Oxfam’s private sector adviser Erinch Sahan is thinking through the implications of inequality for the businesses he interacts with.
Mention inequality to a business audience and one of two things happens. They recoil in discomfort, or reinterpret the term – as social sustainability or doing more business with people living in poverty. Same goes for the private sector development professionals in the aid community (e.g. the inclusive business crowd).
A good example is the UN Global Compact, which steers companies on how to implement the SDGs. They completely side-step the difficult implications of inequality on business and redefine the inequality SDG as boiling down to social sustainability or human rights / women’s empowerment goal. All good things that we at Oxfam also fight for, but these can all happen simultaneously with increasing concentration of income and wealth amongst the richest – i.e. rising inequalityWe know that rising inequality is one of the great threats to our society and economy. So why is business and the aid world so uncomfortable with tackling it head on?
Inequality is a relative rather than an absolute measure. This often makes it a zero-sum game – to spread wealth and income more equally, someone probably has to lose. But the intersection of business, sustainability and development has become locked into an exclusive focus on win-win approaches where there are no trade-offs and everyone gets their cake and eats it too. Addressing inequality often hits the bottom line – meaning changes to the prices paid to farmers, wages paid to workers, taxes paid to government and prices charged to consumers. But there is hope. Through a new lens (or metric) that should drive how business addresses inequality: share of value.
Don’t confuse this with Creating Shared Value, which is focused on the win-win (without commenting on how the created value is shared). What I’m proposing is a measure that compares businesses on how they share value with workers, farmers and low-income consumers. In fact the concept dates back to the original principles underpinning the fair trade movement some decades ago.
The recent global financial crisis was closely followed by a trade collapse. Global trade plunged by 23% in 2008-2009. Despite a rebound in 2010-2011, trade growth has been almost stagnant ever since and is predicted by the WTO in its April 7 2016 press release to remain sluggish, a grim outlook compared to the expansions in pre-crisis times (Constantinescu et al., 2015). What were the underlying micro sources of this trade collapse: were exporters’ ability to participate in foreign markets or their pace of growth most hurt? Evidence from high-income countries shows that declines in the intensive margin—average exporter size—explain most of the decline in global trade, compared to the fall in the extensive margin—the number of exporters. But what about developing countries?Download and query Exporter Dynamics Database indicators
The recently released Exporter Dynamics Database (EDD) version 2.0 with its indicators on both margins of trade at a micro level for 70 countries (of which 56 developing countries) can help answer this question. The EDD can be downloaded in bulk from the World Bank Microdata catalog and now it is also available for customized queries in the World Bank Databank. The EDD indicators for developing countries show that a decline in the average size of exporters was the key factor behind the decline in total exports resulting from the global financial crisis.
There is enough trouble out there to keep any policymaker up at night. Recent volatility has roiled Chinese and global stock markets, commodity prices have slumped, and security concerns are rising. All of this raises serious questions over the health of the global economy. This year could shape up to be risky, full of challenges and concerns for the fight against poverty.
We ended 2015 with good news: For the first time in history, the number of extremely poor people dropped below 10% of the world’s population. The new Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate deal bring momentum to our effort to lift the remaining 700 million extremely poor people out of poverty while generating climate-smart economic growth.
Let’s start with the basics. What is a trade tariff? It’s a customs duty, or tax, on imported merchandise. For example, if a store owner is importing shoes, a tariff collected by her government might add to the price she has to pay for them. There has been a global effort to reduce tariffs around the world because they make goods more expensive for firms and consumers alike. Lowering tariffs was a major objective of the Uruguay round of negotiations at the World Trade Organization. But in certain circumstances, some governments consider tariffs helpful as a policy tool – they raise revenues and protect local industry from foreign competition (in the shoe example, a locally produced shoe might be cheaper than the imported one with a tariff).
While we’ve used a simple example, tariffs can be quite complex. There are three main types of tariff and they can be queried in UNCTAD TRAINS available through World Integrated Trade Solution (WITS). The three types of tariff are Most Favored Nation (MFN), Preferential and Bound Tariff.
Afghanistan. Photo by Steve Utterwulghe.
This latest blog post should start with a mea culpa. Indeed, my 2015 work plan for public-private dialogue (PPD) did start in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, not Copenhagen. However, who can swear that he never tweaked a title a tiny bit to make it catchier?
While Dushanbe hosted the very productive First Regional PPD Forum in the “stans,” the 8th Global PPD Workshop took place in March in the Danish capital. There, “more than 300 representatives from governments, private enterprises, PPD coordination units, investors’ councils, competitiveness partnerships, civil society, business organizations, and various development partners participated in the event. They represented 54 countries and a total of 40 PPD initiatives who joined the event to share their experiences and discuss lessons learned.”
High-powered individuals kick-started the Copenhagen event, including HRH Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, who reiterated that, to make a difference in the world, “it will take partnerships across countries, governments, and between public and private sectors.”
Once the keynote speeches had been delivered, the real work began among the delegates and with the PPD experts. I jumped from impromptu coffee break to coffee break and strategized with the Côte d’Ivoire delegation on how to prepare for the National Day of Partnership/Dialogue in Abidjan; discussed ways to better involve the private sector in Morocco; debriefed with the Guinea Minister of Industry, SMEs and Private Sector Promotion on how the PPD structure that we helped put in place is strengthening the local value chain for extractive industries (see below); and moderated an engaging session on public-private dialogue in fragile states and conflict-affected countries (FCS), which provided great insights as I prepared to fly out on PPD missions to Somalia and Afghanistan.
Aside from the buzz of international gatherings, what really matters for the delegates, from both governments and the private sector, is to get inspired and bring back home ideas that can be adapted locally and successfully implemented. Public-private dialogue is an art defined by some fundamental core principles that can be adjusted according to specific needs and environments.
As a reminder, PPD refers to the structured interaction between the public and private sectors to promote the right conditions for private sector development. Its ultimate function is to contribute to a prosperous economy by expanding market opportunities and enabling private initiative. This is also very much the mission of the new World Bank Group Global Practice on Trade & Competitiveness (T&C). Its Senior Director, Anabel Gonzales, wrote in one of her blog posts on Trade and Development in Africa that fostering competitiveness and strengthening supply chains is a key to development and an integral part of T&C’s offering.
As I reflected on the links between structured multi-stakeholder dialogue, competitiveness and supply chains, I remembered a Harvard Business Review article written by Michael Porter and Mark Kramer, entitled Strategy and Society: The Link between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility.
What particularly caught my attention at the time was the theory on interdependence between companies and society that the Harvard professors put forward. They argued that this interdependence takes two forms: the social impact that a company’s activities has on society, or “inside-out linkages,” and the social influences on the company’s competitiveness, or “outside-in linkages.”
- Competitiveness Policy
- Competitive Industries
- Competitive Sectors
- Public Sector and Governance
- Private Sector Development
- Law and Regulation
- public private dialogue
- Public Private Partnerships
- Fragile and Conflict Afflicted States
- fragile and conflict affected states
- fragile countries
- fragile states
- collaborative governance
- Open Government
- Public Sector and Governance
- Private Sector Development
- Cote d'Ivoire
Facilitating investments into Fragile and Conflict-Affected States (FCS) is one of the most important strategic pillars in MIGA’s Strategy. In an effort to further expand MIGA’s support in FCS countries, I recently visited Burundi, South Sudan, and Afghanistan and met with investors, government agencies, and donors. Although the investment climate varies in these FCS countries, I observed the following four common threads during my visit.
First, despite the deteriorating security situations, there are still investors seeking business opportunities in FCS countries, as long as the expected return on investment is sufficiently high to cover a required level of return plus risk premium. When it comes to the investors actively operating in FCS countries, their concerns appeared to be more focused on unexpected and arbitrary changes in government policies against their investments, rather than the security issue itself. Most aspects of the government-related procedures are risks beyond the control of investors, for example, renewal of licenses and permits, taxation, and various contracts signed with the government. Investors usually go through several political cycles during their investment horizon. An approval from the current government does not guarantee the same approval would be obtained from the succeeding government. A foreign investor I met in Afghanistan cemented this notion by telling me that “when we made a decision to invest in Afghanistan, we were already well-aware of the security issue in the country. For us, the security was a foreseeable risk that could be mitigated to some extent, if not entirely avoidable. We can take care of security risks as well as commercial risks; but what concerned us the most was the risks related to uncertainties in the government’s regulation and policy.”
- fragile and conflict affected states
- business opportunities
- Law and Regulation
- diaspora investments
- new business
- operational efficiencies
- new technology
- Political Risk Insurance
- transfer restriction
- war and civil disturbance
- capital flight
- investment assets
- high rate of return
- service sectors
Editor's Note: "Notes From the Field" is an occasional feature where we let World Bank Group professionals conducting interesting trade-related projects around the globe explain some of the challenges and triumphs of their day-to-day work. The views expressed here are personal and should not be attributed to the World Bank Group. All interviews have been edited for clarity.
The interview below was conducted with Mariam Diop, a Senior Economist with the World Bank Group. Mariam is based in the country office in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, where she carries out work in the WBG’s new Macro and Fiscal Management Global Practice. Mariam has been deeply involved with the country’s Diagnostic Trade Integration Studies (DTIS), which has helped to identify a number of key restraints on economic growth and shared prosperity in Burkina Faso. The Trade Post spoke with Mariam about what brought her to the country, where she sees opportunities, and how the DTIS has helped on the ground.
The southern fringes of the Sahara desert host rugged lands where mankind has thrived for more than a millennium. In this vast panorama, the Inner Niger Delta stands out: In a region where limited rainfall is a fact of life, the Delta is a natural dam and irrigation scheme whose flood plain creates a grazing and cropping perimeter that at its peak can reach 30,000 km2 and sustains about 900,000 people.
The WTO will soon initiate its 500th formal dispute, and discussions of such international litigation are now a media mainstay. Last Thursday, for example, the WTO’s Appellate Body released its latest ruling, upholding most of a set of legal challenges to China’s use of export restrictions on “rare earth” materials, a set of intermediate inputs important for green technologies such as wind turbines, batteries for gas-electric hybrid cars, etc. Other recent examples of formal WTO litigation in the news include the EU’s challenge to Russia’s import restrictions on vans, the US’s challenge to Chinese barriers to autos, and Canada’s and Norway’s challenges to an EU ban on trade in seal products.