change in 10-year US Treasury yields in the 30 minutes following each trade announcement since the start of 2018. These include announcements containing relevant trade news but where tariffs did not actually change.
  • Second, we calculated the proportion of the overall move in 10-year US Treasury yields during that day accounted for by this 30-minute reaction. We selected only those days when trade news formed a significant part of the overall daily movement. Such days were identified based on two subjective criteria. In the first, trade news must explain 50% or more of the overall daily move with at least 70% of the trade-related move persisting by the end of the day. In the second, such thresholds were lowered to 30% and 50% respectively.
  • Third, we summed all of the trade-related movements in asset prices occurring on these ‘significant’ news days to calculate the overall effect of trade-related news on asset prices since the start of 2018. In the spirit of model averaging, we used the average of the results identified using the different criteria.

We find that trade news has raised both equity risk premia and corporate bond spreads in the US between early 2018 and end-2019 (Chart 3). Over this same period, US term premia have fallen in response to trade news, consistent with investors retreating from risky to safer assets in response to the escalation in trade tensions. Repeating the same exercise, we find that commodity prices have also fallen in response to trade news (Chart 4). This may partly reflect the direct impact of tariffs on demand for targeted goods – for example, US-China tariffs on agricultural goods have reduced demand, causing prices to fall. In addition, investors tend to retreat from commodities in response to negative global growth news and during periods of heightened risk aversion (see Bernanke (2016)).

Chart 3: Response of US 10-year term premia, US Investment-grade credit spreads and S&P 500 equity risk premia to trade news (2018–19 Q4)

Chart 4: Response of commodity prices to trade news (2018–19 Q4)

Finally, we use NiGEM to investigate how trade-related movements in financial asset and commodity prices have affected global growth. We find that the impact of commodity price falls has been small. And the rise in corporate bond spreads and equity risk premia have broadly offset falls in term premia. As a result, global GDP growth appears to have been little affected by trade-driven moves in financial markets over this period.

Conclusion

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, trade policies, including increased tariffs, have reduced global growth and played an important role in the global economic slowdown that occurred prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. We show that higher trade-related uncertainty during 2018–19 has been an important factor behind this slowing in growth, as businesses have held back costly investment decisions. By contrast, the effects of trade uncertainty on financial markets and commodity prices have been much smaller.

Ed Manuel, Alice Pugh, Anina Thiel, Tugrul Vehbi and Seb Vismara work in the Bank’s Global Analysis Division.

If you want to get in touch, please email us at bankunderground@bankofengland.co.uk or leave a comment below.

Comments will only appear once approved by a moderator, and are only published where a full name is supplied. Bank Underground is a blog for Bank of England staff to share views that challenge — or support — prevailing policy orthodoxies. The views expressed here are those of the authors, and are not necessarily those of the Bank of England, or its policy committees.

Highway to hell: How neoliberalism is driving “advanced” economies towards a Latin American-style accumulation pattern

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 24/02/2021 - 3:43am in

By Baptiste Albertone

The weight of the past has sometimes been more present than the present itself. And a repetition of the past has sometimes seemed to be the only foreseeable future. 

Enrique Krauze

The history of independence in Latin America is a history of reproduction of the same, but different. The Napoleonic wars that weakened the Crown provided the opportunity for Latin American landlords to finally claim the full possession and administration of the fertile soil and abundant cheap labour at their disposal. As the first nations proclaimed their right to self-determination, the new states engaged in the consolidation of a new institutional framework, independent of the Crown, but reconfigured to fit the taste and interests of landed-elites and the colonial bourgeoisie. As it is common in the revolutionary processes of nations under colonial rule, despite the adhesion and (indispensable) active participation of the popular sectors, only a segment of the elite benefited from the structural reconfiguration of what the Marxist literature calls: a Bourgeois revolution.

The political rupture translated into economic continuity: The regime of accumulation inherited from the colonial period remained unaltered to reproduce a rentier-style capitalism. Indeed, the material reason for independence was not the transformation of the economic structure but the conquest of a larger share of its benefits by one class.  In addition to internal interests, a parallel international driving force supported the maintenance of this rentier regime: the centro-peripheral dynamics of the world economy, which placed Latin American nations in a subordinate and “dependent”  condition of natural resource providers for “core” economies. 

The role of economic ideas has certainly been decisive in the ability of the rentier regime to reproduce itself despite its deleterious effects. First, in the post-independence period, the neoclassical theory of comparative advantage offered a strong argument against developing a manufacturing sector through industrial policy. Later, in the early post-war years, the US administration-backed modernization theoryacted as a strong counter-discourse to classical development theorists’ arguments in favour of a structural transformation. Finally, from the late 1970’s onward, the infamous Washington Consensus came to provide an intellectual rationale to the political and historical project of capital and power concentration with de-industrialisation in the Latin American continent.

The socio-economic consequences of the rentier developmental mode are profound. As the Latin American structuralist school has vastly discussed, the rent-seeking style of development has favoured the persistence of 1) a large pre-capitalist sector, and 2) a highly heterogeneous intersectoral productivity. These structural determinants have major consequences on both pre-tax and post-tax income inequality dynamics. First, the economic dualism of the productive structure, a feature of rentier capitalism, implies that the share of labour in national income is very low In fact, land concentration and the scarcity of productive employment produce structurally unequal labour markets, with a very high number of informal workers acting as a reserve army. Second, the absence of a meaningful social contract between the governing elites and the popular sector gives rise to a regressive and fragile fiscal state, reluctant to influence the structural level of inequalities and to finance public goods. 

Therefore, the Latin American state was designed in such a way to guarantee the reproduction and the capture of the benefits of economic development by a wealthy minority, echoing Smith’s view that “[c]ivil government (…) is in reality instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all”.

The so-called era of democratisation in Latin America did not alter these power asymmetries. The structural configuration of extreme wealth and income inequalities as well as an almost unlimited ability to match economic power with political power gave rise to a form of quintessential Neoliberal state where, in José Gabriel Palma’s words the “new ‘democratic’ agenda of capital ensures that the state will fulfill its sole function of reproducing the new capitalist system”. The consequence is a unique level of inequality characterised by an unrestricted capacity of the elites to perpetuate themselves despite political changes.

But if the recipe for Latin American success once appeared to be a well-kept secret – only shared with some South African nations – it may no longer be the case. The neoliberal revolution that successfully altered labour markets and fiscal structures of most OECD countries is producing what Palma describes as a form of “reverse catching up”, with some advanced economies moving towards a Latin American style of accumulation. 

The graphs below illustrate the evolution of pre-tax inequalities in Germany, the United States, and the United Kingdom, three of the countries most affected by Neoliberal — or Ordoliberal in the German case — reforms.

Since the 1980s, these countries have experienced a dramatic rise in the share of the national income going to the individuals in the top 10% of the income distribution, mirrored by an almost identical, but opposite, trend affecting the share held by the bottom 40%. These tendencies are certainly not independent of the political and economic context that characterised the period.

From the mainstream viewpoint, the justification given for the tragic evolution of inequality is that of an growing capital-output ratio driven by entrepreneurial investment leading to an elevation in the share of profits in national income. 

Nonetheless, when looking at real investments’ figures, the picture turns out to be dramatically different from the expected dynamic. In the US, the gross private investment share of GDP has fallen by 3 percentage points since the late 1970s. On the contrary, what we see is a growing capacity from corporate elites to capture the benefits of economic growth with the help of both globalisation and financialization dynamics. Consequently, between the mid-1970’s and 2017, while real US GDP did more than triple, the real hourly wage of most Americans stagnated. 

What is at stake is a reconfiguration of the political space in the image of the Latin American oligarchical institutional style, where hierarchical economic principles subordinate the democratic and representative principles of politics embodied in the figure of the State. According to Branko Milanovic, the neoliberal restructuring while “it maintained the pretence of equality (one-person one-vote), (…) eroded it through the ability of the rich to select, fund, and make elect the politicians friendly to their interests”. In other words, neoliberalism should be understood as an active project that, as Quinn Slobodian notes it, “rather than ‘freeing’ or ‘disembodying’ ‘the’ market, [attempt] an ‘encasement’ of economic structures, isolating them from popular democratic demands”. 

By weakening the power of labour with more flexible workers’ protection, unravelling the Welfare State where it existed, engaging in a privatisation of public goods — the capital of those who don’t have any —, by adopting tax reforms that enhance regressive taxation and tax evasion, and by globally consolidating what Slobodian calls “the human right of capital flight”, neoliberalism demonstrated its striking effectiveness as a “technology of power” to rewrite the rules of the game in favour of capital accumulation. In the same way as Latin-American elites structured the newly born nation for the benefits of their interests, the recent success of Northern capitalist elites to create an environment suitable for the flourishing of their rent-extraction ambitions.

The structural reconfiguration that has been taking place since the mid-1970s is simultaneously endangering social and ecological balances, as well as putting societies at risk of implosion under authoritarian governments eager to establish Neoliberalism in a single country. We might be heading towards a dark horizon sketched by Slobodian as one of “brute competition in a zero-sum world where all that matters is the enrichment of an ethnically defined, territorially bounded national population”, where the protection of the environment – a common good by definition – is relegated to the tenebrous depths of national political agenda.

From this frightening observation arises an unsurpassable necessity to engage in a struggle for the transformation of economics — which today serves under its technocratic authority as the core instrument of the corporate elites’ political project — so that it becomes a democratic instrument for a fair and ecological economic transformation.

About the author: Baptiste Albertone is an MPhil candidate in Development Studies at the University of Cambridge and holds an MA and BA from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris. His research focuses on industrial policy and sustainable development in the Latin American context. Twitter: @BaptAlbertone 

This article is a runner up in an essay competition held by the UNCTAD YSI Summer School on Globalization and Development Strategies. Participants of the school worked with senior scholars to fine-tune their drafts, and the top-5 articles were published here. For other articles in the series, please click here.

About UNCTAD UNCTAD is a permanent intergovernmental body established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1964. Its headquarters are located in Geneva, Switzerland, with offices in New York and Addis Ababa. UNCTAD is part of the UN Secretariat, reports to the UN General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, and are also part of the United Nations Development Group.

New Economics for Sustainable Development: Alternative economic models and concepts

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/02/2021 - 3:00am in

By Dr. Chantal Line Carpentier

The widespread neoliberal model and the financialization of the economy is linked to the skewed system by which production factors are rewarded, whereby increasingly the lion’s share of income generated is going to reward capital compared to labor thereby increasing inequalities. While the maximization of profits at-all-costs economic model and its linear consumption and production patterns of “take, make, use, and dispose” are leading the rise of greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity and ecosystems loss, and water, soil, and ocean depletion. The pandemic has exposed the interdependence and fragility of the economic, financial, environmental, and health aspects of human life, as well as the interrelation among these four dimensions as we meet increased material demand by encroaching on the last forested frontiers leading to increasing zoonoses. 

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda for Financing for Development (FfD) adopted  unanimously by all UN member States in 2015take into account these interconnections and thus provide roadmaps, principles, and means to channel previously unavailable funds that are being rolled out by governments and international organizations to support collapsing economies. These trillions in public funds that just materialized must help advance the transition to economic models compatible with the SDGs – already not on track to be met prior to the pandemic according to the Global Sustainable Development Report 2019. The transition is feasible within the planetary boundaries but we need new economic and financial models. UNCTAD has called for a Global Green New Deal (GGND) but it turns out that blue, orange, purple, and yellow economies together have a better chance to rebuild resilient, inclusive, and more equitable economies. And this is in line with requests made by UN member states that the United Nations ensure its work is tailored to the different contexts in which it operates.

The Green New Deal extends the US “New Deal” approach of massively investing in infrastructure projects to create jobs and get the US economy out of the Great Depression, to target jobs in the green and new economy sectors such as resilient construction, decarbonized energy, clean transport, and sustainable agriculture and cities. The Global Green New Deal (GGND) proposed by UNCTAD crucially includes an equality and equity dimension. Under the GGND, the international community would have to address the root causes of inequality. Spurred by international solidarity and the realization that our economic, health, and political systems are interdependent, developed nations should not only fund their green, blue, orange, purple, or yellow economic stimulus but also support that of developing countries. This would allow developing countries, where most new infrastructure is being built, to use circular economy principles, avoid investing in stranded assets, whilst generating jobs to help workers’ transitions to the new economy, such as from fossil fuels to renewables energy. 

The circular economy uses science, technology, and innovation to increase efficiency by designing for recyclability and re-use at the end-of-product lifecycle and cutting out waste and pollution from production systems. It aims to produce more with less waste, resources, and energy through a make-use-recycle-reuse circular pattern. Many countries have embraced the concept. For instance, Uganda does so by using biogas technology, e-waste management, organic agriculture, green manufacturing, and eco-industrial parks.  New business and distribution models are needed to achieve deployment at scale.

A related concept is “frugal innovation” whereby the aim is to do “better with less”. A frugal mindset creatively builds upon and repurposes existing technology and innovation and aims to provide low-cost, high-quality solutions to the most pressing issues of the world; it is thus more likely to view inequalities and climate change, and other social and environmental issues as business opportunities. The pandemic has accelerated the digitalization of the economy and the use of automation and artificial intelligence. In this sense, policies and fiscal stimulus that incentivize frugal innovations could accelerate deployment. While better reuse of agricultural and other scrap materials, as well as investment in rural infrastructure, could scale up access to basic services such as water, sanitation, and energy to previously un- or under-served populations while fostering rural MSMEs and job creation. 

The Blue Economy is the green economy concept adapted to the ocean economy that could benefit many Small Island Developing States (SIDS) with massive ocean resources and developing countries with long coastal areas.

Similarly, the creative or orange economy, which relies more on human capital and ICTs, can support youth entrepreneurship and job creation. The orange economy is the trade, labor, and production of the creative industries, such as advertising, design, publishing, software, Film/TV/Radio. It requires a labor force with the ability to think and act creatively. The creative economy supports sustainable entrepreneurship and empowers innovators, especially the generation that grew up in the digital era. Marketing, fashion, or media companies also influence values and consumption, and lifestyle choices as they are often operated by young people who tend to be purpose-driven and support sustainability. A dynamic creative economy can thus play a vital role in promoting other alternative economic models, especially in developing countries.

The yellow or Attention Economy is the monetization of consumer’s attention by platforms such as Google, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Tik Tok among others by collecting vast amounts of information on consumers. They monetize this information by developing increasingly sophisticated algorithms and persuasion techniques to keep people clicking scrolling, and sharing. These techniques prey on many of human core subconscious tendencies for pleasure or fear to trap people’s attention and alter human behavior or perception. This market, valued in the trillions of dollars, is increasingly believed to be sowing the increased polarization, extremism, and radicalization being observed currently.

However, if harnessed, the Attention Economy could become a powerful tool to effectuate the necessary behavioral changes needed to transition towards the world we want, thriving in authentic mutual connection by using technology to bring humanity back into alignment with the rest of nature and the SDGs.

It is also an opportunity to build their care economy while creating more decent jobs and addressing gender inequalities. The care or “purple economy” – with investment in education and health providers for children, elderly, people with disabilities – would create 2.5 times more  jobs than investment in physical infrastructure, create 30 times more jobs for women, and ease restriction on women’s time, and have greater and fiscal sustainability

To be even more inclusive and resilient, in line with the 2030 Agenda, these models could be supported by the Social and Solidarity Economy Organizations and Enterprises (SSEOEs). The Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) is people-centered, addresses exclusion by reaching-out and incorporating marginalized groups in supply chains and facilitating their vertical integration into the larger economy. SSE also fosters shared prosperity through shared ownership of assets and means of production. It also promotes active citizenship, participatory democracy, and a pluralistic economy which bolsters social cohesion, accountability, and sound governance (SDG16).  

SSEOEs include worker, producer, and housing cooperatives that share the features of joint ownership and democratic governance. Being an integral part of their communities, these organizations also have a stake in ensuring the social and ecological integrity of their host communities in the short and long term, which is not necessarily the case for publicly listed or privately-owned companies. Moreover, cooperatives have shown to be a prolific job creator as an estimated 9.5 percent of the world’s working population are employed by cooperatives.

We cannot afford to waste another crisis. The pandemic is and will be costly. Funding the transition to green, blue, orange, and purple economies is feasible! We have a duty to use the trillions that have materialized to jump-start and accelerate the transition to new economic models that can tackle the complex interdependencies among the SDGs. If international solidarity is not sufficient justification to support developing countries, the interconnectedness of our health and the ecosystem demonstrated by the pandemic should be. 

About the author: Chantal Line Carpentier is the Chief of the UNCTAD New York Office of the Secretary-General. The views expressed in this publication/study are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations including the UN Conference on Trade and Development.  This article builds on a draft developed with Raymond Landveld and Olivier Combe, Economic Affairs Officers in the UNCTAD New York office. 

This article is a runner up in an essay competition held by the UNCTAD YSI Summer School on Globalization and Development Strategies. Participants of the school worked with senior scholars to fine-tune their drafts, and the top-5 articles were published here. For other articles in the series, please click here.

About UNCTAD UNCTAD is a permanent intergovernmental body established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1964. Its headquarters are located in Geneva, Switzerland, with offices in New York and Addis Ababa. UNCTAD is part of the UN Secretariat, reports to the UN General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, and are also part of the United Nations Development Group.

Responsibility Shifting in Investment and Sustainability

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 10/02/2021 - 3:00am in

By Soo-hyun Lee

When it comes to understanding the relationship between investment and sustainability, national and international governance institutions take a facilitative rather than regulatory approach. 

This is largely premised on two assumptions: (1) overreach would result in regulatory chilling that could limit investment and (2) regulating investment inflows would limit their potential economic impact. Though taking place in different forms between portfolio investments and foreign direct investment, a facilitative approach, in principle, shifts the responsibility of defining and understanding the interplay between investment and sustainability to market interactions: between the investor and the recipient. 

Assessing the facilitative approach to investment and sustainability within the microeconomics of sustainable development policy renders some noteworthy observations. Namely, creating a regulatory and governance environment that facilitates the consumer and producer, or in this case the recipient and the investor, shifts responsibility away from the government or prevailing institution from taking a more prescriptive approach: defining, implementing and enforcing a more substantial linkage between investment and sustainability.

A prescriptive role, while more vulnerable to the potential consequences of regulatory chill, may be necessary to administering the nexus between investment and sustainability because sustainability as a motivating factor does not naturally arise from the economic rationality that fuels market interactions. The relationship between investors and the recipients of investment, just as that between producers and consumers, does not function on the logic of advancing sustainability, but rather economic profit maximization. For this reason, should their interaction deviate from this core market-based logic by, for example, running deficits in consumer and/or producer surplus, or being involved in investments where risk supersedes returns, their interaction is jeopardized and likely to be discontinued. For that reason, shifting the responsibility to the consumer to fuse a more molecular bond between investment and sustainability seems destined to meet an inconclusive outcome as it saps away the essential motivation to shoulder that burden both materially in terms of resource allocation and substantively as a determination to form a meaningful investment and sustainability nexus.

Turning to views in sustainable consumption, Mont, et al (2013) identifies a similar paradox in their work for the Nordic Council of Ministers based on interviews with policymakers as a myth of sustainable consumption. They write that shifting the responsibility of sustainable consumption to the consumer limits state involvement to raising awareness rather than taking more proactive interventions against unsustainable consumption. The inherent problem behind shifting responsibility, they write, is that consumer behaviour is based on contextual factors that are “beyond the control of individual actors”, namely prevailing social norms that shape a consumer’s understanding of consumption in connection to sustainability. Presently, this norm is that sustainable consumption is an extraordinary decision that requires justification (Mont, et al, 35-37) as it deviates from market-based reasoning. The consumer requires additional justification for these decisions to justify that divergence: why to choose a product that provides comparatively less consumer surplus by paying a higher price or paying a price to receive less utility arising from consumption?

Lorek and Spangenberg (2013) explains responsibility shifting in sustainable consumption as the lock-in situation, where transitions to sustainability is contingent on more growth and technological innovation. This is reflected through the I = P*A*T equation, which offsets the added cumulative climate impact (I) as the function of the factor of population growth (P) and greater per capita affluence (A) by technological progress (T). With advances in (T), higher unsustainability derived from increasing (P) and (A) values are offset by technologies that enhance the sustainability of consumption. Herein lies one of the causes behind responsibility shifting, which is a “technological optimism” that firms will advance the state of technology if given the means to do so (Lorek and Spangenberg, 35). The central economic tenet behind this technological optimism is economic liberalism, which attributes the agency and primacy of economic optimality to market-based actors, in turn manifesting external intervention by the state or another prevailing authority as obstacles to that optimality. As such, the role of the state or prevailing authority is limited to providing information, shifting responsibility to market-based interactions (Lorek and Spangenberg, 40).

Responding to the situation of lock-in, which strives in the ecosystem of economic neoliberalism, Dalhammer (2019) advances that policy instruments are necessary to form a sustainable choice architecture that features sustainability as the default option. Lock-in prevents microeconomic transitions to strong sustainability, such as adopting ideas of consumptive sufficiency, thus rendering top-down involvement of the government or prevailing authority necessary (Dalhammer, 140). Simultaneously, policy instruments should be mobilized within a “reflexive governance mode”, which Mont (2019) identifies as a standpoint of continuous learning and acknowledgment of intertwining contextual factors that influence consumptive behaviour (Mont, 3). The policy instruments arising from this mode should aim to facilitate the transition from system optimization, which perpetuates the business-as-usual scenario, to system transformation, which seeks to integrate alternative solutions to the policy and governance process that move beyond the primacy of consumer sovereignty (Mont, 9).

Extrapolating these observations from sustainable consumption to the investment and sustainability nexus takes no stretch of the imagination. The engine that drives forward such extrapolation is simple yet powerful: more consumption and investment are better. The economic neoliberalism to which the origins of unsustainable consumption are traced also lays claim to the origin of crucial disconnects between investment and sustainability. This applies to both forms of investment, portfolio and foreign direct, as do many of the ruminations in sustainable consumption thought. This close albeit conceptual cross-disciplinary application warrants closer examination.

Sustainable portfolio investment has been building traction over the last three years with latter half of 2019 alone witnessing billions of USD identified under the environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment label. There remain considerable limitations to the concept, the most pronounced amongst them being a lack of shared understanding and standards of ESG metrics and stewardship. The World Bank Group (WBG) and the UN Principles on Responsible Investment have been on the forefront of institutional efforts to address these concerns. Despite the wide involvement of national pension schemes, central banks and government regulation, policy instruments remain within the system optimization mindset that shifts responsibility to the actual sustainability element of ESG to the producer-consumer.

The result of a soft sustainability approach to regulating ESG has exposed it to systematic greenwashing. The mentality in ESG continues to be growth-oriented, investors financing asset managers based on perceptual cues and little understanding of metrics and their shortcomings. With the entry of large names in finance like BlackRock and MSCI or international organizations like the WBG and United Nations through the PRI, portfolio investors are eased into the lethargy of technological optimism. Morgan Stanley’s Institute for Sustainable Investing identified promising trends in the sustainable investment epithet, employing a definition of sustainable investing that was not only substantively vacuous but very much aligned to the central economic ideological tenets of growth-oriented market fundamentalism.

Moving outward to foreign direct investment and its governance does little to mitigate these concerns. Despite international investment law being based on a regime of treaties and treaty arbitration, which directly involves governments, investment, less considerations of sustainability in investment, find no prescriptive definition. Investors, which notably include shareholders of companies, are given rights and protections in the state recipient to that investment, such as access to investor-State dispute settlement (ISDS), but the means to determine the substantive qualities of investment remain ad hoc and left the judicial discretion arising from investment arbitration (See, for instance, Mihaly International Corporation v. Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, ICSID Case No. ARB/00/2; Ceskoslovenska Obchodni Banka, A.S. v. The Slovak Republic, ICSID Case No. ARB/97/4; Malaysian Historical Salvors, SDN, BHD v. The Government of Malaysia, ICSID Case No. ARB/05/10).

While there is no single government to adopt and then apply a reflexive governance model to the multilateral regime of international investment law, the United Nations can and should play a larger role in taking more prescriptive, system transformative action to ensure that sustainability is not simply a spillover of investment, rather sustainability leads decisions of whether investment should be admitted.

About the author: Soo-hyun LEE is a Agenda 2030 PhD Researcher in international economic law and sustainable development at Lund University, a Private Sector Integrity Research Analyst at the UN Development Programme, and the head consultant at the Information Symmetry Law and Policy Group. His interests and expertise are in the law and policies of international investment, trade, finance, and their interaction with sustainable development. His doctoral dissertation examines the normative and procedural aspects of sustainable development in investment treaty arbitration and their larger development implications.

This article is the winner in an essay competition held by the UNCTAD YSI Summer School on Globalization and Development Strategies. Participants of the school worked with senior scholars to fine-tune their drafts, and the top-5 articles were published here. For other articles in the series, please click here.

About UNCTAD UNCTAD is a permanent intergovernmental body established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1964. Its headquarters are located in Geneva, Switzerland, with offices in New York and Addis Ababa. UNCTAD is part of the UN Secretariat, reports to the UN General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, and are also part of the United Nations Development Group.

Far Right Brexiteers Annoyed Boris Gave Award to Bristol Police Chief Who Allowed Attack on Colston Statue

The gravel-voiced anonymous individual behind the website ‘We Got a Problem’ got very annoyed yesterday about one of the peeps Johnson decided to reward in the New Years’ honours. ‘We Got a Problem’ is a pro-Brexit, anti-immigrant channel on YouTube. It views non-White immigrants as a serious threat to traditional British citizens and particularly concentrates on reporting crimes committed by people of colour. Such migrants are reviled in some of the crudest possible terms, which also clearly reveal the party political bias of the faceless man behind the website. One of the epithets he uses for them is ‘imported Labour voters’. This nameless individual was upset because Johnson has, apparently, given an award to the Bristol police chief, who resolutely sat back and did nothing to stop BLM protesters pulling down the statue of Edward Colston and throwing it into the docks. He therefore decided to put up a video expressing his considered disapproval yesterday, 6th January 2021. I’m not going to provide a link to his wretched video. If you want to see it, all you need do is look for it on YouTube.

Now I am very definitely not a fan of Black Lives Matter nor the destruction of public property. But the Bristol copper actually had very good reasons not to intervene. ‘We Got A Problem’s’ video contains a clip from an interview the rozzer gave to the Beeb about his inaction. He states that there’s a lot of context around the statue, and that it was of a historical figure that had been causing Black people angst for years. He was disappointed that people would attack it, but it was very symbolic. The protesters were prepared. It had been pre-planned and they had grappling hooks. The police made a tactical decision not protect the statue in case it provoked further disorder. They decided that the safest thing to do was not protect the statue. What they didn’t want was tension. They couldn’t get to the statue, and once it was torn down the cops decided to allow the attack on the statue to go ahead.

‘We Got A Problem’ takes this as an admission of incompetence by the Bristol copper, calling him a ‘cuck’, a term of abuse used by the Alt-Right. The YouTuber is also upset that while the cop got an honour, that hero of Brexiteers everywhere, Nigel Farage, didn’t. As all Brexit has done is created more chaos, and seems set to create more misery, including food and medicine shortages, the further destruction of British industry, especially manufacturing, and massively increased bureaucracy for trade and foreign travel, Farage doesn’t deserve to get one either. But this is lost on the fanatical Brexiteers like ‘We Got A Problem’, who cling desperately to the belief that somehow Brexit is going to lead to a revival of Britain’s fortunes, ending Black and Asian immigration and propelling us back to a position of world leadership.

As for the lack of action taken by the chief of Bristol’s police, I think he made the right decision. The statue the BLM protesters attacked was of the slaver Edward Colston. Colston was a great philanthropist, using some of the money he made from the trade to endow charities and schools here in the city. But understandably many people, especially Blacks, are upset that he should be so honoured with a statue. There have been demands for it to be removed since the 1980s. One Black woman interviewed on Radio 4 said she felt sick walking past it to work in the morning. However, the statue was retained because when Bristolians were asked whether it should be taken down, the majority were against it.

While ‘We Got A Problem’ presents the attack as a riot, in fact the only thing that was attacked was Colston’s statue. None of the other buildings or monuments were touched. Not the statue of MP and founder of modern Conservatism Edmund Burke, not the statue of Neptune or to the city’s sailors nearby, or of Queen Victoria just up the road by College Green. Nor were any of the shops and businesses in the centre attacked, unlike the riots of 2012. This could have changed, and the attack on the statue become a full-scale riot if the police had tried to intervene. The police chief doesn’t mention it, but I also believe one other factor in his decision not to protect the statue was the issue of racism in the police. One of the causes of the St. Paul’s riots in Bristol in 1981 was the feeling by the Black community there that the police were ‘occupying’ the area. It seems to me that the Bristol cop was worried that an attempt by the police to defend the monument would lead to further accusations of racism and a deterioration in their relations with Bristol’s Black community.

It was only one statue that was pulled down. It has been recovered from the docks, and I think is either now on display or awaiting going on display in one of the Bristol’s museums. No-one was hurt and no other property was damaged. I think four of those responsible for the attack have been identified and charged. Mike in one of his pieces about the incident made it clear that they should have been allowed to go free. I think this would be wrong. While you can sympathise with their reasons, it’s still an attack on public property. Allowing one set of vandals to go unpunished would encourage others to make similar attacks, possibly to monuments to figures much less deserving of such treatment. While I don’t think very many people are genuinely upset about the attack on Colston’s statue, attacks on others, such as that of Winston Churchill, may have caused far more outrage. While it was a good tactical decision not to defend the statue when it was attacked, it’s quite right that the attackers should receive some punishment in order to prevent further, far more controversial attacks, from taking place.

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