October 17, 2018
SATURDAY OCTOBER 27th 2018
An excerpt from “bin / art – retrospective on computer art”
GE-115 CONCERTO “by Pietro Grossi (1967)
- 6.00 pm – Presentation of the “bin / art” exhibition cycle
- 6.15 pm – Presentation of the work “GE-115 Concert”
- 6.30 pm – Screening of the video interviews with Marco Ligabue (professor of electronic music and music informatics at the Luigi Cherubini Conservatory of Florence) and a Ferruccio Zulian (designer of the GE-115 system and collaborator of Pietro Grossi)
- 7.15 pm – Vernissage and aperitif (in collaboration with Associazione Culturale Dahlia)
The event is the first of the “bin / art” cycle, a retrospective exhibition on Computer Art that will be revived in Palazzolo Acreide in ten small temporary exhibitions.
Museo dell’Informatica Funzionante (MusIF)
Via Carnevale 17, Palazzolo Acreide (SR) – ITALY
October 16, 2018
As if hoping that the stunning setting would help soften the harsh reality of the global economic and political (dis)order ten years on from the global financial crisis (see Spring Meetings 2018 CSPF session notes), this year’s IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings were held on the beautiful island of Bali, Indonesia.
Despite the idyllic setting and notwithstanding recent global growth, the meetings took place in a context of apprehension, which seemed unmatched by forceful action. As the Fund’s 2018 World Economic Outlook (WEO) stressed, economic growth has been more uneven than expected: “Not only have some downside risks that the last WEO identified [in April] been realized, the likelihood of further negative shocks to our growth forecast has risen.” The Fund once again revised its growth projections downward and warned that growth in the developed world and some important emerging economies is likely to trend downward in the medium-term. The impact of the ongoing trade dispute between China and the US and the continued threat to multilateralism featured prominently at the meetings, as did the role of China as an increasingly important creditor. On trade tensions the IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde noted that, “If these tensions were to escalate, the global economy would take a significant hit.”
The Fund’s Global Financial Stability Report (GFSR) noted that, “an intensification of concerns about emerging markets, a broader rise in trade tensions, the realization of political and policy uncertainty, or a faster-than-expected tightening in monetary normalization could all lead to a sharp tightening in financial conditions.” Relatedly, the UN Conference on Trade and Development, in an October document stressed that, “by the end of March 2018, global debt stocks had reached $247.2 trillion, up from $168 trillion at the onset of the financial crisis of 2007–2008 and by nearly $25 trillion from a year earlier.” The Fund’s Fiscal Monitor (FM) also calls for caution in the medium term and recommends that countries put their deficits and debt firmly on a downward path to their mid-term targets. While the FM notes that approaches should be tailored, forthcoming research on IMF conditionalities demonstrate causes for concerns, as, despite the IMF’s claims to the contrary, the number of Fund conditionalities continues to increase.
As climate change bites, Bank continues incremental progress
In addition to increasing concerns about underlying global macro-economic trends, the launch of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the eve of the meetings revealed the urgency and dramatic scale of the challenge that countries face in adapting to climate change – with The Guardian pointing out that the spectre of catastrophic climate change would provide less flexibility in the event of a new financial crisis. The IPCC report found that in order to achieve the Paris Agreement – and keep average global temperature rise at 1.5˚C relative to the pre-industrial average – drastic cuts in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are needed by 2030: GHG emissions need to fall by around 45 per cent by 2030 from 2010 levels, and reach net zero by around 2050. If states fail to achieve this deep cut in emissions, irreversible changes, including tipping points leading to exponentially higher warming, are probable, the report asserts. Given that countries’ current commitments to reduce emissions collectively amount to a trajectory of 3˚C projected warming, this is cause for grave concern.
The IPCC report was published on the same day that the International Finance Corporation (IFC, the Bank’s private sector lending arm) announced new measures to curb finance from IFC’s investments in financial intermediaries (FI; e.g. commercial banks and investment funds) being used to fund coal. In a blog published in development news outlet Devex, IFC CEO Philippe Le Houérou announced that over the past two years, the IFC had ring-fenced 95 per cent of its investments in FIs to prevent them from being used to fund coal projects. He also announced that the IFC would develop a ‘green equity’ approach in the coming months that would require new FI clients to publically disclose their exposure to coal and update this annually, with a commitment to reducing or exiting these investments.
Civil society organisations welcomed this announcement, but were cautious about the ultimate details of the green equity approach. A particular area of concern is that the ‘green equity’ approach will not cover financial intermediaries’ exposure to “upstream” oil and gas, at least initially, in line with the phase-out of finance for “upstream” oil and gas in the WBG’s direct lending at the end of 2019 (see Observer Spring 2018). At a Civil Society Policy Forum (CSPF) event on 9 October on FI lending, Kate Geary of Bank Information Center Europe also pointed out that the IFC’s legacy of coal investment through FI lending continues to harm communities. In October 2017, the Philippines Movement for Climate Justice filed a complaint with IFC’s independent accountability mechanism, the Compliance Advisory Ombudsman (CAO), in relation to support for 19 coal-fired power plants being built in the Philippines (see Observer Winter 2017-2018); Geary urged the IFC to intervene as a board member of the commercial banks building these plants, to prevent the 15 plants that received IFC finance, still under construction, from coming online.
At the Annual Meetings the World Bank also confirmed it will withdraw support from a coal project in Kosovo – the last legacy project in the WBG’s project pipeline that was potentially exempt from the Bank’s 2013 moratorium on project lending for coal (see Observer Autumn 2018). World Bank President Jim Yong Kim confirmed this at the CSO Town Hall event on 10 October. “We have made a very firm decision not to go forward with the coal power plant, because we’re required by our bylaws to go with the lowest-cost option, and renewables have now come below the cost of coal. So without question, we’re not going to do that,” Kim said, according to Devex. As with elsewhere, the Kosovar challenge now turns to scaling up renewable energy – and overcoming the political and logistical obstacles that stand in the way of deep decarbonisation. CSOs are concerned that despite incremental progress, the Bank isn’t moving quickly enough to support this shift, and have called on it to raise its ambition in the post-2020 climate goals it will announce later this year.
MFD, WDR, EPG and GCI: Can you spell instability?
Amid calls for enhanced measures to safeguard financial stability, Professor Daniela Gabor and other civil society participants cautioned that the World Bank’s Maximising Finance for Development (MFD) approach and the G20 and Bank’s drive to create infrastructure as an asset class are contradictory to this aim, in addition to raising significant human rights concerns as outlined by the UN. An October letter signed by nearly one hundred academics from around the world highlighted another critical concern about MFD (see Observer Summer 2017), namely that it brings shadow banking into development. The letter argued that the consequences of the MFD agenda go well beyond project-level impacts, stressing that “it seeks to re-engineer poor countries’ financial systems around capital markets that can attract global investors. This deliberate re-engineering of financial systems threatens progress on the SDGs.”
Pre-existing fears of a counter-productive, if potentially initially lucrative (for some), push for the securitisation of development finance through, for example, the transformation of infrastructure into an asset class, and an anti-democratic reordering of the multilateral system were reinforced by the G20 Eminent Persons Group’s (EPG) report on Global Financial Governance, which was submitted to the G20 finance ministers in Bali. As a Heinrich Boell Foundation report stressed, the proposed division of labour proposed by the EPG’s report would continue to side-line the UN system and would likely further “diminish country ownership and repress civil society” by, inter-alia, the “[streamlining of] decision-making within the system” as is the case in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Echoing concerns raised by the letter submitted by international academics, Heinrich Boell’s report stressed the threats posed by the proposed securitisation of development assistance, noting that, “Securitization is not possible without ‘de-risking’ development projects, but this can involve transferring unsustainable risks from the private to the public sector.”
The Bank’s much-criticised 2019 World Development Report on the changing nature of work further highlights contradictions between the call for greater financial stability that can only be achieved through more equitable and inclusive growth and the Bank’s continued bias toward de-regulated and increased financialised private sector ‘solutions’. The report’s many dubious assumptions and “fuzzy math” as critiqued by ITUC’s Peter Bakvis, (similar critiques of methodology apply to the Human Capital Index), and a Bank official’s casual comments that they don’t like using the term ‘decent work’ as it implies there is such a thing as ‘indecent work’, bring into question the degree to which the Bank is able to meet the Development Committee’s call for the provision of “evidence-based policymaking” (see Development Committee communiqué analysis). Meanwhile, the IMF emphasised worker protections in light of a new report on technological change disproportionately impacting women in the workforce. The divergence between IMF and Bank positions became even more awkward on a CSPF panel on the ‘rePPPeating’ failures of public private partnerships, where IMF staff largely acknowledged CSO concerns while the World Bank declined an invitation to attend.
Given the potentially significant negative developmental, human rights and macroeconomic consequences of the Bank’s approach, many within civil society were disheartened to see that the general capital increase for the IBRD and IFC (the Bank’s middle-income and private sector lending arms, respectively) continued to move forward without addressing the urgent need to review and realign staff incentives and to imbed the Bank’s operations within an explicit World Bank human rights policy (see Observer Summer 2018).
The Human Capital Project: What human rights and state obligations?
The Human Capital Project (HCP) and Index (HCI) were launched to much fanfare in Bali, where meetings and discussions on the very important topics of health and education financing managed the difficult task of avoiding a focus on human rights instruments and state obligations. While the HCI was criticised in some corners, as expected it received a largely positive reception among those who were willing to discount its methodological and theoretical shortcomings (see Observer Autumn 2018). There was little critical commentary on the historically dubious assertions that South Korea and Singapore (both of which do well in the Index, while Singapore scores in the bottom ten of Oxfam’s latest Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index) owe their current status to a focus on health and education or about how the HCP will help countries address the structural barriers to development that go well beyond human capital deficits. Neither was much made of the fact that the HCP was launched alongside an explicit drive for increased IFC support for private sector involvement in health and education and the Development Committee’s support for “new financing approaches” in light of “financial constraints”.
Bali: Imposed silence beyond the gilded halls
The situation in this year’s host country, which many blame on the long-term involvement of Bank and Fund policies, has left Indonesians with little to cheer, as made evident by recent reports, critiques and alternative events held at the side-lines of the meetings (see Observer Autumn 2018).
Indonesian civil society issues ranged from broad critiques to efforts to hold their government and the World Bank accountable for the deficient implementation of the old and new Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) in Indonesia. During a CSPF event, civil society raised myriad concerns, including on forced displacement, lack of access to relevant information, environmental harm and the intimidation by security forces during ESF consultations, only to be waved off by Bank officials as being “misinformed”.
Concerns about intimidation in response to criticism became increasingly poignant throughout the week, as reports flooded in accusing the Government of Indonesia and Balinese police forces for continually disrupting and intimidating the independent civil society initiative of the People’s Global Conference Against the IMF and World Bank (PGC). It was alleged that PGC participants and organisers received anonymous death threats and were tagged as ‘terrorists’. The fact that these events took place on the side-lines of the Bank and Fund’s flagship event, under the spotlight of global media, where one would expect some protection of peaceful critical voices, illustrates very clearly the urgency of addressing persistent concerns about the closure of civil society space and silencing of critical voices.
The Annual Meetings in Bali were marred by these repressive actions and the Bretton Woods Project stands in solidarity with civil society worldwide and the PGC in particular as they struggle to make their voices heard.
Demonstrating the resilience of civil society under pressure, civil society participants from feminist groups resisting the IMF and World Bank’s policies for their harm to women’s rights and gender equality closed the week on an uplifting and inspirational note with a feminist carnival on the sidelines of the official meetings.
In its 38th meeting communiqué, reflecting the 2018 World Economic Outlook, the IMFC took a more bleak position than it had in the Spring, noting that some of the risks previously identified were now partially being realised. Thus, despite strong global growth, the IMFC focused on a growing laundry list of concerns, including rising trade tensions, geopolitical strains, tighter financial conditions, policy uncertainty, historically high debt levels, rising financial vulnerabilities and limited policy space. The Committee echoed Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde’s urgent call for action that, “we need to steer the boat, not drift … as the global economic weather is beginning to change”, noting that the “window of opportunity” identified at the Spring Meetings is narrowing. In order to provide much-needed confidence, the IMFC declared that it “will act promptly…to advance policies and reforms to protect the expansion, mitigate risks, rebuild policy space, enhance resilience, and raise medium-term growth prospects,” adding some more policy depth to their communiqué.
Without reference to Argentina or Turkey and likely reflecting persistent US allegations of Chinese currency manipulation, the Committee recognised, “that excessive volatility or disorderly movements in exchange rates can have adverse implications for economic and financial stability.” It went on, “We will refrain from competitive devaluations and will not target our exchange rates for competitive purposes.” In regard to the Fund’s role in the ongoing trade disputes, the communiqué noted that the Fund, “will work together to reduce excessive global imbalances in a way that supports sustainable global growth.”
The Committee highlighted the need for “appropriate policy responses” such as “avoiding procyclicality” and “raising the quality of infrastructure and workforce skills.” In urging progress on financial and structural reforms, in a departure from the last couple of communiques, the IMFC stressed the need to “effectively [assist] those bearing the cost of adjustment”, as well as the implementation of the financial sector reform agenda, and pledged to “address challenges from demographic shifts and enhance inclusion.” The communique also highlighted the need to guard against fragmentation of financial regulation. While the IMFC’s continued support for tax cooperation efforts, whereby it was unsurprisingly silent on long-standing civil society demands for a UN intergovernmental tax commission (see Observer Spring 2018), and inequality was less visibly on the agenda than previous years, more communiqué real-estate was dedicated to the IMF working on climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies, as well as to the new IMF and World Bank Bali Fintech Agenda, launched during the Annual Meetings.
On debt vulnerabilities, in light of the emerging debt crisis in low-income countries, and reflecting the advice of the 2018 Fiscal Monitor, the IMFC called on the IMF to focus on enhancing debt transparency and, perhaps informed by the recent Mozambican crisis (see Observer Summer 2018), sustainable financing practices by both public and private debtors and creditors. The IMFC also committed to “strengthen creditor coordination in debt restructuring situations, drawing on existing fora”, bringing to light the uncertainty of coordinating debt restructuring in a new environment in which the Paris Club is no longer the only major creditor in town and coordination with China must be considered. The focus on “existing fora” seems once again to disregard long-standing civil society calls for a multilateral legal framework for debt restructuring.
On trade, in addition to once again reaffirming the conclusions of the 2017 G20 Hamburg Summit on trade, the IMFC recognised the need to “step up dialogue and actions” including on “ways to improve the WTO to face current and future challenges”, amidst what Lagarde earlier called a “flurry of welcome discussions and proposals to strengthen the WTO.” It also called on the IMF to enhance its work in defense of trade, as with its recent joint work with the WTO and World Bank. The focus on WTO reforms seemingly ignored the dire warnings of Ernesto Zedillo of Yale University expressed on a trade panel, arguing that discussions on WTO reforms look frivolous in the face of the existential threat the WTO faces by the recent action taken by the current US administration, to which Lagarde responded he “might be very right”.
The IMFC also welcomed a number of internal reviews that civil society organisations have been closely following, including the 2020 comprehensive surveillance review, the ongoing conditionality review, the development of a strategic framework on social protection, the upcoming SDG review, and the implementation of management’s plan in response to the Independent Evaluation Office’s recent evaluation on fragile states. The completion of the 15th General Review of Quotas, aimed at increasing voting shares for emerging and developing countries, is expected to be completed in 2019.
Finally, the now familiar support for increasing gender diversity in the IMF’s executive board was once again included, with three women out of 24 IMF executive directors currently serving. Perhaps the message did not sound convincing coming from an IMFC meeting, which attendance records showed included one woman out of 24 governors and alternates.
The G20 did not issue a communiqué at the World Bank and IMF 2018 Annual Meetings in Bali, but Nicolás Dujovne, Argentine Minister of the Treasury, did give a press briefing on 12 October, outlining key points of the discussions that ministers had undertaken during their two-day meeting, the Fourth of Argentina’s G20 presidency.
According to the G20’s press release, “During the meeting, which was held on the margins of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank annual meetings, over 50 heads of delegation held sessions on international financial architecture; the Compact with Africa initiative, launched under the 2017 G20 to promote private investment in the African continent; and the agenda on financial inclusion.”
The recent debt crises in Argentina and Turkey were euphemistically alluded to by Dujovne in his opening statement of the press briefing: “As monetary policy continues to normalize in advanced economies, financial conditions tighten in emerging ones, and several emerging economies have experienced market volatility.” As Argentina received the largest IMF bailout in the institution’s history in July this was indeed an understatement (see Observer Summer 2018). Additionally, interest rates rises by the United States have raised the prospect of wider debt crisis contagion in countries already expressing debt distress, according to the IMF (see Dispatch Annual Meetings 2018).
On mounting trade tensions between G20 members, namely the US and China, Dujovne commented, “We agreed that international trade is an important engine of growth, and we need to resolve tensions which can negatively affect market sentiment and increase financial volatility.” In response to a question from a journalist about the G20’s reaction to US protectionism, Dujovne said, “The G20 can play a role in providing the ground for the discussion, but of course the differences that still persist should be resolved by the [G20] members that are directly involved in the tensions.”
With the prospect of market volatility and trade tensions undermining the global economy’s fragile post-crisis recovery, the G20 remained determined to elevate investments in large-scale infrastructure as a key driver of growth. Dojovne said, “given [infrastructure’s] importance for economic prosperity, sustainable development and inclusive growth, … we have focused on how to catalyze private sector investment in infrastructure by putting in place the necessary conditions to develop infrastructure as an asset class.”
An open letter signed by more than 90 academics, and released on the eve of the G20 meetings, raised concerns about the G20’s move to promote infrastructure as an asset class, which is seen as operationalising the World Bank’s Maximising Finance for Development (MFD) approach (see Observer Summer 2017). The letter noted: “the new strategy for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is to use shadow banking to create ‘investable’ opportunities in infrastructure, water, health or education and thus attract the trillions in global institutional investment. … Bringing shadow banking into development doesn’t just promote the privatization of public services, but may usher in permanent austerity along the lines of ‘privatizing gains, socializing losses’. More fundamentally, it seeks to re-engineer poor countries’ financial systems around capital markets that can attract global investors.” Completing the G20’s push to standardise infrastructure as an asset class will now be the job of Japan’s G20 presidency in 2019.
Standardising infrastructure as an asset class was just one of the recommendations of a report released by the G20 Eminent Persons Group (EPG) in tandem with the ministerial meetings. The report also called for steps to be taken to increase standardisation across IFIs, in order to enhance the coordination between themselves, private investors and large NGOs and philanthropies more generally. The report claimed, “Governance reforms within the IFIs themselves should cut back on today’s significant overlap between Board and Management responsibilities. They should enable Boards to focus more on strategic priorities” – raising concerns that this may lead to less board oversight of individual project approval.
On this and other issues, the G20 appears to have the right diagnosis of macroeconomic ills, but the wrong prescription for how to ensure its reforms are aligned with people-focused, sustainable development.
The World Bank and IMF Development Committee met in Bali on 13 October within the context of the Annual Meetings held in Indonesia. The Committee’s mandate is to “advise the Boards of Governors of the Bank and the Fund on critical development issues and on the financial resources required to promote economic development in developing countries.”
The Committee began by highlighting that, despite being robust, global growth has been uneven. This trend is in danger of being exacerbated by the dynamics identified in the IMF’s World Economic Outlook report, which found that the combination of tightened monetary policy in the US, lacklustre productive growth, and ongoing policy uncertainty and trade disputes represent the materialisation of ‘headwinds’ identified in April. The Fund projected slower growth in developed and many important emerging economies for 2019 and beyond.
Relatedly, the Committee noted its concern about public and private debt, in line with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde’s caution that, “with global and public debt, private and public, at an all‑time high, any slight change in the wind could provoke capital outflows and economic instability in emerging markets as we see in some of those markets.” In an apparent reference to China, the Committee called for “more transparent lending practices”. In contrast to long-standing civil society calls for a multilateral legal framework for debt restructuring, the communiqué urged the Bank and Fund to “strengthen creditor coordination in debt restructuring situations, drawing on existing fora.”
While the Committee highlighted concerns about increasing debt, global uncertainty and financial instability, and referenced the importance of domestic resource mobilisation, it seemed to contradict these by strongly encouraging the Bank’s heavily criticised Maximising Finance for Development (MFD) approach (see Observer Summer 2017), the increasingly reliance on fintech -which it recognised may also “pose risks to financial stability, integrity, and consumer and investor protection” – and the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC, the Bank’s private sector investment arm) efforts to “create markets.” As professor Daniela Gabor and a group of global academics noted, the proposed MFD framework is at odds with the search for increased stability and policy space outlined in the communiqué.
Reflecting the considerable attention lavished on the newly launched Human Capital Project and Index during the meetings (see Observer Autumn 2018), the Committee stated its support for the Bank’s “emphasis on … more effective and inclusive investments in better learning and health outcomes.” In a significant understatement, it recognised “the potential for further methodological refinements.” Civil society fears that the human capital project will result in further privatisation of essential services, with the communiqué noting that, “Given the strains on public finance systems, new approaches will be required.”
Again, seemingly without irony given deepening fears over inequitable growth and the various concerns raised about the methodology underpinning this year’s World Development Report on the changing nature of work, the Development Committee welcomed the report, highlighting the need for “evidence-based policy making”. Without reference to state obligations under international law and contrary to the rights-based UN approach to universal provision (see Observer Spring 2017), the Committee noted that “effective revenue mobilization strategies and approaches” should support “health and education systems with universal coverage”. Seemingly further supporting a minimalist approach to the provision of social protection, the communiqué also encouraged the Bank to help clients develop systems that build “incentives for work.”
Referring to the agreed General Capital Increase for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, the Bank’s middle-income lending arm) and IFC, the Committee thanked the Board of Governors for “submitting the draft resolutions on the IBRD and IFC capital increases to Governors.” It also welcomed “the adoption of the IBRD capital increase resolutions” and expressed encouragement at “the rapid pace of approvals of the IFC resolutions” and “the ongoing efforts by shareholders to secure outstanding adoptions.” No mention was made of the need for reform of staff incentive structures and the establishment of a robust human rights policy to anchor Bank programming (see Observer Summer 2018).
The Committee concluded by expressing its appreciation to the Government of Indonesia for hosting the meeting, a sentiment not shared by the organisers of alternative civil society-led events such as the People’s Global Conference Against the IMF and World Bank, which “strongly [condemned] the repressive measures taken by the Indonesian government to derail the PGC.” As the PGC organisers highlighted throughout the meetings through social media and other channels, the events they worked so hard to organise to provide critical voices an opportunity to voice their peaceful dissent of World Bank and IMF policies, were targeted and closed down by Indonesian authorities using a variety of means. As if any additional evidence were necessary, the struggles of the PGC on the side-lines of the Bank and Fund’s flagship event, where civil society participants could have expected some protection arising from the events global visibility, highlighted the plight of critical civil society voices and the extent of the much-talked about “closure of civil society space”.
The Intergovernmental Group of Twenty-Four on International Monetary Affairs and Development (G24) held its 100th meeting in Indonesia during the IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings and published its communiqué on 11 October. In a similar vein to the it’s predecessor in April, and in line with growing concerns from civil society about the uneven distribution of growth, the communiqué stressed that, “While the recovery of global growth continues, risks have shifted to the downside.”
The G24 was far from alone in using the Bali Annual Meetings to highlight its concern at the global economic outlook. Yet despite the difficulties ahead, from the diversification of global creditors to unsustainable debt levels, geopolitical tensions dominated the meetings – particularly concerning the capacity of emerging market and developed economies (EMDEs) to adapt to the risks that are materialsing – signalling troubled waters ahead amidst a growing crisis of multilateralism. Sadly, the G20 Eminent Persons Group’s (EPG) report on Global Financial Governance, which was submitted to the G20 finance ministers in Bali, seems to indicate that the G20 plans to address the crisis of multilateralism through its own version of the ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of anti-democratic global governance, as highlighted by a recent Heinrich Boell Foundation report.
Given that EMDEs are likely to continue to shoulder the lion’s share of the consequences of the trends that preoccupied the meetings, significant portions of the communiqué were dedicated to urging greater and more equitable support from developed economies and more equitable power distribution within the Bank and Fund. Demands for change ranged from long-standing calls for quota reform benefiting EMDEs in both the Fund and Bank (and the establishment of a third chair for Sub-Saharan Africa without it being at the expense of an EMDE chair), increased access limits to the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust, a call for a reversal of falling official development assistance to low-income countries (LICs) and the elimination of the accelerated clause for International Development Association (IDA, the Bank’s low-income lending arm) graduates.
In recognition of existing challenges, the G24 stressed that, “We are concerned with the uncertainty from the trade tensions and protectionist sentiments that further cloud our growth outlook”, adding that it recognises the urgency of domestic policy actions to strengthen resilience and stating that it is “ready to participate in global efforts to improve the global trading system so that it facilitates sustainable development, ensures a fair distribution of benefits and keeps pace with technological change.”
Rising concerns about global debt vulnerabilities feature heavily in the communiqué, which urges the international financial community to strengthen its support of developing countries’ efforts to deal with the interrelated challenges of debt and growth, calling for “stronger and faster action from the IMF, World Bank Group (WBG), multilateral partners and donors on capacity building for fiscal and debt management, improving debt transparency and developing domestic capital markets.” As the Bretton Woods Project Annual Meetings Preamble highlighted, ten years on from the 2008 global financial crisis, global debt stands at $250 trillion and, according to IMF research, only one in five LICs has a low risk of plunging into a debt crisis, as average debt-to-GDP ratios in LICs exceed 40 per cent with no sign of retreat.
The call for great support to EMDEs on the debt management front has been strongly supported by civil society throughout the years. Progress to date however remains decidedly mixed. Despite the IMF embarking on a 2017 Debt Sustainability Review in an effort to alleviate some of these concerns amidst mounting debt, its outcome was heavily criticised by debt justice campaigners who accused the IMF of tinkering around the edges in the face of the looming debt crisis (see Observer Winter 2017-2018). Additionally, this year the IMF published the outcome of its LICs facilities review. While some of the demands set out by a joint civil society consultation response were met, others – such as the creation of an independent debt relief mechanism – were not, leaving lingering concerns about soaring levels of global debt and economic volatility.
The communiqué does however call for IMF and WBG to support developing countries vulnerable to natural disasters, including by “utilizing innovative approaches to help countries build resilience and unlock climate change financing.” The recommendation chimes with the LICs facilities review consultation response which calls on the IMF to support countries vulnerable to natural disasters.
On private finance, in spite of the array of civil society concerns on the current approach, such as those articulated in a letter signed by eminent international academics, the G24, noting that “private financed for infrastructure and development is unlikely to reach the scale [needed]… to support the Sustainable Development Goals,” called on multilateral development banks (MDBs) to “harness the untapped potential to pool and diversify risks across the MDB system, create new asset classes for private investors and draw on their respective strengths to maximize development impact in supporting country-led programs” adding a call to “urgently scale up their financing ambition and development effectiveness.” This call is disturbingly in line with the EPG report, which was heavily critised by the Heinrich Boell Foundation for its detrimental focus on counter-productive, if potentially lucrative initially (for some), promotion of the securitisation of development finance through, for example, the transformation of infrastructure into an asset class. The EPG report was also criticised by Heinrich Boell for endorsing an anti-democratic reordering of the multilateral system at the expense of the UN and the likelihood it would further “diminish country ownership and repress civil society” by, inter-alia, the “[streamlining of] decision-making within the system” as is the case in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Echoing concerns raised by the letter submitted by international academics, the report stresses the threats posed by the proposed securitisation of development assistance, noting “Securitization is not possible without “de-risking” development projects, but this can involve transferring unsustainable risks from the private to the public sector.”
The communiqué’s call for the creation of new asset classes to attract (mostly foreign) investment follows two damning reports released in January and March, exposing the scale of damage caused by public private partnerships (PPPs) in the UK and Europe and civil society report detailing the consequences of 10 failed PPP projects. These reports add more weight to broader concerns around private finance, from debt sustainability to the creation of extractivist and dependent economies, ultimately posing a threat to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (see Observer Winter 2017).
With regards to IMF surveillance, the communiqué noted that “a continued even-handed and context-based assessment of macro-prudential and capital flow management measures is important to support countries in implementing appropriate measures to ensure financial stability.” This is particularly important given the upcoming IMF surveillance review. The surveillance review takes place in light of this year’s conditionality review, which saw over 50 civil society organisations send a letter calling on the IMF to drastically rethink its conditionality stating that, “restrictive fiscal and monetary policies prescribed in IMF loan conditionality squeeze the fiscal space needed for public investment and too often result in devastating consequences – particularly for marginalised groups – at high political cost.” This year alone, mass demonstrations specifically targeting IMF programmes have taken place in, amongst others, Argentina, Egypt, Haiti, Sri Lanka and Tunisia (see Observer Summer 2018).
The communiqué further states that the G24, “look forward to the Fund’s actions to enhance engagement with fragile states”, giving further weight to the recent Independent Evaluation Office report on fragile states, like Haiti, which found that the IMF’s financial toolkit is “not inherently well suited to the circumstances of fragile states” (see Observer Summer 2018).
Of particular importance to the upcoming delayed 15th general review of quota, the G24 finished by stressing concern for the delayed process and calling on the IMF and the WBG to “strengthen their efforts toward addressing the severe under-representation of some regions and countries in recruitment and career progression, including at the managerial levels.” Civil society has long called for a voting system that moves away from the unequal weighting that prioritises wealth over democracy, fuelling a sense of lost confidence from low income member states and squeezing the space for a diversity of voices.
October 15, 2018
An annotated digest of the top "Hacker" "News" posts for the second week of October, 2018.
October 08, 2018 (comments)
Google left your shit out in the rain, and has prepared an interpretive security dance to distract you. Hackernews solemnly praises the terrible unwanted trash product at the center of the latest mishap, and writes some fanfiction about which other trash products might copy parts of Google's failed attempt.
October 09, 2018 (comments)
A bureaucrat pontificates about getting work done when you don't care about it. All of the suggested approaches are based on pop psychology and buzzwords; the term 'self-discipline' does not occur once in the entire article. This omission makes it extremely attractive to Hackernews, who gleefully detail all of the grotesque habits they've ritualized in pursuit of the ability to emulate fully-functional human beings. The party continues until one weirdo shows up and complains that the only successful approach is engaging with other human beings, so Hackernews convenes an intervention panel to diagnose what disgusting malfunction could possibly have led to his bizarre behavior.
October 10, 2018 (comments)
Microsoft sneaks into the henhouse. Hackernews is torn between excitement at the prospect of being able to clone software they wrote at their last jobs and a creeping unease whenever the memory surfaces of the last eight hundred times someone tried to cooperate with Microsoft. The former group is pleased with the extensive list of half-assed standards they are now free to port to node.js, and the latter group starts a fistfight about some guy who landed in the pokey for selling copied Windows discs.
October 11, 2018 (comments)
The Soyuz campaigns to be renamed Pаспускать. Hackernews has nothing of value to contribute to this event, so they spend the afternoon constructing narratives of the proceedings based on Twitter posts. When that gets dull they start mining Wikipedia for trivia to report in the manner of baseball commentators reading player stats during a slow game.
October 12, 2018 (comments)
An Internet documents a commonly-used protocol, then shows up in the comments to announce the use of a CDN to serve a single static page of HTML. The vote-to-comment ratio on this article is in excess of ten to one, which means Hackernews bookmarked this page but has not yet actually read it.
October 13, 2018 (comments)
An Internet has a plan to make children even more noisy and clumsy than they already are. Interpol is dispatching teams to haul the author back to The Hague to answer for this crime. Hackernews takes a break to reminisce about old websites, trading links to a few on the grounds that there is no search engine worth a shit. The rest of the Hackernews discuss how important hearing is, as though that is surprising information which needs explicit mention. A few Hackernews are extremely excited about date calculations.
October 14, 2018 (comments)
A webshit announces a breakthrough plan to acquire customers: talk to people and find out what they want, then sell it to them. Hackernews scoffs at this naive and ridiculous approach. They don't have any real reason to believe it can't work, but this is the only medium.com thinkpiece advocating it, so it is Obviously Wrong. The author shows up and only engages with Hackernews asking productive questions, which further enrages the rest. Buried within the bottom third of the comment page are the posts from other people who have taken similar approaches and met with success. Nobody replies.
October 12, 2018
INVOICES OF MATERIALS BOUGHT FROM CHINA BY LINUX FRIENDS
The Advance class and the Hardware class of the Association of Linux Friends intends to build a 3Dprinter from scratch, Repairs, Robotics, all for our workshops. That is the reason why this materials have been ordered from China.
Wednesday 10-10-18, we had a presentation from Shipu Fabian a student of the Advanced class. This presentation was on an App he created called To Do List using Django. On this App, the user can write a list of things he/she wishes to do, serving as a reminder. We will have another presentation the following week from another student of this class.
Also, Still on this day, advance class student of the Association went to Buea to meet with the organizers of the Silicon Mountain Conference so that they can be included on the list of presenter that will present on both software and hardware.
To add, our intention to be part of this conference is to expose the Advance class students to potential people who are using their technology to produce what they are able to used, for example we used our 3Dprinter to produce raspberry cassing.
Above all we want to thank Patrick Bauman for surporting us with the projector we are using now in the Advance class.
October 11, 2018
I was having a look through SpiderMonkey's source code today and found something interesting about how it represents heap objects and wanted to share.
Incidentally, JSC's implementation was taken from V8. V8's was taken from Dart. Dart's was taken from Go. We might take SpiderMonkey's from Scheme48. Good times, right??
When seeing if SpiderMonkey could use this same strategy, I couldn't find how to make a variable-sized GC-managed allocation. It turns out that in SpiderMonkey you can't do that! SM's memory management system wants to work in terms of fixed-sized "cells". Even for objects that store properties inline in named slots, that's implemented in terms of standard cell sizes. So if an object has 6 slots, it might be implemented as instances of cells that hold 8 slots.
Truly variable-sized allocations seem to be managed off-heap, via malloc or other allocators. I am not quite sure how this works for GC-traced allocations like arrays, but let's assume that somehow it does.
Anyway, the point of this blog post. I was looking to see which part of SpiderMonkey reserves space for type information. For example, almost all objects in V8 start with a "map" word. This is the object's "hidden class". To know what kind of object you've got, you look at the map word. That word points to information corresponding to a class of objects; it's not available to store information that might vary between objects of that same class.
Interestingly, SpiderMonkey doesn't have a map word! Or at least, it doesn't have them on all allocations. Concretely, BigInt values don't need to reserve space for a map word. I can start storing data right from the beginning of the object.
But how can this work, you ask? How does the engine know what the type of some arbitrary object is?
But not all heap objects need to have these words. Strings, for example, are values rather than objects, and in SpiderMonkey they just have a small type code rather than a map word. But you know it's a string rather than something else in two ways: one, for "newborn" objects (those in the nursery), the GC reserves a bit to indicate whether the object is a string or not. (Really: it's specific to strings.)
For objects promoted out to the heap ("tenured" objects), objects of similar kinds are allocated in the same memory region (in kind-specific "arenas"). There are about a dozen trace kinds, corresponding to arena kinds. To get the kind of object, you find its arena by rounding the object's address down to the arena size, then look at the arena to see what kind of objects it has.
There's another cell bit reserved to indicate that an object has been moved, and that the rest of the bits have been overwritten with a forwarding pointer. These two reserved bits mostly don't conflict with any use a derived class might want to make from the first word of an object; if the derived class uses the first word for integer data, it's easy to just reserve the bits. If the first word is a pointer, then it's probably always aligned to a 4- or 8-byte boundary, so the low bits are zero anyway.
The upshot is that while we won't be able to allocate digits inline to BigInt objects in SpiderMonkey in the general case, we won't have a per-object map word overhead; and we can optimize the common case of digits requiring only a word or two of storage to have the digit pointer point to inline storage. GC is about compromise, and it seems this can be a good one.
Well, that's all I wanted to say. Looking forward to getting BigInt turned on upstream in Firefox!
October 10, 2018
- IFC CEO Philippe le Houerou
- CSOs: Public Lead Aid network Myanmar, Oxfam, Philippines Climate Change CAO complaint, Bretton Woods Project, SOMO, BIC-Europe, Mongolia CSO representative
Session Summary: This Q&A session focused on IFC’s commitments with regards to climate after the publication of the IPCC report.
Opening remarks – What is the IFC doing on climate:
In 2008 20 percent of IFC projects focused on climate while in 2018 this number raised to 36 percent, six percent more than the 30 percent target announced at the Annual Meetings in Peru. Since May the IFC has introduced systematic carbon pricing (40-80 per tonne), although in IDA this pricing will go on lower range. By 2030 the goal is an upper range of $100 p/tonne. The IFC has focused on energy efficiency with programmes across 140 countries.
Regarding Financial Intermediaries the IFC work was highly problematic. Now across all financial intermediary lending 95 percent of investments is targeted, addressing a key CSO concern, and focused on SMEs, which generate 90 percent of jobs. This is reached with two approaches: first, no coal exposure and second, investing in Banks that have coal to ‘green investment’.
With regards to transparency, the IFC agreed that it could do a pilot with likeminded banks or use sustainable bank network which engages regulators. To lead it is necessary to engage and drive process forward.
Public Lead Aid network Myanmar representative: (Regarding FI) 2003 IFIs was seen as too risk adverse, there was no IFC lending; Now there is quite a large presence, but risk aversion continues. What can be done to boost local private sector? In addition, MNCs are taking opportunities from IFC perhaps shutting out local actors.
Le Houerou: IFC is focused on both. It is true that international partners have more capacity, as they are better able to meet standards. This is particularly true of complex projects – rather than ‘learning by doing’. Ex: two-year work with hotel project to ensure standards. Standards are designed to allow IFC to support upward movement. He acknowledges that difficult choices arise, this is quite difficult on the ground.
Oxfam representative: Welcomed the new blog and announcement regarding IFC’s new policy towards working with commercial banks, investment funds, and other financial institutions to shed coal from their investment portfolios. The IFC will try to green banks. Is there a ceiling in the amount of coal exposure? Will all clients, including existing clients, be required to reveal exposure?
Le Houerou: Still working on new parameters. No details to share now.
Philippines Climate Change CAO complaint representative: CEO has made many statements including commitments to exit investments, focus on improved transparency. Since then four new coal power plants online. Request once more that IFC to divest from FIs that don’t comply with WB commitment.
IFC regional representative: The IFC is doing only Green Bond in the region. As for RCBC, most plants predate IFC investment – now also increasingly focused on renewables.
BWP: About fragile and conflict-affected situations
Le Houerou: New strategy – changing the way the institution works, realising that approach must change to be much more proactive. Examples: scaling solar project, 4c Kw/hr; also Ethiopia: scaling health, agro-business, work on local capital markets.
BWP: India – Powerplant project – justify the investment. MB Power Project
Le Houerou: In IFC investment banks very low percent are invested in coal, however the IFC understands that Philippines has high concentration – 40% of energy produced by coal
SOMO: (about CAO discussions) Expects review to also address IFC’s role in the complaint process. If there is one thing that you could change about IFC role, what would you do?
Le Houerou: Everything now goes to the Board, although the reform has not taken place. Review will be conducted by the Board.
BIC-Europe: Recognises the big and positive steps taken. Will the IFC follow the Bank on Oil and Gas?
Le Houerou: stated his believe in renewables but agreed on first doing coal. Gas is lesser of two evils; the transition is necessary. Disclosure is also required at sub-project level. Communities need access (knowledge) about CAO.
Mongolia cso representative: (regarding project design) To what extent are communities involved in project design? In Mongolia there is little opportunity to engage in design phase.
Le Houerou: Agrees that there should be more consultation. Does imply agreement, necessarily.
Oxfam: Also congratulated steps taken by IFC on FI. What would ‘scaling up’ health and education look like?
Le Houerou: No answer. (In reference to BIA) jury is still out. Throwing money at the problem is not enough. Need to try new things. Do not have ready-made solutions. He stated that he have seen public service fail to deliver – having grown up in Africa. Last year had a record year of $23 billion. That is nothing compared to $4 trillion ‘allegedly’ required – need to go from Billions to Trillions. Money is there, sitting on the side-lines, need to develop pipeline of bankable projects. 100 trillion under management in OECD countries.
October 09, 2018
October 08, 2018
An annotated digest of the top "Hacker" "News" posts for the first week of October, 2018.
October 01, 2018 (comments)
Some librarians come to the aid of hundreds of thousands of disinterested middle-school essays. Hackernews takes the mention of the Internet Archive as an opportunity to gaze into a parallel universe where people use computers in a sustainable manner to accomplish specific goals. None of them expect to live in that world, but the knowledge of its existence provides a dim flicker of optimism in the ridiculous hateful hell planet that Hackernews builds for us professionally.
October 02, 2018 (comments)
A journalist discovers that a relatively small number of people have figured out how to use tools to do more work. Because the tools are computers, most of those people have been fired. Hackernews set out to explore the labor theory of value, but gets sidetracked arguing whether "Hacker" "News" comments are objective inquests into the nature of humanity or just a pack of assholes arguing on the internet. The next series of comments bemoan how all the bosses are mean, and all that remains is reflection on how much smarter programmers are than everyone else.
October 03, 2018 (comments)
A webshit swims into a specific corner of the cesspit of trash technology engendered by the webshit industry. Hackernews knows exactly what to do with a technical article about webshit: start a pissing match about who is the most committed to this particular abusive relationship. Some Hackernews realize what an irretrievable train wreck the web has become, but without exception they believe the solution is to tear it down and replace it ... with the exact same ass festival, only written by Hackernews.
October 04, 2018 (comments)
Some journalists declare that China is ratfucking Amazon. Hackernews absolutely refuses to believe this for several reasons, among which are "nobody told me," "Amazon pinky-swears that AWS is fine," and "this would be bad so it couldn't have happened." The prevailing opinion is that Apple and Amazon would not have issued denials if they were working with the US government, because they would be punished for lying... by the US government. The rest of the comments are a painful pageant of Hackernews pretending to understand motherboard electronics just slightly more than they actually do.
October 05, 2018 (comments)
An academic confirms that yesterday's description of the alleged ratfucking is indeed feasible. Hackernews is so concerned about this news that they can barely muster the effort to "yes, and" the article. Furious nailbiting occurs when some Hackernews realize that none of the corporate denials actually deny the events described in the original article. A collective sigh of relief can be heard as they finally realize the proper response: whataboutism.
October 06, 2018 (comments)
Microsoft takes out the trash. Hackernews is still salty that the original maker of a video game didn't give them the source code, selling them up the river for a mere billion dollars. The rest of the comments are Hackernews excitedly digging through the garbage.
October 07, 2018 (comments)
Some webshits, using only a web scraper and uniform resource locators, invent a replacement for web scrapers and uniform resource locators. Hackernews grapples with the idea of a piece of software capable of searching the world wide web. What good is it? What might it be used for? What's the business model? Confused and sullen, Hackernews moves on to the next webshit trinket.
October 07, 2018
Amid the hand-wringing about the rise of nationalism and populism, it’s easy to miss that the past two years have also produced surprising and useful shifts in global opinion. Even Donald Trump can be good news for the world.
Nowhere is this gestalt shift more evident than in how we approach policy dilemmas related to technology. The idea of “digital” as a magic, untouchable realm that was to bring prosperity to all, one disruption at a time, is now dead. The thorny questions are no longer the prerogative of affluent hippies at Wired magazine or TED talks; instead, they are returning to their original realms of international trade, national economic development and security.Continue reading...
October 06, 2018
En Calabria a pricipios del siglo pasado, cuando nacía una niña en una familia campesina, se plantaba un árbol. La madera de ese árbol servia, décadas después, para hacer los muebles de la casa matrimonial de la hija recién casada.
El abuelo de mi mujer dejó Calabria para emigrar a Argentina en 1955, y al llegar plantó un árbol para cada una de sus dos hijas. Un roble y un nogal.
Seis décadas después construí mi casa en ese terreno.
El nogal se cayó en una tormenta una semana antes de que tuviera que cortarlo para hacer lugar para los cimientos.
Este es el roble, uno de mis tesoros más preciados
October 05, 2018
Annual Meetings Preamble: 10 years after crisis, World Bank and IMF fight for relevance amidst mounting global economic pressure
From 12-14 October, Indonesia will host the 2018 Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Group (WBG). Yet, as the meetings are set to kick off, the mood is one of trepidation. Alarm bells are ringing amidst rising global debt, slow global economic growth and the threat of protectionism. Nationalism and tactical tensions between global powers have grown to reveal clear battle lines, factions and alliances that threaten the very system the Bank and Fund were created to protect.
The Annual Meetings will begin almost exactly a decade on from the day that Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy, remembered as a watershed moment in the 2008 global financial crisis. Ten years on and the long-awaited global recovery remains a far off dream, as a lethargic economy precariously balances on a dangerous concoction of nearly $250 trillion of global debt and monstrous liquidity injections, while an unregulated shadow banking sector swells to $160 trillion. The impact of the recent rise in US interest rates on already fragile economies adds further fuel to the fire.
In spite of the looming debt crisis and in the face of civil society demands (see Observer Winter 2017-2018), the custodians of financial stability are yet to deliver the radical steps needed to stave off another crisis, such as the creation of a long-awaited debt sustainability mechanism. Meanwhile, according to the IMF, only one in five low-income countries (LICs) has a low risk of plunging into a debt crisis, as average debt-to-GDP ratios in LICs exceed 40 per cent with no sign of retreat. Added to this, a fresh host of debt concerns, involving ever more creditors, have emerged, such as Mozambique’s $2 billion of secret loans.
The crisis of multilateralism
These developments take place amid a backdrop of a broader crisis of multilateralism, which threatens the very existence of international financial institutions (IFIs), not least the IMF and World Bank. As Wall Street bonuses bulged to an average of $184,000 in 2017 while debt vulnerabilities increased, austerity prevailed and inequality soared, trust in the institutions representing the status quo economics is crumbling (see Observer Summer 2018).
In Europe and America, from Brexit to Trump, opposition to conventional wisdom has primarily taken the form of populist radical right movements with a cherry-picked approach of protectionist economics, generating heightened global trade tensions. Meanwhile, China’s increased role as a global creditor continues to provoke hostility from the West – as was recently highlighted by US concerns around Pakistan owing a fifth of its total debt to China. This has triggered fresh debates on whether China is evolving into a neocolonial power, leading to counter-accusations of hypocrisy from those highlighting the West’s own prominent historical role in fostering debt dependency and policy intervention to its own benefit.
In an April address, the IMF’s Managing Director Christine Lagarde warned that, “The multilateral trade system has transformed our world over the past generation. But that system of rules and shared responsibility is now in danger of being torn apart. This would be an inexcusable, collective policy failure.”
Yet commenting on the reaction to the crisis of multilateralism, Richard Kozul-Wright of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) wrote, “The tragedy of our times is that just when bolder cooperation is needed to address the inequities of hyper-globalization, the drums of ‘free trade’ have drowned out the voices of those calling for a restoration of trust, fairness, and justice in the system. Without trust, there can be no cooperation.” Reviewing the line up of events scheduled for the annual meetings, it seems the Bank and Fund beg to differ, as they continue to bet on tinkering at the edges. As the World Bank prepares to formalise its general capital increase (GCI) in Bali, fears remain that the dramatic increase in capital in the absence of urgent changes in structures and policies may exacerbate existing problems for which it has long been criticised (see Observer Summer 2018).
IMF grapples with addressing inequality
Beyond these battle lines, global civil society opposition to the status quo policies of IMF programmes has strengthened. In the last year alone, mass demonstrations explicitly rejecting IMF programmes have taken place in, among others, Jordan, Argentina, Egypt, Haiti, Sri Lanka and Tunisia (see Observer Summer 2018).
Indeed, in response to its conditionality review, over 50 civil society organisations sent a letter calling on the IMF to drastically rethink its conditionality, stating that, “restrictive fiscal and monetary policies prescribed in IMF loan conditionality squeeze the fiscal space needed for public investment and too often result in devastating consequences – particularly for marginalised groups – at high political cost.”
Amid this growing civil unrest and quest for legitimisation, the IMF published new Staff Notes in June on operationalising gender, income inequality and social safeguards in its work, explicitly recognising that its own policies can exacerbate inequalities, as pointed out by civil society for decades (see Observer Summer 2018, Autumn 2018).
Jenny Ricks of the Fight Inequality Alliance, noted that, “at the annual meetings this year, people living on the frontlines of inequality will be making their voices heard. From Argentina to Tunisia and Haiti, and beyond, people are saying enough to IFI policies and programmes that fuel the inequality crisis.”
Adding to mounting pressure on the Bank and Fund, the Peoples’ Global Conference Against IMF-WB, an independent initiative of peoples’ movements and civil society groups, will meet in Bali with an alternative summit “resisting the IMF-WBG’s corporatization of development”.
PPPs, infrastructure and sustainable development – Indonesia as ground zero of private-public model
Since the launch of the Bank’s Maximising Finance for Development paradigm in 2017 (see Observer Summer 2017), civil society has continually raised concerns about the risks of this “development model” and questioned the underlying assumptions of the alleged financing gap it is meant to address, with over 90 CSOs calling for a moratorium on the Bank’s promotion of public-private partnerships (PPPs) in April (see Dispatch Spring 2018). According to new data from the World Bank, the East Asia and Pacific region is at the forefront of global trends of ‘crowding in’ private finance into large-scale infrastructure projects, attracting a record $49 billion in committed private investments in infrastructure in 2017 (or 53 per cent of the global share).
The Bank’s 2017 Private Participation in Infrastructure report noted that Indonesia, along with China, attracted the lion’s share of this investment, receiving “the…[region]’s second-highest level of investment in 2017, at US$15.5 billion … across only 11 projects. One high-speed railway project worth US$6.0 billion, and two coal megaprojects worth US$4.2 billion and US$2.2 billion, were the reason for Indonesia’s high investment level. Although in most countries, investment in renewables seems to be rising, in Indonesia, almost 90 percent of investment was in coal projects.” Given pressing concerns around climate change impacts, the country’s expensive coal investments are indicative of a wider regional development paradox, that sees rising energy needs occurring concurrently with many countries experiencing increased vulnerability to the effects of climate change.
CSOs have also questioned the cost-effectiveness of the PPPs model. A forthcoming joint CSO report compiling negative outcomes from 10 PPP projects in different sectors, and across four continents, some of which have been supported by the WBG, will be launched at this year’s Annual Meetings’ Civil Society Policy Forum, adding to an ever-growing body of evidence, such as that provided earlier this year by the UK’s National Audit Office and the European Court of Auditors, which question the logic of PPPs (see Observer Summer 2018).
The Human Capital Index: Pushing privatisation under the guise of development?
The Bali meetings will also see the launch of the Bank’s much-promoted Human Capital Index, which will rate countries on their investments in the human capital of their citizens when they depart school.
While few would doubt the need to invest in education and other essential development needs of children and youth in developing regions, the HCI is likely to do little to overcome acute development challenges linked to structural inequality and may indeed distract attention from equally pressing policy debates (see Observer Autumn 2018).
The HCI must be considered alongside other Bank country rankings, including the Doing Business Rankings, which have rewarded countries for deregulation of business and flexibilisation of labour markets, thus eroding labour rights and state revenue bases necessary to support the effective service delivery on which ‘human capital’ development in premised (see Observer Spring 2018). The Bank has also attracted considerable criticism for the forthcoming 2019 World Development Report on the changing nature of work from labour unions and others, who have accused the Bank of promoting further erosion of collective bargaining rights at the expense of business interests (see Observer Summer 2018).
CSOs are left to wonder how the HCI fits in to the wider matrix of Bank policies, and indeed whether it will prove to be an effective tool for ensuring students’ right to education in the poorest countries, when considered in tandem with the Bank’s financing of privatised education providers, such as Bridge International Academies (BIA), which uses computer tablets to deliver teaching curriculum at low-fee, for-profit schools it runs in developing countries. In March, 88 CSOs called for the International Finance Corporation (IFC, the Bank’s private sector arm) to divest from BIA, amidst a range of concerns about its operations, including failure to register its schools (see Observer Spring 2018). In April of this year, the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO, the IFC’s independent accountability mechanism) accepted a complaint related to BIA’s schools in Kenya, which “raises concerns about the Company’s compliance with Kenyan national curriculum requirements.”
During a pre-Annual Meetings speech at Stanford University in October on human capital and technology, WBG President Jim Yong Kim argued, “to build a great school system, based on teachers that go through a transformative education [system], takes 30-40 years, and … African countries don’t have that. So, can we use the greatest teachers in the world on tablet computers, and have [African] teachers learn as they’re actually in the classroom? I hope so, because that’s the greatest hope.”
October 04, 2018
This first week of the month of October has been a fruitful one for the Association of Linux Friends (ALF), Limbe. The following activities took place at the Association.
On Tuesday October 2nd 2018, the staff of the Association of Linux Friends (ALF), Limbe sat for a meeting. In this meeting, we discussed on a way forward to retaining the trainers of the Association. We will very much appreciate any contribution to solving this problem. This could be through comments under this article or through our email address email@example.com
The turnover rate of trainers in the Association has been very high. This will be a major objective of the Association of Linux Friends this academic year.
Wednesday October 3rd, we had a presentation on Django, a frame work for building webpages for example the school register. Kuh Shandine presented a school register which she designed using the application django.
Inaddition, on Thursday 04-10-18, the students of the advance class did an extension of the solar work station from table one to table two of their class. This means, more work space.
October 03, 2018
Tragicomedia a la mexicana y a la panameña contra defensores de #DerechosHumanos
La consideración de un traspatio de la Casa Blanca en #AméricaLatina : #México y #Panamá filtran personas en las fronteras según criterios políticos para criminalizar la defensa de los #DerechosHumanos.
Alejandro Cerezo, coordinador del proyecto Acción Urgente para Defensores de los Derechos Humanos (Acuddeh) fue interrogado y deportado durante un vuelo de tránsito en Panamá. Se dirigía a una conferencia en Paraguay pero fue obligado a regresar a México.
En su informe más reciente, Acuddeh documentó que la crisis de derechos humanos en México va en aumento : diariamente ocurren agresiones, detenciones arbitrarias, ejecuciones extrajudiciales y desapariciones forzadas.
October 02, 2018
Mexico: 50 Years After Tlatelolco Massacre, 50 Years of Impunity
October 01, 2018
An annotated digest of the top "Hacker" "News" posts for the last week of September, 2018.
September 22, 2018 (comments)
Japan has a satellite. Hackernews bikesheds its status page.
September 23, 2018 (comments)
A security professional who uses Wordpress explains that Chrome is just another weapon in Google's war against its own users. Google retaliates by causing the author's phone to route all trips via Monroe Street. Hackernews unhappily discusses the increasingly unavoidable impression that a massive multinational surveillance apparatus might not care about them personally. The implications of this topic are quickly subsumed by hundreds of idiots ranting about Google search results being some kind of political action, with the only reasonable countermeasure apparently being whining about it on web forums.
September 24, 2018 (comments)
The BBC displays a nearly 4chan-level ability to exhaustively research blurry pixels on the internet. Hackernews is flabbergasted that people can take various pictures and text and use them to construct a coherent narrative. Another Hackernews feels that the BBC is being unfairly mean to the people who slaughtered children on video. The next discussion thread contains several Hackernews expressing surprise that they can no longer maintain an attitude of impersonal indifference to horrible behavior once they have some means of relating to the victims. Perhaps there's a meaningful lesson to-- nah, fuck it, here's a hundred comments about how machine learning will obviate journalism real soon now.
September 25, 2018 (comments)
September 26, 2018 (comments)
Facebook continues the war against its own users. Hackernews is outraged that a business founded on collecting personal information and then using it to sell ads is using personal information to sell ads. According to Hackernews, there's a magical invisible aura attached to some personal information, which makes it unethical to use for advertising. No exhaustive list of such is provided. Having decided the moral argument is too tiring to pursue, Hackernews shifts gears and argues about whether all the glaring moral failures could be ameliorated by adding more software.
September 27, 2018 (comments)
A Reddit has a dipshit roommate. Hackernews appears to have previously been unaware that people do bad things with computers sometimes, and some of the more worldly Hackernews post links to other bad things like ghost stories around a campfire. In their defense, most of the bad things are implemented as a set of utilities to log user activity, send it to some unknown third party, then download and execute unvetted code directly on the victim's hardware, which also precisely describes the products that Hackernews make for a living. The confusion is only natural.
September 28, 2018 (comments)
Facebook makes new allies in the war against its own users. In case you forgot they're a PHP shop, they don't actually know how many accounts were affected or exactly what access the attackers had. Fortunately, the existing defense software functioned as intended, so Facebook users were not able to spread potentially share-price-damaging news like "Facebook got hacked." Hackernews bikesheds what they can discover of the "security" architecture at Facebook, but it's not clear whether they're actually trying to figure anything out or if it's all some kind of job-application performance art.
September 29, 2018 (comments)
A search engine has users. Hackernews talks about some of the search engine's features, their favorite being the one that takes them back to Google. Lots of huffy search engine connoisseurs declare that only Google is capable of displaying a list of documents that contain a specific string of text, and none of the political freedom fighters from the other thread show up to dispute this claim.
September 30, 2018 (comments)
A webshit asks some questions. Hackernews has only banal garbage and bickering to offer, so instead of summarizing that I'll just answer the questions. In order: because the upper bound of individual wealth is higher, because unregulated software engineers are more frequently involved, USA #1, concerted attack from ambitious underdogs, you won't if you know what's good for you, this question is meaningless because you can't generalize "people," it's the only city in Nordvärld, yes, nothing, more meaningless generalizations ("science"), they already are, with programming languages, there isn't one, make them cheaper, definitely not "the same thing but pirated," try understanding individuals instead of pigeonholing them with pop-psych trash, yes (let's make a webring!), because software engineering stopped advancing in the 1980s. Sure, the questions are actually meant to be starting points for deeper investigations, but that's extremely off-message for a website focused on generic contempt rather than having any real insight.
September 29, 2018
September 28, 2018
Asia continues to draw attention as the “most important engine of global growth,” according to IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde. Yet, as growth on the continent intensifies, countries are also experiencing deepening income and wealth inequality. Income disparities in 11 economies – about four-fifths of the region’s population – are widening, and while inequality gaps within countries are closing elsewhere, they have been growing in Asia. By the World Bank’s own account, “inequality in Indonesia has reached historically high levels,” with the wealthiest 10 per cent consuming as much as the poorest 54 per cent in 2014, which is an increase from 42 per cent in 2002.
Inequality, however, is not a recent phenomenon. In contexts of already sharp inequalities in the 1980s, the World Bank and the IMF extended loan packages with stringent repayment conditions that compelled borrowing countries to align their economic policies with market-based approaches. Deeply encroaching on national economic policy, structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) called for the unfettered cross-border flow of goods, services and capital, privatisation of state facilities, broad-based taxes and social spending cuts as part of austerity measures.
SAPs failed to attain their avowed aims of increasing industrial capacity and competitiveness, among others. Much-touted export growth was found very narrowly based on resource extraction and cheap labour, and was eventually eroded by deteriorating terms of trade and costlier imports. Trade and current account deficits swelled as this extractivist model was imposed, aggravating the external debt situation that the international financial institutions (IFIs) sought to solve in the first place with SAPs.
Domestic production deteriorated and triggered lay-offs and closures of local business enterprises. In Bangladesh, the rapid removal of tariffs, “opened a floodgate of imports from better-financed transnational corporations.” Import-substituting industries such as cotton and sugar waned, as industry-led employment substantially shrunk, especially in manufacturing. In the Philippines, a formerly booming garments sector contracted as cheaper goods flooded the global market, leading to a fall in export demand. SAPs’ promotion of market flexibility and wage caps dealt harsh blows to labour rights. In addition to promoting wage stagnation, they impeded the protection of collective bargaining and freedom of association rights. Labour flexibilisation brought greater job insecurity, especially for women who were already marginalised in insecure, low-paid employment. Thus, even without specific reference to labour conditions, SAPs “[represented] a substantial shift in the political balance of power between organized labour and business in recipient countries, as labour groups [lost] influence to the benefit of capital,” according to research in the journal International Union Rights. The persistence of the IFIs’ support for labour market flexibilisation is most recently evidenced by the World Bank’s draft 2019 World Development Report on the changing nature of work, which has attracted much criticism (see Observer Summer 2018).
The biggest winners of these policies, then and now, are wealthy, politically well-placed elites and multinational corporations. As these issues manifest in more contemporary accounts of inequality, they highlight the persistently adverse outcomes of neoliberal policy on the working poor. A third of the region’s workers still remain below the international poverty threshold of $1.90 per day in purchasing power parity. Wage workers were paid only $73 per month in Nepal in 2008, $119 in Pakistan in 2013 and $121 in Cambodia in 2012. For Southeast Asia, wage growth has been noted by the International Labour Organization as even slower than in South Asia and East Asia.
Many women in poorly remunerated, insecure employment are among the most adversely affected by regressive taxes such as Value Added Tax (VAT) (see Bretton Woods Project briefing, The IMF, Gender Equality and VAT). Bangladesh, the Philippines and other developing countries enacted VAT laws as part of loan agreements with IFIs. Still commonplace today, tax-related conditionalities in loan agreements, including implementing or raising VAT, rose tenfold globally between 2006 and 2010.
In any crisis, those without the means and support to survive external shocks suffer the harshest consequences. Many Asian developing countries, including recipients of IFI lending, are also marked by inadequately financed, badly equipped and understaffed public health systems. In 2010, Asia had the largest concentration of people with “catastrophic health spending” (i.e. exceeding a household’s ability to pay) and the highest rate of “impoverishing health spending” or cutting back on other essentials due to an adverse health event.
The climate crisis also clearly illustrates how risks are multiplied by inequalities of income, access and opportunity. Six of the 10 most climate-threatened countries are in Asia. In these countries and other developing regions, mortality rates from climate disasters are four-to-five times higher than in developed countries. Millions of those supposedly lifted by growth over the last two decades are being pulled back into poverty, yet the IFIs continue to invest in climate-threatening fossil fuels. The International Finance Corporation (the private sector arm of the World Bank) for example, is currently the subject of a complaint submitted by the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice before the IFC Compliance Advisor Ombudsman for allegedly helping to finance 19 active or proposed coal-fired power plants through investment in financial intermediaries in the Philippines (see Observer Winter 2017-18).
Privatisation, a key pillar of SAPs, has recently been met with growing rejection, as demonstrated by the success of Indonesian civil society in reclaiming water services from the privatised set-up imposed as a loan condition in the 1990s (see Observer Autumn 2018). Yet, this policy advice persists, together with social spending cuts, wage ceilings, reduction of employers’ social contributions, poverty targeting rather than universal social protection, and regressive instead of sharply progressive taxation. The more unorthodox views of some IMF staff reports, such as increasing public investments, a higher wealth tax and charging a financial transactions tax, do not seem to have made a dent on policy statements, much less actual policy. Without a shift away from fiscal neoliberalism, this “hybridisation” in IFI thinking can be no more than part of the efforts to save their diminishing legitimacy and relevance.
The dismissive remarks of top IFI officials such as those of Lagarde that “we don’t do that [conditionality] anymore” only bares what lies behind their pronouncements of change and reform. One is reminded of the emperor insisting he is wearing new clothes, as the IFIs essentially pursue the same neoliberal path that brought us to where we are now – in an inequality trap that stretches across generations, past and present.
A just framing of this narrative is urgently required – one that holds the IFIs, complicit states and elites accountable for their key roles in deepening inequality and is grounded in lived experiences of poverty and deprivation. But more importantly, this alternative narrative should be a hopeful one: a clarion call for transformative actions to end inequality and injustice in all its forms is required. From the waves of opposition by those in the North and the recent protests in the Middle East, to the resistance movements in Asia that will intensify beyond the 2018 Annual Meetings, that narrative is already being written by the peoples of the South.
Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), a regional alliance of peoples’ movements, community organisations, coalitions, NGOs and networks striving for transformative change; its current work is focused on climate justice and development finance.
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At the World Bank, a significant increase in commitment to gender equality came with its 2007-10 Gender Action Plan that centred on the slogan “gender equality as smart economics”, shifting its gender equality work from a focus on women’s ‘human capital’, i.e. education and health, to economic growth and poverty alleviation, and allocated resources to accomplish this reorientation. As a result, staff reported that in 2013, 98 per cent of project appraisals considered gender issues, translating into lending of almost $31 billion. When reorganising in 2014, the Bank declared gender as one of four ‘cross-cutting solution areas’. These are clearly reasons for feminists to take a closer look.
Tradition of feminist critique
The ways in which the World Bank historically incorporated concerns over gender inequality have generated extensive feminist critiques. The Bank tended to revert to a focus on women with resonances in the Women in Development approach (WID) of the 1980s, failing to assimilate gender theory and leading it to argue from the starting assumption of an imagined female difference. It constructed women as strategically rational and entrepreneurial on the one hand, or as marginalised, vulnerable, and poor, on the other. There was a disregard for intersectional status categories that differentiate women by class, race, ethnicity, or ability, together with a silence about men and a tendency to naturalise heteronormative understandings of partnership and a traditional understanding of the family. Another consequence was the deafening silence in the Bank’s gender research regarding macroeconomic fundamentals, financial crises, and structural adjustment. These trends need to be understood in the context of the Bank’s reliance on a methodological individualism that cannot account for the diversity of needs and interests arising from different social positions.
This truncated embracing of gender in institutions like the IMF and World Bank has been characterised as a neoliberalisation of feminism, entailing the translation of feminist ideas into a common sense that favours the commodification of nonmarket values and processes, the privatisation of public goods, the casting of human endeavour in entrepreneurial terms, and the construction of subjectivities that lend themselves to being governed through markets and incentives.
However, the neoliberalisation of feminism is not simply a matter of co-optation. Scholars have argued that neoliberal projects entail contradictions and have observed a diverse range of outcomes in such projects that suggest that neoliberalism may contain openings for ‘progressive’ agendas. In a similar vein, the Bank’s gender discourse may entail contradictions as well as openings for feminist agendas. By analysing 34 Bank publications since 2001 (the Bank’s gender work) that focus on gender in various ways, I aimed to probe for such openings.
Making the ‘win-win’ case
Faced with feminist critiques of the Bank’s tendency to define development as market-based growth, the Bank aimed to defend itself by arguing that development advancing gender equality is intuitively evident in the fact that richer countries are typically more gender-equal than poorer countries. But detailed evidence on the connection between growth and gender equality proved scarce. Despite the Bank investing in analytical work to build the business case for gender equality, its development economists were not able to convincingly show that economic growth is either good or bad for gender equality. According to the development economists in the Bank’s gender unit, “establishing an empirical relationship between gender equality and poverty reduction and growth at the macro level has proven to be … challenging”.
In light of this difficulty and consistent with its reliance on micro-foundations generally, the Bank focused its arguments about the importance of gender equality at the micro-level of households, where there is abundant evidence to support the contention that households and firms are better off when women are empowered. Focusing on microeconomics builds in a narrow approach, including a bias towards male breadwinners, deflationary and commodification biases that harm women and those at the margins of the economy, as outlined by Elson and Cagatay.
Redefining gender equality
Yet, in searching for potential openings for progressive agendas, there is also evidence of the Bank’s gender work modifying some neoliberal commitments, starting with questioning one of the basic assumptions of macro-economic orthodoxy, i.e. that all economic actors are ultimately the same, employing the same kind of economic reasoning, which carries significant implications for the meaning of equality.
In the neoclassical tradition, equality is a matter of equal opportunities. Inequality results from discrimination, is characteristic of overregulated markets and can be overcome through competition, which drives out discriminating factors. Once discrimination has been eliminated and a level playing field has been created, any inequality in outcomes is a matter of the personal preferences and choices of an imagined abstract rational economic actor; gender inequality has been eliminated. Conversely, structuralist traditions see inequality as an intrinsic feature of capitalist and patriarchal systems that rely on exploitation in order to advance the interests of those in power. Thus, even under conditions of formal equal opportunity, unequal outcomes are largely preordained. The market cannot be the road to equality; emancipation needs the collective resistance of political actors.
Interestingly, gender experts at the Bank have begun to question the definition of equality as a matter of equal opportunities, drawing on the capabilities approach and behavioural economics to cast doubt on the axiom of the disembodied rational actor that buttresses orthodox economics. Arguing that embodied market actors are intrinsically different, a narrow focus on offering equal opportunities for supposedly similar rational actors will fall short of generating gender justice. In this way, the Bank’s gender work has destabilised the definition of equality and problematises a core assumption of liberal economics, even when narrowed to micro-economic processes.
Making markets work for women
Drawing on institutional economics, a central argument of the Bank’s recent gender work makes the case for a levelling of the playing field. The argument rehearses well-known recommendations from the Bank’s good governance agenda, such as the need for simplified rules to do business. However, it implicitly considers women’s difference, bringing into view a range of rules as traditionally regarded a private matter and supposedly irrelevant to the institution of markets, including family law and discriminatory rules and practices. While these provisions may pertain to the private sphere, the Bank’s gender work has argued that they have economic consequences: they contribute to creating markets that are inequitable and constitute obstacles to women’s economic participation and economic growth.
The corresponding regulatory changes proposed are often contentious and have included arguing for a heavier role for governments with regard to alleviating women’s reproductive burdens. Care labour is a traditional Bank blind spot and structuralist feminists have criticised the Bank’s macroeconomic policies for shifting the burdens of macroeconomic adjustment to women’s care and other unpaid labour. The new Bank work recognises this critique and makes a forceful argument for government policies on childcare. Far from considering childcare a distorting and costly government intervention in the free market, it suggests that it is a key ingredient for gender equality that contributes positive outcomes for economic growth. Embedding gender issues into the Bank’s good governance agenda thus subsumes gender equality goals in a neoliberal logic of the primacy of the market; but it has also provided room to ameliorate disadvantages resulting from the gender division of labour, a basic pillar of patriarchal gender orders.
Empowering women to work in markets
The second line of argument in the Bank’s more recent approach to gender moves beyond an equal opportunities logic and addresses women’s subjectivity, recognising that they need expanded agency and empowerment to be able to compete in markets. To begin with, the Bank’s gender work suggests that women lack physical and human capital endowments, including land, fertilizer, credit and labour on the one hand, and access to governmental institutions, training, infrastructure, information and networks on the other. These lead to ‘gender gaps’ that require government intervention, meaning fixing a constructed female deficit so that women’s endowments are raised to the level of those of men. While the language of endowments thus pushes beyond the idea of an abstract, masculine-coded rational actor, it retains this actor as the ideal that needs to be approximated for women to succeed in a free market economy.
But there is another, more promising approach that the Bank takes to women’s empowerment – one that seeks to counteract the tendency to construe women as passive objects of intervention. As such, women remain potentially efficient actors in a liberal market, but they also become political agents. Following Amartya Sen, this approach considers agency as a basic development freedom. Accordingly, Bank experts from the gender unit have defined agency as “the capacity to make decisions about one’s own life and act on them to achieve a desired outcome, free of violence, retribution, or fear.” The ability to act on decisions and make them a reality is thus central to this approach. It requires not only endowments, but also freedom from violence, political voice, and the ability to organise and make claims collectively.
The introduction of this concept of agency has allowed the Bank’s gender experts to take up topics not typically associated with a narrowly defined notion of development as economic growth. Importantly, it has given them a language to address violence against women and reproductive rights, two topics the Bank has begun to discuss in publications and on which it has begun to collect data. Women’s agency thus has emerged as embodied, as requiring much more than endowments equal to those of men. Connected to this has been a recognition by this particular corner of the Bank of the necessity for women to have ‘voice’, including not just a say in household decision -making, but also participation in politics – through instruments ranging from gender quotas to collective mobilisation. In this understanding processes of empowerment are not just individual, but a matter of both personal and collective politics.
The Bank has thus redefined feminist knowledge to resonate with its core commitment to neoclassical economics, to expanding capitalist markets and growing economies via such markets.
Openings and Limits
The development of the World Bank’s approach to gender since the turn of the new century can be interpreted as an effort to craft a new common sense about the relationship between markets, social protection, and emancipation out of the ashes of previous neoliberal economic orthodoxy. By constructing gender equality as an engine of economic growth, the new orthodoxy functions to buffer core tenets of neoclassical economics, albeit moderated by a focus on institutions and individual capabilities. It retains a neoliberal rationality that celebrates market efficiency outwardly as the measure of all things and as the main purveyor of truth.
At the same time, this modified neoliberalism produces substantial openings, bringing into view coercively gendered institutions traditionally considered private, such as those regulating relations in the family and provisions of care. Moreover, it begins to question the idea of the abstractly rational actor, introducing the notion of socially produced subjectivities, and of capable, but differentially empowered agents. The rational economic actor is replaced with an empowered and autonomous agent, who does not simply respond to market incentives but is able to reflect on and change her own life. This specification of logics and causalities allows for thinking about gender in development in a way that takes on many feminist movement concerns, from the unequal distribution of resources and family laws cementing patriarchy, to violence against women and sexual and reproductive rights.
The gender-sensitive reformulations of development economics suggest a new understanding in which markets do not produce inequality but equality, in which the pursuit of profits and gender equality go hand in hand. This is not simply a matter of feminism co-opted by neoliberalism: introducing ideas about embodied, rights-bearing subjects profoundly broadens the field of vision and fundamentally questions the viability of an economic theory that thrives on abstract actors and forces.
Activists critical of neoliberal orthodoxy need to both be aware of the openings this kind of discourse provides and beware of its limits. With regard to openings, neoliberalism with a feminist face gives force to feminist demands by showing that meeting them would advance economic efficiency.
Yet, there are limits to this framing and activists need to be careful not to get trapped in the logic of economic rationality. They need to remember the silences in neoliberalism with a feminist face, which include: (1) The male-breadwinner, deflationary, and commercialisation biases that are not addressed in microeconomic interventions, together with a total silence about class; (2) The instrumentalisation of gender equality for purposes of economic growth. Non-discrimination, empowerment, and “good governance” should be first and foremost matters of human dignity and ends in themselves, not means to economic efficiency; (3) The importance of democratic processes and of holding governments and other duty bearers accountable, which take centre stage in human rights approaches, but which have no place in the language of neoliberalism with a feminist face.
By Elisabeth Prügl, Neoliberalism with a Feminist Face: Crafting a New Hegemony at the World Bank, Feminist Economics 23, 1: 30-53
A year ago, Oxfam published Great Expectations, a report examining the gap between the IMF’s rhetoric and practice on inequality. We reviewed 15 IMF staff reports that piloted the inclusion of inequality analysis in country surveillance – the IMF’s work of monitoring national economies. We found that, despite some progress, the Fund was still not assessing the distributional impacts of core macroeconomic targets, nor was it sufficiently exploring alternatives to rapid fiscal and monetary tightening in view of reducing poverty and inequality.
At the 2017 World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings, we questioned the Fund on the future of its inequality agenda (see Observer December 2017). A major concern raised was the lack of clarity on what mechanisms would ensure the streamlining of inequality analysis into country surveillance. The Fund responded that country teams should consider inequality when it’s ‘macrocritical’, meaning when it affects economic stability and growth.
New guidance raises more questions than it answers
In June, the IMF published a Staff Note titled, “How to operationalise inequality issues in country work.” The Note sends a clear and welcome message: It confirms that the Fund will continue to integrate inequality analysis in country surveillance, as well as in programmes if assessed to be macrocritical; it acknowledges that some macroeconomic policies may worsen poverty and inequality and that in these circumstances ‘alternative policy mixes’ might be necessary.
And yet, it leaves unanswered how IMF staff should establish when inequality is macrocritical in a country. We identified two main gaps.
First, the Note lacks a framework of surveillance mechanisms that considers the key drivers of the relationship between inequality and macroeconomy. These include tight monetary and fiscal targets, such as very low inflation, high interest rates and rapid reduction of fiscal deficit. As acknowledged by the IMF, these austerity measures can have a dramatic impact on inequality. Other drivers are technological change and premature deindustrialisation, globalisation, and declining workers’ organisation. The Fund is well positioned to develop such a framework, thanks to its growing and influential research demonstrating the linkages between inequality, growth and stability. For example, IMF research has shown that high levels of inequality contributed to the global financial crisis, and it linked the downward trend in the labour share of income to declining organised labour and employment deregulation, technological change and global value chains.
Second, the Note is missing a monitoring system based on a dashboard of indicators that can raise the alarm about the macroeconomic significance of inequality, such as indicators of wealth concentration, inter-generational inequality in house ownership, earnings inequality and vulnerable and precarious employment. Such a system should be linked to an alert mechanism and clear criteria that do not rely exclusively on the subjective judgment of staff.
Country policy advice continues to lag behind research
These two instruments would help the IMF recommend alternative policy mixes that are truly effective at reducing inequality. Another instrument useful for this purpose will be launched at the upcoming 2018 Annual Meetings in Bali by Oxfam and Development Finance International: the Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index. The Index assesses governments’ policy performance in reducing inequality, showing areas where they can take action to reduce it.
A quick survey of recent country reports suggests that the strengths and weaknesses of IMF policy advice on inequality remain largely the same as the ones we identified in our report last year. Analysis of the incidence of tax reforms are frequent, as are recommendations of safeguarding social spending in the face of fiscal tightening. For example, policy analysis for Benin and Nigeria discussed the poverty and distributional impact of value-added tax (VAT) increases, as well as the need to increase public spending in health and education, and to scale up safety nets.
However, alternatives to these VAT increases are not explored; mitigating or compensatory measures are suggested instead, usually in the form of targeted cash transfers, as in Nigeria, Benin, Swaziland and Morocco. This approach prevails in most of the IMF’s policy advice and prevents it from considering alternative policies which have a smaller distributional impact to start with. Too often, the IMF is pushing for elimination of universal schemes in favour of targeting, as in Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan and Iran, despite evidence that targeting is often inefficient and tends to exclude the poorest (see Observer Spring 2018). Advice on labour markets is rare, and usually encompasses further liberalisation, as in Argentina. Cutting public wages and subsidies remain favourite fiscal tightening measures, recently leading to mass popular protests in several countries (see Observer Summer 2018).
In July 2019, the High-Level Political Forum will review progress on achieving Sustainable Development Goal No. 10: Reducing inequality between and within countries. This is an opportunity for the Fund to shift the gear up on inequality and make a difference in enabling countries to meet SDG10. For this, the Fund should commit to developing comprehensive inequality surveillance mechanisms, including a system monitoring inequality, and recommend policies designed not to minimise their negative impact on poverty and inequality, but instead to avoid them in the first place.
by Chiara Mariotti, Oxfam GB
September 27, 2018
September 26, 2018
September 19, 2018
September 15, 2018
FORMATION AND DISINTEGRATION OF THE BALKAN REFUGEE CORRIDOR. CAMPS, ROUTES AND BORDERS IN CROATIAN CONTEXT
An annotated digest of the top "Hacker" "News" posts for the second week of September, 2018.
September 08, 2018 (comments)
A blogger posts a thousand-word article to describe a complete lack of any development in a topic everyone forgot about eleven months ago. Hackernews enumerates all the reasons that government obviously cannot work, because America is doing it wrong, and the answers can be found in whatever economic rounding error issued the commenter's passport. No technology is discussed.
September 09, 2018 (comments)
A webshit attempts to use a Firefox feature, with appropriate expectations (random shit will break) and unsurprising results (random shit breaks). Hackernews is enthusiastic about any idea that might counteract the unyielding panopticon they're paid to design, build, and shove into the lives of every breathing mammal on Earth. Nothing anyone does seems to have any effect, but the frequent breakage and alarming error messages produce a satisfying feeling of accomplishment. Hackernews is chock full of ideas about exciting new ways to deliberately break all the shit they make for a living.
September 10, 2018 (comments)
The article is entirely contained within the title, but that doesn't stop this webshit factory from posting a riveting narrative about how they implemented existing protocols designed to do exactly this task. Hackernews has a shitload of feature requests, except for the "list every competing product" hobbyists. Later in the comments, Hackernews has adventures: discovering load balancing, finding out that virtual machines are not as fast as real computers, and theorizing profit models that don't involve advertising.
September 11, 2018 (comments)
An Internet stops the presses with a world-shaking scoop: a website devoted to selling you shit is in fact out to make money. Hackernews decides that Amazon's failure to altruistically serve as an impartial product adjudicator is unacceptable. Going forward, Hackernews will order toilet paper and batteries from some other online retailer, refraining from doing business with this crass commercial operation except at work, where they will continue sending Amazon millions of dollars a day.
September 12, 2018 (comments)
Europe continues its five-year plan to chase every last datacenter out of the continent. As usual, Hackernews is greatly distressed by the idea that someone other than Facebook is being permitted to make technology decisions. A large part of the problem seems to be that various governments don't seem to have a very clear understanding of how their respective laws work, and if they'd just take the time to read Hackernews' comment threads, they'd have this sorted out in a jiffy. Some Internet Traditionalists suggest using technological tricks to comply with the letter of the law while explicitly and intentionally violating its intent, but otherwise no technology is discussed.
September 13, 2018 (comments)
The Ham Radio Foreign Relations Bureau heard something. Hackernews upvotes the submission out of habit, because eavesdropping on strangers is the core business model of most of Silicon Valley. Hackernews has lots of opinions about space, the quality of which varies according to the number of mathematics courses taken by the commenter's favorite science fiction author. Technology is discussed, but you wish it hadn't been.
September 13, 2018 (comments)
A Reddit is concerned because a device running Android, an operating system built to send and receive software and data to and from Google, has received some software from Google. For some unfathomable reason, a Google shows up to break their otherwise-flawless "ignoring all customers in every possible medium" streak, but saves it at the last minute by posting a completely meaningless explanation and then disappearing forever. Hackernews argues over whether all this could have been avoided if everyone would just purchase Apple products, but one Hackernews alludes to the truth: any amount of user tracking, security problems, planned obsolescence, regulatory capture of the education sector, Asian fascism enablement, Internet protocol derailment, or warmongering is acceptable compared to the specter of someone sneaking a U2 record into your life. Stay safe out there.
September 14, 2018 (comments)
The sort of asshole who refers to a blog post as a "piece" has opinions about Apple's business model. Still glowing from the sixty-three-hour WWDC product advertisement orgy, the author repeats some Apple press releases about iPhone security, invents new security features, and breathlessly ascribes them to Apple, just because it's not possible to conceive of this company disappointing anyone in any way. Hackernews is very interested in this story, because it's very important that they have a consistent and comprehensive ethical framework to justify buying the phone that integrates with the laptop they already bought.
September 12, 2018
The Advance Class of the Association of Linux Friends (ALF) Limbe was in Buea on Saturday, 08/09/2018
together with Pauli Michel Raymond to install Webapps and Raspbian stretch in a center still to be call ” Gate Way To Linux”. The owner of the center is Mr. Ebua Naza and Patrick Baumann is the Sponsor. It was agreed that since Albert and Emmanuel are ex-students of Linux Friends and lives presently in Buea they will take care of the center.
Besides, it is not clear how the center will be runned parralel with the Linux Operating System and the Windows Operating System.