These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Millions of Facebook users have no idea they’re using the internet
It was in Indonesia three years ago that Helani Galpaya first noticed the anomaly. Indonesians surveyed by Galpaya told her that they didn’t use the internet. But in focus groups, they would talk enthusiastically about how much time they spent on Facebook. Galpaya, a researcher (and now CEO) with LIRNEasia, a think tank, called Rohan Samarajiva, her boss at the time, to tell him what she had discovered. “It seemed that in their minds, the Internet did not exist; only Facebook,” he concluded. In Africa, Christoph Stork stumbled upon something similar. Looking at results from a survey on communications use for Research ICT Africa, Stork found what looked like an error. The number of people who had responded saying they used Facebook was much higher than those who said they used the internet. The discrepancy accounted for some 3% to 4% of mobile phone users, he says.
Time to Act on the G-20 Agenda: The Global Economy Will Thank You
iMF direct- blog post by Christine Lagarde
Implementation, investment, and inclusiveness: these three policy goals will dominate the G-20 agenda this year, including the first meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors in Istanbul next week. As Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu recently put it: “Now is the time to act” – şimdi uygulama zamanı. There is a lot at stake. Without action, we could see the global economic supertanker continuing to be stuck in the shallow waters of sub-par growth and meager job creation. This is why we need to focus on these three “I’s”:
Migration and Remittances
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
- Urban Development
- Social Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- Private Sector Development
- Migration and Remittances
- Labor and Social Protection
- Financial Sector
- Climate Change
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- East Asia and Pacific
- The World Region
- South Asia
- Sri Lanka
Metaphor of the month, via a deft dispatch from Davos: Thomas “Piketty was not in attendance this year – which was like putting on ‘Hamlet’ without the Prince” of Denmark, quipped Larry Elliott, the economics editor of The Guardian, as he needled ostentatious Davos-goers for only half-heartedly living up to the Davos dictum of being “ ‘committed to improving the state of the world,’ provided nothing much changes.”
Let’s shift the Shakespearean citation slightly, from “Hamlet” to “Macbeth”: Like Banquo’s ghost, the specter of Piketty’s analysis of inequality and injustice seemed to haunt many private-sector leaders at Davos this year – and thus the scholar from the Paris School of Economics didn’t need to be present in order to have a powerful impact at this year’s World Economic Forum.
Amid last week's self-exculpatory denialism from the unrepentant-oligarch wing of the Davos Man culture, one could almost hear the apologists for plutocracy and the free-market fatalists joining the conscience-stricken Macbeth in shrieking to Banquo's implacable apparition: “Thou canst not say I did it! Never shake thy gory locks at me!”
The Davos 2015 parade of plutocrats may have been worth all the time and trouble, after all – despite its customary spectacles of self-indulgence – if the pageantry helped pique the conscience of some of the One Percenters and their courtiers, at least momentarily. “Most of the conversations between chief executives here are about Piketty-type issues. They talk about things [at Davos that] they wouldn’t be talking about back in the boardroom,” one eminent corporate leader told Elliott of The Guardian. Piketty-inspired concerns about inequality – along with fears of chronic economic stagnation and an irretrievably despoiled planet – seem likely to inform this year’s top-level global policy forums, from Addis Ababa in July to the United Nations in September to Paris in December.
Signaling that many private-sector leaders have been awoken by, and are responding to, Piketty's landmark analysis of the intensifying concentration of capital in ever-fewer hands – which is provoking a more rigid stratification of society along hardening lines of social class – the World Economic Forum itself set the stage for Davos 2015 by publishing a 14-point agenda for promoting more inclusive growth. That analysis, searching for constructive solutions, is certainly a welcome contribution to the debate. Yet Piketty’s analysis of the widening gaps between the ultra-wealthy and everyone else – with Davos as perhaps an inadvertent self-parody of the cocooned Uber One Percent – suggests that there’s scant hope for mending a torn society unless policymakers enact policy changes on a vast scale: by (among other priorities) adopting greater progressivity in tax rates and enforcing a crackdown on cross-border tax evasion.
(An aside, regarding those who quibble with a point of Piketty-era terminology – and those who have attempted, and have conspicuously failed, to refute Piketty’s logic. Using a chicken-and-egg argument, some theorists lament the Piketty-inspired focus on the term “inequality,” insisting that inequality may be the outgrowth of, rather than the cause of, economic stagnation and social stratification. Fair enough. Yet such casuistry dwells on a distinction without a practical difference. Enacting pro-growth programs to avoid “secular stagnation” would surely be wise policymaking. Yet no serious plan would envision going back to a pre-2008-style “GDP growth at any cost” approach. The global financial crisis of 2008 revealed the recklessness of simplistic gun-the-engine, GDP-uber-alles policies that produce merely unsustainable, low-quality growth. Today’s pragmatists, instead, champion a more inclusive economy that eases social divisions and sustains broader opportunity – promoting what the World Bank Group calls “shared prosperity.”)
Judging by Piketty’s esteem among Davos 2015 participants, most leaders of the private sector – all but a recalcitrant few, some of whom dwell on the free-market fundamentalist fringe – have evidently gotten the message (at last): Chronic inequality and stifled social mobility have reached a socially intolerable and perhaps politically destabilizing intensity. Yet if all but an eccentric remnant in the private sector “get it,” do public-sector policymakers – many of whom seem ever-eager to do the bidding of the most self-aggrandizing monied interests? The Davos-style ideal of “capitalism for the long term” is motivated by “enlightened self-interest,” yet many boardrooms – and those politicians who are forever at their beck and call – apparently need still more enlightenment and less self-interest.
Charting the next steps beyond Piketty's “Capital in the Twenty-First Century" – advancing from academic analysis to social action – will be the next order of business in 2015, a year with parliamentary elections in several pivotal countries. Just in time for the post-Davos and pre-election season, a newly published book seems poised to pick up where Piketty left off: emphasizing that society needs a healthier balance between private-sector dynamism and public-sector activism, undergirded by a humane sense that an economy with truly shared prosperity should prioritize social fairness.
With their appetites whetted by early excerpts published this week in The Observer, many admirers of Piketty will be eager to read “How Good We Can Be: Ending the Mercenary Society and Building a Great Country” by Will Hutton, the principal of Hertford College, Oxford. Hutton – for all his gloom about the injustices inflicted on his native United Kingdom over the past 35 years – advances an optimistic agenda that might show the way toward correcting decades’ worth of policy errors.
“Inequality has become a challenge to us as moral beings,” declares Hutton, reinforcing Piketty’s view of a society starkly stratified by social class. A callousness toward social divisions has spilled over from the economic realm into political decision-making, resulting in an “amoral deficit of integrity” – and Hutton is not shy about pointing to a specific turning point, or about naming a specific name.
“Ever since [Margaret] Thatcher’s election in 1979, Britain’s elites have relegated concerns about inequality below the existential question of how to restore our capitalist economy to economic health, a matter deemed to transcend all other considerations,” writes Hutton. “The language of the socioeconomic landscape has been commanded by words like efficiency, productivity, wealth generation, aspiration, entrepreneur, pro-business and incentives. To the extent they are significant at all, preoccupations with inequality have been seen as of second-order importance.”
The “raw trends” of the weakened power of wage-earners and the strengthened dominance of capital-owners – the outgrowth of Piketty’s iconic formula, r>g – “are then exacerbated by the reduction of taxation on capital, companies and higher earners in the name of promoting incentives and 'wealth generation.' " No wonder, Hutton asserts, that the United Kingdom has suffered “a stunning increase in inequality, the fastest in the OECD.”
Readers who were drawn to Piketty’s logic – yet who were left by "Capital" with a despairing feeling of “where do we go from here?” – are likely to warm to Hutton’s work, which extends the logic of his influential 1995 analysis, “The State We’re In.”
“Indifference to the growing gap between rich and poor, in all its multiple dimensions, is the first-order-category mistake of our times," warns Hutton. "No lasting solution to the socioeconomic crisis through which we are living is possible without addressing it.”
Recalling his years of energetic columns in The Guardian and The Observer, Hutton’s activist economic prescription in “How Good We Can Be” seems likely to include a better-focused approach to industrial policy; targeted investment in innovation capacity; pro-entrepreneurship mechanisms to sharpen competitiveness; and pro-active tax policies that ease rather than intensify the wealth divide.
Many of those who missed this year’s Davos triumph of Piketty-style reasoning are now awaiting the arrival of Hutton’s new book on this side of the Atlantic. Piketty scored the scholarly sensation of 2014 with the publication of “Capital.” My early hunch is that Hutton, with “How Good We Can Be,” just might achieve a similar agenda-setting success in 2015.
We were ready to probe the effect of male out-migration from rural areas in Guatemala on women’s role in farming. But when we approached surveyors, experts, policymakers, and municipal officials, they were, quite simply, puzzled.
All eyes turned to Russia recently, when on 16 December the ruble plunged by more than 11 percent, despite the Central Bank of Russia’s last-minute interest rate hike of 6.5 percentage points to 17 percent. When it looked like Russia’s turmoil might spread to global markets, western economies sat up and paid close attention.
What may have gone unnoticed, however, is the ongoing impact on our client countries in the Europe and Central Asia region.
Roughly 27 million young people leave their country of birth to find employment abroad. Does this trend suggest that migration may be a solution to the worrying situation whereby 60% of young people in developing regions that are either unemployed, not studying, or engaged in irregular employment?
Thanks to 74 percent of Swiss voters and to all of the 26 cantons who voted against the referendum to introduce strict immigration quotas, I am now relieved. If the referendum on November 30 by the environmentalist group Ecopop had been successful, I am not sure whether Switzerland would have let me return. The supporters of the referendum “’stop overpopulation – safeguard our natural environment”’ (see blog) sought to limit the annual net annual immigration to 0.2 percent of Switzerland’s resident population. This quota, representing about 16,000 people per year, is a fifth of the net immigration to Switzerland in recent years (an annual average of 81,500 immigrants from 2008 to 2013). The 0.2 percent curb would have applied to all migrants, including asylum seekers, people wanting to be reunited with family members already living in Switzerland, migrants looking for better job opportunities, some of the more than 730,000 Swiss abroad who would like to come back, or very rich individuals who would like to live in Switzerland because of lower taxes. The latter group may be thankful to those 59 percent of Swiss voters who rejected another referendum from last weekend on whether to abolish lump-sum taxation in all 26 cantons (five cantons have already decided to abolish this tax regime). Such tax privileges are accorded to wealthy private foreign nationals who take residence in Switzerland for the first time or after ten years of absence, but are not allowed to work in Switzerland.
Experts generally agree that the environmental change is but one of the many reasons that prompt people to migrate, sometimes operating on its own but more often through other mechanisms. Individuals, households and communities facing similar environmental changes may respond differently to these processes. It is believed that the specific impacts of environmental change, and the extent to which they lead to migration, displacement and/or relocation, are mediated by the level of vulnerability and resilience found in those affected by these processes.* Understanding why people faced with similar macro-level factors move or stay is important. A better understanding of the impact of vulnerability and resilience to environmental changes may help policymakers and practitioners assess the degree to which people need to move, what forms of movement are likely, and their ability to avoid harm in the presence or absence of mobility.