So much is offered to us through indicators-stuffed networks that we live in constant awe for not being able to absorb it all --and much more so, not having the time for reflection (so as to use the same for effective human rights accountability purposes). (Albino Gomez)
1. The sayings
‘What gets measured, gets done’.
‘What is counted is the only thing that counts’.
‘Today’s investments in country health information systems will lead to a better tomorrow for billions of people’.
‘Accurate and timely health data are the foundation to improving public health’. (J.Y. Kim, M. Moellmann)
are terribly misleading and flawed.
The combination of increasing inequality and anemic economic growth has thrown a political spotlight on tax havens. Research has shown that governments are losing at least $200 billion in potential tax dollars every year because of them. And politicians throughout the world are feeling pressure to address this perceived injustice.
Consider, for example, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s recent comments about companies “routing income through the Bahamas or the Cayman Islands or wherever” in an effort to minimize or avoid taxes. Clinton would like the United States to capture lost tax revenues from corporations booking profits in their offshore subsidiaries.
The victory of Syriza in Greece, a leftwing government in Portugal, the wonderful success of Podemos in Spain, a new chairman for the Labour party in Great Britain, the amazing victories of Bernie Sanders in the democratic caucuses in the US.
It is far too early to make a final analysis of what is happening, but one thing seems to be clear: many people, and most of all young people, seem to want something different in politics, they do not believe in neoliberal TINA-politics anymore, they think the world is far too unequal, they know they are the 99 % while it is the remaining 1 % that takes all the important decisions and pays no taxes. They know the ‘establishment’ or ‘la casta’ only listen to those who pay them, the CEOs of hedge funds, oil or car companies, the pharmaceutical industry, the mining corporations …
But we should have no illusions.
Gender inequality and its impact on economic growth have risen up the IMF agenda under current managing director Christine Lagarde’s leadership. In October 2015, the IMF published the staff discussion note (SDN) Catalyst for change: Empowering women and tackling income inequality, following a series of earlier gender-focused SDNs. The series has focused on the ways in which gender inequality has a negative impact on female labour force participation rates, which in turn has a negative effect on macroeconomic growth and stability. Previous SDNs have focused on gender inequalities in unpaid care; education: access to productive inputs: tax incentives and legal restrictions to women’s work.1 The latter links gender inequality to another issue on which the IMF has published research – income inequality.
The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) recently launched the report of its Financial Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System (“the Report”), established in early 2014 to explore how to align the financial system with sustainable development, with a focus on environmental aspects.
UNEP’s Financial Inquiry set out to respond three questions: 1) under what circumstances should measures be taken to ensure that the financial system takes fuller account of sustainable development?, 2) what measures have been and might be more widely deployed to better align the financial system with sustainable development? and 3) how can such measures best be deployed?
Everyone has the right to be born with a nationality – safe, fearless and free – and secure in their human right to equally transfer, acquire, change or retain it. There is no reason why over 50 countries around the world – 20 of which are in Africa - should still have sexist nationality and citizenship laws, which largely discriminate against women, potentially putting them and their families in danger and denying them the rights, benefits and services that everyone should enjoy.
Is offshore tax avoidance a victimless crime? That was the question underlying my recent visit to the Cayman Islands, where I spent a whirlwind weekend helping to film a BBC2 documentary on the real-world impact of tax havens on economic inequality.
On paper, at least, the Cayman Islands is an economic powerhouse. The latest data from the Internal Revenue Service show that U.S.-based corporations claim that their subsidiaries earn $51 billion a year there, an astonishing figure for an island nation that has a population of just 59,000.
There has been a buzz recently about the idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) and why it could be a solution to technological unemployment. VOX reported a few days ago that Y Combinator, a start-up incubator, is about to start a five-year research project on how a UBI could work. Noah Kulwin over at re/code also has a useful article on this including a broad overview over existing work on the basic income. In the spirit of discussion I’d like to bring together some of the arguments I have made over recent years for why the basic income is not a suitable solution for technological unemployment but another option – a job guarantee – could be. So let’s start with the assumptions.
Conferencia ‘Con todos y para el bien de todos’ - La Havana, 25-28 de enero 2016
We live in a paradoxical time. While, on the one hand, international organisations are promoting social protection in the South, on the other hand, existing welfare states are being dismantled in the North. However, there is in fact one single logic at work. What is being introduced in the North as well as in the South is a neoliberal social paradigm in which ‘social protection’ acquires a new meaning, different from what it was in the past. Hence, the North and the South are facing identical challenges and alternatives are urgently needed.
In this contribution, I want to first identify the major characteristics of neoliberal social policy. I then want to point to the difficult relationship the left has with social policies and welfare states. Third, while social policies certainly cannot be abandoned, the search for alternatives will have to take into account the needs of our times and of current generations. In the fourth section, I want to propose an alternative that uses the concept of the commons as an anti-systemic tool allowing to link up with the struggle for climate justice. Social commons, then, as I will explain, will be a transformative and emancipatory project promoting social and political agency, it will allow to defend the sustainability of life, of people, of society and of nature, while it can contribute to change the economic system.
In adopting the Sustainable Development Goals this past September, UN member states realized two extraordinary achievements. First, the document itself—with 17 goals, 169 targets and 200+ (yet to be finalized) indicators—is a testament to global ambition, a 15-year roadmap toward what is hoped will be unprecedented progress in poverty alleviation. Second, the global community agreed to “substantially reduce illicit financial flows,” which reached $1.1 trillion two years earlier according to a recent GFI study. It is nothing short of remarkable that 193 nations agreed to address an issue that five years earlier was just becoming known within the international community. Today, the need to reduce IFFs (as they are known) is part of development policy orthodoxy. What many still do not recognize however, is that the SDGs and IFFs are inextricably linked—we cannot hope to achieve the former without addressing the latter.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a new reform of its exceptional access framework. The key step made on 29 January 2016 is to remove the systemic exemption clause. This is the clause that has made IMF participation in the mega bailout of private creditors in Greece possible. It created the situation that Greece is now indebted mainly to official creditors, while banks and other creditors have recovered most of their money. However, the reform is no guarantee that publicly funded bailouts will no longer happen. It just transfers the task from the IMF to other official creditors, in Europe to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).