Opinion

The Great Debate

from Africa News blog:

Time to stop aid for Africa?

Far from being all bad news for Africa, the global financial crisis is a chance to break a dependence on development aid that has kept it in poverty, argues Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo, who has just published a new book “Dead Aid”.

Moyo’s book, her first, comes out at a time when Western campaigners, financial institutions and some African governments have been warning of the danger posed to Africa by the crisis and calling for more money from developed countries as a result. The former World Bank and Goldman Sachs economist spoke to Reuters in London.

“I’m not saying its going to be easy, I’m just saying that there is a real opportunity for policymakers to focus on coming up with more innovative ways of financing economic development. In a way the crisis actually provides the African governments with the situation where they cannot rely on aid budgets coming through from the West.”

Moyo believes more than $1 trillion in development aid over the past 50 years has only entrenched Africa’s poverty, distorted economies and fuelled bureaucracy and corruption. She sees alternatives such as encouraging trade - particularly with emerging markets - encouraging foreign direct investment, microfinancing for enterprise and seeking funds from capital markets.

Moyo is not discouraged by the fact that all those options appear more difficult in the current environment.

Building a three-legged stool

lawrence Lawrence Bloom is deputy chairman of Noble Cities and chairman of the World Economic Forum, Global Agenda Council on Urban Management. His views are his own –

The chaos generated by the meltdown of the global economic system provides environmentalists and human rights advocates with utopian opportunities to promote a new economic model, which will not only help sustain life on our planet, but actually increase its quality for many.
As world leaders search for creative solutions to restore global equilibrium, the opportunity for recognising the importance of both human and environmental capital has perhaps never been so possible or achievable.
Recognising all three types of capital: financial, environmental and human, will help us to build the equivalent of a balanced three-legged stool . Hopefully, this stool will be more stable than the current one-legged model of financial capital.
Last week the United Nations Environment Program recommended the business world use the global downturn to press ahead with green technologies that will save firms money and help save the planet. It also recommended using micro-finance loans to help developing countries provide sustainable solutions in such places as Bangladesh where small loans have allowed women entrepreneurs to install solar panels and bring electricity to 100,000 homes.
Society has been operating on the belief that if the engines of capitalism are powered to churn constantly, wealth will prevail and all of human society will benefit. But this system has served to create great income disparities by generating incredible wealth and incredible poverty, and has been the main driver in causing catastrophic environmental damage.
The unregulated, trickle-down financial policy is necessary to generate positive GDP figures, but traditionally these data do not include the cost of rainforest or biodiversity loss. Thanks to the United Nations Green Economy Initiative, and the work being undertaken by Pavan Sukhdev and his colleagues who are engaged in the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity project, we can now put GDP-like values on these losses.
As a result, we are beginning to recognise that the credit crunch in the financial markets is a minnow in comparison to the credit crunch in our environment and biodiversity systems. It appears that we have been “borrowing” $2.5 trillion every year for the last 25 years without any significant compensating payback.
Over time, we may acquire the wisdom to realise that what traditional economics considers “externalities”, as if they were irrelevant, are closer to our survival needs than the creation of economic wealth. The 90 pence we pay for a litre of petrol is divided between government tax and profit for the oil company, but who picks up the tab for the damage that is done by burning the fuel in the atmosphere? We privatise profit and we socialise loss.
We need to start valuing people first, and then we will collectively begin to operate on the principle that the environment is not just another word for commodity market, but that it supports life. Valuing human capital means acknowledging that each person on this planet is entitled to fresh water, nutritious food, proper shelter, healthcare, education, justice and access to capital. This way we can release the creative potential of all of humanity. Only when we are clear on these values can we create a financial system that serves it.
The current financial credit drivers are akin to the booster rockets on a space craft. In the same way as the boosters blast the craft free of the Earth’s atmosphere and gravitational pull, so the current financial system has created wealth, education and freedom for 1.5 billion people. But for many – the remaining 4.5 billion – the cost has been very great and to our ecosystems it has been disastrous. The skill in a space shot is knowing when to blow the explosive bolts, releasing the boosters and continuing the mission with the second stage only. Our skill will be in jettisoning our current economic model and designing a new and more inclusive “second stage”.
What we should be talking about now at a strategic level is urgently restructuring our monetary system into a non-debt, or minimal-based debt structure using Sharia-type finance and complementary currencies with government spending money directly into circulation.
In whichever way we choose as a society to tackle the global financial crisis, we must create a system that protects and nurtures all of humanity and the environment before it is too late.
An inspirational quote attributed to a North American First Nations Chief Seattle states: “We are all connected like the blood that unites one family. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth. Man did not create the web of life, but he is part of it, whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”
These words written more than one hundred years ago speak directly to us today. Will we have the intelligence to listen?

From financial crisis to sustainable global economy

staff_jlash_121- Jonathan Lash is president of the World Resources Institute. The views expressed are his own -

Much of the world’s attention is fixed on the brutal effects of the global financial crisis.
But sooner or later – sooner we hope – the global economy will rebound. Markets will recover, and stocks will rise. Nature, on the other hand, does not do bailouts. The effects of today’s greenhouse gas emissions – like those of yesterday and tomorrow – will be permanent, at least in the timescales that we care about.

They are what will shape the lives and markets of tomorrow.

My view of sustainability is very simple: what can’t be sustained won’t be. It was impossible for real estate values to continue to rise much faster than economic growth. It had to end sometime . . . and it did. When the bubble burst, the consequences were severe.

Davos debate: What can be done for the global economy?

wefpic2With business and consumer confidence fading, the prospects for the global economy appear the worst for a generation. Amid the gathering gloom, are things really that bad? And can nothing be done to give the global growth engine a kick-start?

Reuters asked delegates at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos for their views.

First 100 Days: Manufacturing a dream and a recovery

Scott_Paul– Scott Paul is executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), a labor-management partnership of several leading U.S. manufacturers and the United Steelworkers. The views expressed are his own. —

Barack Obama knows the story of American manufacturing firsthand. He cut his political teeth as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago in the shadow of shuttered steel mills, working to salvage hopes and dreams that had been crushed by the weight of layoffs and economic decline. As President, he can authoritatively recall America’s industrial heritage and decline, but more importantly, Obama can lead the nation to a renaissance in American manufacturing.

Manufacturing has boosted the American economy, jobs, and wages for generations dating back to World War II. Recently, it has fallen on very hard times. Nearly one in four manufacturing jobs has vanished since 2000, and 40,000 factories have closed since 1998. Last year, manufacturing accounted for nearly a third of all lost jobs in the U.S., while factory orders plummeted to record lows.

from Global Investing:

Robin Hood in reverse?

Thirty-first U.S. President Herbert Clark Hoover once said: "Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt."

Governments around the world are borrowing heavily to finance their fiscal expansion – unprecedented in size and scale – to prevent severe economic downturn.

However, outspoken independent economist Roger Nightingale thinks fiscal stimulus will not work.

Debate surrounding the world economic crisis

World leaders vowed to work together in overhauling the global financial system as they headed to Washington for a summit on wresting the global economy from recession and avoiding future meltdowns.

Far from the confines of Washington, Reuters readers launched into a lively debate, sparked by Reuters columnists and experts, on what this means for the global financial crisis.

One of the more lively discussions arose from a column theorizing the financial crisis is the greatest threat to international security. Paul Rogers, Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University and Global Security Consultant to Oxford Research Group argues:

A small business owner’s wish list for the new president

Pam SatranPamela Redmond Satran is a developer of baby-naming site nameberry.com, based on the name guides she coauthored with Linda Rosenkrantz. The opinions expressed are her own.

Dear President-Elect Obama,

In the final days leading up to your election, we heard a lot about what you were going to do to help small-business owners. Now it’s time to pony up. Not sure where to start? As someone with the audaciously bad timing to launch my website, nameberry.com, on October 14, I have some ideas:

Start a web-based work initiative
Taking a cue from FDR’s bold work initiatives in his first 100 days, you might train people to work on small web businesses like mine. Instead of the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), call it the WWW Camp, where laid-off mortgage brokers and moms craving flexible hours can learn software coding and database management and website design. The result: More jobs in northern Vermont and southern Virginia; more accessible and affordable help for the new generation of small web-based business owners like me.

Obama’s “number 1 priority”

– Peter Barnes is an entrepreneur and writer whose books include Who Owns The Sky? and Climate Solutions: A Citizen’s Guide. The views expressed are his own.

A few days before the election, Barack Obama told Time’s Joe Klein:

Finding the new driver of our economy is going to be critical. There’s no better driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy … That’s going to be my No. 1 priority when I get into office.

That’s exactly the right choice for numerous economic, geopolitical, and ecological reasons. By spawning “a new energy economy,” Obama can create millions of new jobs, decrease our dependence on foreign oil and avert catastrophic climate change. But the politics of launching that new energy economy — even with enlarged majorities in Congress — remains challenging.

New President, same inadequate economic tools

James Saft — James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

By James Saft

LONDON (Reuters) – President-elect Barack Obama will have to confront the same intractable economic problems with the same inadequate tools.

The banking system remains impaired and will require more taxpayer support. The impact of one percent official interest rates will still be blunted by the congestive failure of banking. There also isn’t much more in interest rate to cut before the United States looks rather, well, Japanese.

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