The Sixth Committee (Legal) took up the report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) today, with delegates commending the progress of the various Working Groups and highlighting the finalization and adoption of a n…Read More
The Economic and Social Council Forum on Financing for Development follow-up opened its expert segment today with a panel discussion and set of three thematic round tables dedicated to garnering the vast resources required to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Alexander Trepelkov, Director of the Financing for Development Office in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the Forum’s expert segment would focus on the state of implementation in all “action areas” of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, adopted in 2015 to fund the world’s sustainable development framework. “The next two days present an excellent opportunity to identify success stories and the lessons drawn from them to apply in our countries and contexts,” he said.
In the morning, the Forum took part in a panel discussion on the “2017 report of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development”, formed in 2015 to follow up on the Addis Agenda. Five panellists highlighted the report’s findings and offered proposals for spurring global growth.
Yonov Frederick Agah, Deputy Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), said a central recommendation was that Governments should work together to resist inward-looking and protectionist pressures. While trade generated higher productivity, inadequate attention to those left behind by globalization had raised concerns. The policy response should recognize that trade was only one factor contributing to economic change, along with technology and innovation.
Another major focus must be to raise domestic revenues, said Siddarth Tiwari, Director of the Strategy Policy and Review Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Fund had increased support for doing that by one fifth since 2015. While easier said than done, it required the most attention.
Richard Kozul-Wright, Director of the Division on Globalization and Development Strategies at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said the biggest problem was the global slowdown in public and private investment. The reasons for that included sluggish global demand following policy mistakes in advanced economies, corporate rent-seeking that had dampened productive investment, and high debt dependence. He called for a new global strategy to achieve the inclusive outcomes embedded in the Sustainable Development Goals.
The morning also featured a round table on “domestic and international public resources”, covering action areas A and C of the Addis Agenda. Four panellists outlined ways to mobilize resources, with Darrell Bradley, Mayor of Belize City, stressing that subnational governments generated as much as 40 per cent of public investment.
On that point, Philippe Orliange, Director of Agence Française de Développement, said that with 23 national, regional and international development banks, and $3 trillion in assets, the International Development Finance Club had a key role to play in domestic resource mobilization as it could finance local governments.
Jorge Moreira da Silva, Director of the Development Cooperation Directorate of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), said his organization was catalysing investment in “Sustainable Development Goal-critical” sectors, and collaborating with the United Nations to develop the “total official support for sustainable development” – a new measure to better understand today’s global financing landscape.
Two afternoon round tables took up issues of “domestic and international private business and finance” and “debt and systemic issues”, respectively. In the first, moderator Preeti Sinha, Senior President of the YES Institute, said “Sustainable Development Goal finance” should be led by the private sector, as $3 trillion would be needed annually. The major question hinged on balancing that need with the funds available, $218 trillion of which was in global capital markets and $75 billion in the “impact industry”.
In the second round table, panellist Patricia Miranda, Senior Officer on Finance for Development at Latindadd Fundación Jubileo in Bolivia, said that if developed countries fell into debt distress, it would have a systemic impact on the global economy. It had taken Latin America two decades to recover from the effects of debt on the most marginalized peoples. As such, it was essential to provide the right framework to encourage early debtor-creditor engagement towards efficient and timely restructuring.
The Forum on Financing for Development follow-up will reconvene at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, 25 May, to continue its expert segment.
ALEXANDER TREPELKOV, Director of the Financing for Development Office, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, opened the expert segment of the Economic and Social Council Forum on Financing for Development follow-up, which he said would focus on the state of implementation in all action areas of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. It also would allow for addressing new and emerging topics, with the Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development report serving as a guide for the discussion. Led by the World Bank Group, International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Trade Organization (WTO), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the report contained input from more than 50 United Nations agencies, funds, programmes and offices, regional commissions and others. “The next two days present an excellent opportunity to identify success stories and the lessons drawn from them to apply in our countries and contexts,” he said. The goal was for the Task Force analysis to support States in implementing the Addis Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Forum held a panel discussion on the “2017 report of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development”, moderated by Shari Spiegel, Chief, Policy Analysis and Development, Financing for Development Office, Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The panel featured presentations by Yonov Frederick Agah, Deputy Director-General, WTO; Siddarth Tiwari, Director, Strategy Policy and Review Department, IMF; Richard Kozul-Wright, Director, Division on Globalization and Development Strategies, UNCTAD; Pedro Conceição, Director, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP; and David Kuijper, Adviser, Financing for Development, World Bank Group.
Ms. SPIEGEL said the Task Force report contained an opening segment on the implementation of the Addis Agenda, a thematic chapter, and subsequent chapters on each area of that instrument. It had found that slow growth and a challenging economic environment, while improving, had hampered implementation of the Agenda. It was unlikely that the goal of eliminating poverty would be achieved by 2030. The Task Force also had found that long-term investment in infrastructure and addressing vulnerabilities through social protection floors and a global safety net were needed. Those two issues, if done right, could create a positive cycle, by helping to achieve the Goals and fostering growth.
Mr. AGAH said one of the report’s central recommendations was that Governments should work together to resist inward-looking and protectionist pressures. The benefits of opening trade were broad and deep. Trade generated higher productivity, increased competition, more choice and better prices in the marketplace. Yet, inadequate attention to those left behind by globalization, trade and technology had raised concerns about the trade system. Governments must ensure its benefits reached more people. The policy response should recognize that trade was only one factor contributing to economic change, along with technology and innovation. WTO had a unique role in fostering equitable trade relations underpinned by common rules agreed by its members. Strengthening the WTO was essential, he said, calling on Governments and institutions to ensure that the benefits were better understood. Unequal levels of digital development had limited some countries’ participation in e-commerce. While access to information and communications technology was necessary, it was not the only factor required for all people to benefit from online trade.
Mr. TIWARI said there was no silver bullet that would “get us to the end” of the Addis Agenda. International, regional, national and subnational efforts across all areas were needed. Following the 2008 financial crisis, public and private investment in infrastructure had fallen. Yet infrastructure was vital for sustaining growth in many countries. In more than half of low-income countries, the revenue-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio hovered around 15 per cent, which was generally inadequate to provide even basic services, minus wage and other payments. Thus, a key focus moving forward would be to raise domestic revenues. The Fund had increased support for doing that by one fifth since 2015. While “easier said than done”, it required the most attention.
Mr. KOZUL-WRIGHT said the report’s first chapter called for a new growth strategy to achieve the inclusive outcomes embedded in the Goals. “We don’t have that growth strategy yet,” he said. Since the 2008 crisis, growth had slowed and inequality had risen, what the IMF called the “new normal”. The biggest challenge today was the slowdown in public and private investment, and as the Goals represented a call for the biggest investment push in modern history, a major question centred on why investment had slowed. There were three reasons, first of which was slowing global demand, which impacted profit expectations and was attributed to policy mistakes in advanced economies, notably a one-sided reliance on monetary policy to stimulate demand, which had increased global instability, and distributional constraints. The second reason was the “financialization of corporate strategies”. Corporations had moved into short-term, rent-seeking behaviour which was detrimental to long-term productive investment. The third reason was the drag from high debt dependence, with debt stocks having risen by $50 trillion since 2008. Investment had declined across the board in both developed and developing countries. In seeking a new global growth strategy, those systemic challenges must be addressed. There was an essential need for developing countries to expand their fiscal space, while a far more ambitious set of mechanisms must be created to address debt overhang and related problems.
Mr. CONCEIÇÃO said the Goals were “coming to life”, known by the public and increasingly being integrated into national plans, strategies and budgets. Countries today were asking UNDP how to prioritize their plans to achieve the Goals, and then finance those priorities. One Addis Agenda recommendation had to do with integrated national financing frameworks, which he called visionary, as countries required a holistic approach. Part of those efforts involved aligning resources to implement the Goals. The report referred to development finance assessments, which helped countries establish a baseline for financing flows and policy institutions to help them formulate national financing frameworks. Another recommendation had to do with vulnerability. It was becoming clear that a major risk to implementation of the Goals had to do with how countries suffered shocks, whether from conflict, trade or climate. Thus, the report addressed social protections and financing instruments that allowed countries to address systematic shocks, and referred to State-contingent financing instruments in that context.
Mr. KUIJPER addressed the issue of countries and markets that were under stress — whether from fragility, environmental factors or displacement. Three quarters of the global poor lived in such countries and it was important to tackle the transformation required in them in an innovative manner. The main obligation was to connect growth opportunities to the global financial system, with a view to connecting them to long-term finance. There were two ways to do that. One was through official development assistance (ODA). The fundamentals that fostered risk could not be addressed unless there were significant channels of ODA to those countries. A second way centred on gender. Globally, some countries were losing 5 to 30 per cent of growth due to a lack of gender-sensitive policies and others that led to the advancement of women’s position in the economy.
Mr. TIWARI, responding to a second question by Ms. Spiegel, said the medium-term forecast for developing countries was lower than projected in 2015, with growth between 2015 and 2020 weaker mainly for oil producers and exporters. Budget revenues had fallen, as had net flows to low-income countries. As to why investment was not increasing, he said there was no liquidity in terms of raising capital. Before 2008, productivity and the share of labour income were falling, which likely had constrained investment. Public balance sheets were strained. “Productivity needs to rise,” he said. Without it, neither public nor private investment would increase. Innovation, a major productivity driver, also must increase and be inclusive. He advocated skills development, without which large parts of the population would be left behind. He cited Denmark and Singapore with national strategies and skill development programmes as two countries that had kept up with a changing landscape.
Mr. KOZUL-WRIGHT said “getting the macroeconomics right” was fundamental to building the sustainable growth path that the world needed. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was rightly ambitious. It was unclear, however, whether there was an ambitious environment in which to pursue it. He called 1947 “the year that multilateralism started”. The IMF had opened, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) had been initiated, the United Nations had been established, its regional commissions had held their first conference, importantly, on trade and employment, and the Marshall Plan — the most ambitious development cooperation plan in history — had been inaugurated. Ambition was an issue to place on the table.
Mr. CONCEIÇÃO agreed that productivity must increase, especially through technology use. However, evidence had shown a delinking between labour productivity increases and average family earnings in both developed and developing countries. “We have to examine the role of technology,” he said. On one hand, there was no lack of savings. On the other, investment needs were massive, even without the Goals and notably for infrastructure. ODA was relevant for countries that had shifted to a higher income level but were still vulnerable.
Mr. KUIJPER agreed that the spirit of 1947 must return. “We need to create a similar kind of momentum behind this Agenda,” he said, citing an enormous challenge of “getting the financing for development process right”. The creation of good ideas required a process in which many ideas could flow.
Mr. AGAH said the issue of inclusive growth must start with trade, markets productive capacity and competitiveness. Each country, depending on its economic and political situation, could adapt complementary policies in investment, infrastructure or other areas to achieve its goals.
In the ensuing discussion, a speaker from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) commented that its data and measurement frameworks were global public goods. Bangladesh’s delegate asked Mr. Tiwari whether it was possible to address domestic resource mobilization, without addressing illicit flows, through international cooperation. A speaker from the World Health Organization (WHO) said that page 33 of the Task Force report referred to tobacco taxation, which he called a “low-lying fruit” as a revenue stream for financing development. Algeria’s delegate said the report’s section on trade did not fully consider recommendations of the joint report by WTO, the World Bank and IMF, and asked whether its content would be integrated into the next Task Force report. The European Union representative welcomed the well-balanced report, and contributions by OECD, asking whether the 2018 Forum, to be held from 23 to 26 April, would have the latest data available. Ms. SPIEGEL replied to the latter question that the Task Force could not update the report with the latest OECD data, due to printing deadlines. However, the website could be updated.
Responding to those queries, Mr. CONCEIÇÃO said there was potential for innovative financing mechanisms.
Mr. KUIJPER, on the issue of tobacco taxation, said lessons could be learned from other experiences in innovation.
Mr. AGAH said that how well countries negotiated outcomes from the Doha round of trade talks depended on those involved. The report by WTO, IMF and the World Bank had a slightly different focus. Trade gains could never be equally distributed. There would always be losers. He advocated for examining competitiveness, and how well countries participated in markets.
Mr. TIWARI said a chapter in IMF’s World Economic Outlook examined labour income, which had fallen over the years, due in part to technology.
Mr. KOZUL-WRIGHT said trade gains were always significant in a perfectly competitive and informed marketplace and uncertain in an imperfect one.
Round Table A
Following the panel discussion, the Forum held a round table on “domestic and international public resources”. Moderated by Pooja Rangaprasad, Policy Coordinator, Financial Transparency Coalition, it featured presentations by Darrell Bradley, Mayor of Belize City; Elfrieda Steward Tamba, Commissioner General, Liberia Revenue Authority; Philippe Orliange, Director, Agence Française de Développement; and Jorge Moreira da Silva, Director, Development Cooperation Directorate, OECD.
Opening the discussion, Ms. RANGAPRASAD said that the Addis Agenda recognized the centrality of mobilizing and effectively using domestic resources to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and of complementing those efforts through scaled-up international public financial support, especially in the poorest and most vulnerable countries. Policies to increase tax revenues had important implications for gender bias since women spent a larger portion of their income on basic goods while also getting paid lower wages than men. Therefore, it was necessary to look into gender budgeting as a tool while also increasing commitments for dedicating aid and resources for gender equality.
Mr. BRADLEY citing a recent OECD study which showed that subnational governments currently generated as much as 40 per cent of the public investment, said that, when 30 per cent of national resources were granted to local governments, they were able to produce 50 per cent of the public investment. In Belize, cash transfers from the central Government represented only 6 per cent of the annual budget for the Belize City council and the actual sum transferred had remained constant for the past 15 years despite an increasing population. Local governments in Belize had filled the finance gap through creative strategies, which in turn required strong local leadership with a commitment to transparency and meaningful citizen engagement. National Governments must create and supplement the legal, structural and policy frameworks that allowed empowered local governments to develop into relevant, effective and complementary branches of government.
Ms. TAMBA, noting that Africa hosted 65 per cent of the world’s ultra-poor and Liberia stood third among the least developed countries in the region, recalled the dip in Liberia’s economy due to the Ebola outbreak. Nevertheless domestic revenue had increased between 2006 and 2013 due to strong growth and smart reforms in revenue administration. She cited effective tools for public financing at the local level such as budget appropriations through the Country Development Fund and social contracts with endowed countries through the Social Development Fund. In the last five years, Liberia had received $238 million in grants and $191 million in loans from international sources, representing 9 per cent and 7 per cent of the country’s total revenue respectively. Stressing the importance of strengthening local systems for better resource management, she said that development banks had an important role in providing financing for sustainable development in Liberia. The impact of ODA could also be maximized by building a social contract for eliminating leaks in revenue flow caused by transfer pricing, money-laundering, poor legislation and illicit flows.
Mr. ORLIANGE, calling development finance the “third pillar of development”, said that with 23 national, regional and international development banks, and cumulative assets of $3 trillion, the International Development Finance Club had a key role in domestic resource mobilization which could finance local governments. There was also international recognition of the role of development banks as key implementing entities for international funds such as the Green Climate Fund. The Club provided a collaborative platform for practitioners of development finance, as members could exchange experiences, disseminate best practices, identify areas of common interest for cooperation, and combine their financial and intellectual resources. The Club’s key aim was to advocate for measuring and mainstreaming climate finance and facilitating access to financing for projects and their preparation. The Club was fully aligned with the development finance agenda, he said, calling on the United Nations system and the Forum to bear in mind the potential of development banks.
Mr. DA SILVA, noting that his organization was the custodian of ODA, said that development aid had reached a new peak in 2016 as refugee costs had increased. ODA still represented as much as 70 per cent of external financing for many least developed countries, and his organization was also catalysing investment in Sustainable Development Goal-critical sectors and strengthening development finance accountability and incentives. Going beyond ODA statistically and analytically, it was necessary to put in place better measurement frameworks. His organization was collaborating with the United Nations systems in developing the total official support for sustainable development which would help better understand the new international financing landscape. Turning to the global outlook on financing for development, he said that OECD was supporting that through innovative research on financing, policy synergies and trade-offs, as well as by creating a nexus between external thinkers and practitioners.
A speaker from the IMF then took the floor, saying that while there had been enormous progress, figures showed that in half of the lowest income countries, less than 15 per cent of GDP was being raised through tax revenues. The Fund aimed to help developing countries with revenue outcomes by improving the structure and fairness of national tax systems. Highlighting the importance of international cooperation in revenue reforms, she said that it was crucial to harness synergies between major international financial institutions. The Fund had worked with partner institutions to create a platform for collaboration on taxation.
In the ensuing discussion, the representative of Algeria asked the panellists how to improve accountability in the use of public financing. A representative of Citigroup commented on the importance of harnessing private-sector resources to improve development financing. Belgium’s representative said his Government followed a policy of giving tax exemptions to public financing projects, while a civil society representative noted that some countries in both the North and South followed regressive taxation policies which adversely affected resources available for public financing.
Responding to those queries, Mr. DA SILVA said that total official support for sustainable development could provide an added value to the discussion on transparency and accountability. Stressing the importance of new sources of information, he added that it was important to get the total official support for sustainable development methodology endorsed widely so that it could be used for effective stock-taking.
Mr. ORLIANGE said that development banks were built to take risks that others couldn’t take, and therefore, instead of focusing on short-term gains, they could provide financing over the long term, whether for infrastructure or social programmes. On the question of regressive taxation, he said that it was difficult to finance public policy if taxation rates were too low. Countries had to take national decisions about their own policies but “if you have regressive taxation, you are digging the inequalities deeper,” he said.
Ms. TAMBA said that domestic resource mobilization was especially crucial in Africa and with the changing international taxation landscape, Liberia and Africa as a whole stood to benefit. She called on developed countries to “walk the talk.”
Mr. BRADLEY said that in order to be meaningful, all strategies and interventions for improving the quality of life should be owned by the community. Decentralization was crucial to achieving that, and a multilevel government framework based on transparency and trust would enable people to see local government as a relevant development partner. The magic of local government was that it was closest to people, and it was positioned to listen to the concerns of women, indigenous people and other vulnerable groups.
Round Table B
In the afternoon, the Forum held a round table on “domestic and international private business and finance”. Moderated by Preeti Sinha, Senior President, YES Institute, it featured presentations by Courtney Rattray, Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations; Hervé Duteil, Managing Director, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainable Finance for the Americas, BNP Paribas; Naohiro Nishiguchi, Executive Managing Director, Japan Innovation Network; Nidia Reyes, Chief of Competitive Intelligence, Banca de las Oportunidades, Colombia; and Leora Klapper, Lead Economist, Development Research, World Bank Group.
Ms. SINHA quoted Mahatma Gandhi to say “the rich must live more simply so that the poor may simply live”. All countries were developing countries in that they were struggling to address climate change and other social issues. The 2030 Agenda offered a way to bring public and private finance together. YES Bank, founded by Rana Kapoor, had a market capitalization of $10 billion, showing that “emerging markets do offer returns”. Sustainable Development Goals finance should be led by the private sector, followed by the United Nations, as $3 trillion would be needed annually. The major question hinged on balancing that need with the funds available, $218 trillion of which was in global capital markets and $75 billion in the “impact industry”.
Mr. RATTRAY said following the Addis Agenda, many felt that “something was missing”. There was a need for a State-based mechanism that would unlock the trillions of dollars needed per year to finance development. The new body — the Group of Friends — had 56 members, many of whom were ambassadors, along with experts from the United Nations, the private sector and think tanks. States had a legitimate role in reorienting the financial system towards the Goals. Most assets under its management were held by insurance, private wealth and mutual funds. Central to its efforts to attract capital was convening a broad array of stakeholders. The Group of Friends engaged stakeholders to holistically assess risk by having investors price in externalities. It also worked with regulators to prevent capital from being misallocated. There was a need to foster domestic capacity to develop “bankable” projects, he said, noting that the Group was working with Blackrock in that context.
Mr. DUTEIL described the need to place the goal of financing sustainability “on the business map”. BNP Paribas had traditionally mapped its business along economic, civic, environmental and social pillars, but then further mapped it along the 17 Goals, setting targets and incentives. As a result, the first of its 13 public key performance indicators was that 15 per cent of its loans to companies must finance projects or companies that directly addressed one of the Goals. Today, that percentage was 16.5 per cent. Realizing those 13 indicators would also directly affect the compensation of its top officers. BNP Paribas was also implementing a shadow carbon price into the credit analysis of its counterparties in key sectors. In unlocking private pools of capital, much of the challenge revolved around return, risk, liquidity and time horizons. Noting that $41 trillion would change hands from the “Baby Boomers” to the “Gen X” and “Millennial” generations, he said that impact investing, which represented less than 0.5 per cent of portfolios, would remain small and “the privilege of the happy few who have a few billion to spare”. The good news was that banks were in the business of creating bridges between capital and projects in need of funding. As an example, he described a sustainable bond linked to the Goals that was recently issued by the World Bank and underwritten by BNP Paribas. The bond directly financed sustainable projects around the world supported by the World Bank but offered to investors a return linked to the stock performance of a basket of equities issued by corporations which directly supported the Goals through at least 20 per cent of their activities. While banks could create new financing tools for the Goals with the support of partners like multilateral development banks, those products still had to be distributed and bought. That was where positive regulation that encouraged impact investing could solve part of the conundrum.
Mr. NISHIGUCHI said that in 2016, UNDP and the Japan Innovation Network had launched the Sustainable Development Goals Holistic Innovation Platform to engage the private sector in increasing the pipeline of bankable projects to help achieve the Goals. The Platform had 300 individual members and 75 companies, with more expected to join this year. It was critical for any private-sector player to create a “passage” between the Goals and cash flow. To do so, it was important to understand the innovation process, especially the incubation stage. It was important to have a high-quality incubation stage, as it would articulate the challenges (the Goals), the client value and the business model. The operational stage captured the business plan, the finance and the roll out. He underscored the need to look at the Goals, not as corporate social responsibility, but as a business programme. Thematic sessions organized for specific Goals had produced hypothetical business models and involved countries including Kenya, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Egypt, Madagascar, South Africa and the United Republic of Tanzania. To increase the pipeline, the private sector must regard the Goals as an innovation not an operational project, as well as connect multiple Goals as a way to deepen solutions. A typical enemy was a silo mentality, he said, stressing that achieving the Goals required a collaborative approach.
Ms. REYES focused on collaborative approaches to ensure innovation in the provision of financial services. Colombia’s financial inclusion policy was based on an 11-year commitment to provide resources and transfer both capital and innovation to the private sector to help meet the needs of low-income people. Simplified mechanisms had been created, establishing limits to the amounts that could be held in products that could reach low-income people, such as inclusive insurance. In the case of microcredit and small loans, which did not exceed $460, the bank tried to make interest rates more flexible to incorporate the risk involved in supporting a segment of the population that would otherwise not be able to access lending. In the future, Colombia would focus on raising more financial products and using them effectively, as well as deepening financial inclusion in the rural sector, as many products in Latin American countries were concentrated in urban areas. Alternative mechanisms were needed to help small businesses access financing. Colombia had brought together all Government and private entities involved in raising the level of economic and financial education.
Ms. KLAPPER said today’s discussion on raising financing for Governments and the private sector must be widened to include households and small- and medium-sized firms, as well as savings and payments. The Bank’s Findex data measured how people saved, borrowed and managed payments, she said, explaining that there had been double-digit growth since 2001, when data were first collected. India’s biometric identification system allowed the Government to roll out 200 million such accounts for people to access cheap food and fuel. In China, merchant store keepers could now do financial transactions in rural areas. Indeed, access to digital payments could help achieve the Goals. In India, the roll out of bank branches had reduced poverty by 15 percentage points, while insurance projects in Ghana had also reduced poverty. Financial inclusion could promote innovation. In India and Bosnia and Herzegovina, giving entrepreneurs access to savings products and credit had led to growth, and in turn, more women’s economic empowerment. In Kenya, Nepal, the Philippines and elsewhere, offering a woman an account had led to greater spending on food and household goods, even washing machines. There were obstacles, especially for small- and medium-sized enterprises, which had a $2 trillion shortfall in needed credit, which was hampered by a weak credit information structure and “movable collateral registries” which made it difficult for banks to assess risks. Research by Harvard University had found that firms investing more in sustainable standards had higher market performance and profitability.
In the ensuing discussion, a speaker from the United Nations Global Compact said foreign direct investment and corporate capital investment should be driven by a principles-based approach. Otherwise, fundamental rights could be undermined. A revolution was needed for new financial instruments that cut across the asset classes and Goals alike. He asked about public policy frameworks that could mobilize private finance. Japan’s delegate asked for ideas on a risk-sharing mechanism, and about the Government’s role in the Sustainable Development Goals Holistic Innovation Platform. Chile’s delegate asked about challenges in implementing the various projects, while Uganda’s delegate asked about mobile money transfers substantively contributed to poverty reduction or simply “income smoothing”. Peru’s delegate asked about progress in expanding financial services to people in poverty, as well as best practices for financial literacy and consumer protection.
A speaker from PRI, an association of 1,700 financial organizations managing $70 trillion, said one question commonly raised was whether a mechanism was in place to monitor the allocation of capital to be used for the Goals. Canada’s delegate asked how the United Nations could help develop the pipeline of bankable projects, and more broadly about the asymmetry of information regarding risk, small- and medium-sized enterprises, and whether the Sustainable Development Goals Holistic Innovation Platform accepted companies from outside Japan. A speaker representing civil society described an erosion of public interest by public-private partnerships, in part because of heavy contractual clauses with implications for Governments. There was a great role for private financing, especially through small enterprises, which required different types of business support to build capacity and participate in markets.
Mr. RATTRAY responded that in mobilizing resources, countries must be assisted in developing capital markets, which was not simple. They must also be encouraged to have a higher savings rate, which similarly would not happen overnight. “We are conscious that the clock is ticking,” he stressed.
Mr. DUTEIL replied that public policy could mobilize capital at scale. France had enacted a “90:10” scheme for companies with more than 50 employees, obliging them to offer employees access to funds that invested 5 to 10 per cent in impact investing, allocated to non-listed small- and medium-sized enterprises. The result had been massive and offered an example of how public policy could be positive without being coercive. Another example was the Tropical Landscapes Financing Facility, whereby investors invested in well-known entities, which in turn, redistributed the funds to small farmers.
Mr. NISHIGUCHI said the Platform would work with private sector, Governments and non-governmental organizations from any country, and was particularly interested in speaking with start-up communities. Governments could help connect the Platform with start-ups and support the incubation stage, which would be a huge boost to creating bankable projects.
Ms. REYES said supporting the private sector in taking a risk on high-risk sectors involved co-financing incentives, as well as transferring technical assistance to them. There was much to be done in terms of technology transfer. On financial literacy, it was important to define objectives in a work plan coordinated among all players.
Ms. KLAPPER said financial inclusion should reduce poverty because it allowed people to invest in education and business opportunities. It also prevented poor adults from falling into poverty during a crisis, such as the death of a family member. There was evidence that in an emergency people received support from a geographically and socially wider group of friends. On financial literacy, no academic literature had found that traditional textbook-based financial literacy worked. What appeared to be better were “teachable moments” for explaining interest compounding, for example. Fintech had positively impacted rural farmers repaying credit loans in sub-Saharan Africa, for example.
Round Table C
The Forum then held its final round table for the day, on “debt and systemic issues”. Moderated by Siddharth Tiwari, Director, Strategy and Policy Review Department, IMF, it featured presentations by Angus Friday, Ambassador of Grenada to the United States; Camillo von Müller, Economist, Federal Ministry of Finance, Germany; Marilou Uy, Executive Director, International Group of 24 (G24) Secretariat; and Patricia Miranda, Senior Officer on Finance for Development, Latindadd Fundación Jubileo, Bolivia.
In his opening remarks, Mr. TIWARI said that the IMF was committed to strengthening global financial architecture. The issues ranged from completing IMF quotas in governance reform to addressing gaps in global safety nets. It was essential to provide the right framework to encourage early debtor-creditor engagement towards efficient and timely restructuring.
Mr. FRIDAY said that from the lens of a small island developing State such as his, it was necessary to acknowledge debt sustainability challenges and recognize the need for urgent solutions. Since 1950, there had been 184 natural disasters in the Caribbean, resulting in damages worth $8 billion. In Grenada alone, the hurricane in 2004 caused a 200 per cent loss of its GDP. Emphasizing the links between years of extreme weather events and high levels of indebtedness, he said that debt restructuring had not worked successfully because there was a stepping up of interest rates and not enough local ownership. The financial crisis and the impact on tourism had caused Grenada to default on its debt payments at the end of 2014. In response, Grenada had brought together civil society and Government to create a social compact on spending and financing. Grenada had also introduced a hurricane clause in its contracts with lenders, noting that the debts would be deferred in the event of a hurricane. As of Tuesday, the IMF had completed its sixth review of Grenada and the country had passed with flying colours.
Mr. VON MULLER said that state-contingent debt instruments had an important role to play in the international financial architecture, in building resilience and improving sustainability. Noting that the finance ministers and central bank governors of the G-20 had formulated a clear mission with regard to such instruments in the Chengdu communiqué, she said that during its G-20 presidency, Germany had responded to the call for further analysis of their technicalities, opportunities and challenges. The history of state-contingent debt instruments showed the importance of contract designs, as well as the incentives and data credibility. While GDP-linked bonds could be beneficial instruments when designed to generate fiscal space in difficult economic times, it was necessary to take steps to reduce the costs of insurance and carefully assess international demand.
Ms. UY said that global financial reforms had a wide range of effects on developing countries. The Addis Agenda had acknowledged the importance of creating a coherent and inclusive global financial architecture. The international monetary system must mitigate tensions and promote stability while supporting growth strategies of individual countries. That was particularly important for emerging economies, whose growth rates had slowed recently. While macroeconomic and structural policies constituted the first line of defence, in a highly interconnected globe efforts to manage global economic headwinds needed to be supported by multilateral action. While the opening of financial borders had helped create capital flows, there were persistent problems with capital flow measures. Policy differences between different countries could cause exchange-rate volatility, which in turn, created uncertainty and disrupted investment. Better policy coordination was necessary and the IMF could play an important role in that.
Ms. MIRANDA said that it was vital to understand the composition of debt, which could originate from a variety of sources. Besides traditional external credits for fiscal gaps, there were also sovereign bonds issued by other countries, including lower middle-income countries. Furthermore, there was domestic debt and corporate debt, which had been rising in the last few years. Subnational debt, from local governments and State-owned enterprises, could lead to fiscal risk. Moreover, public-private partnerships could also give rise to debt. While the Addis Agenda had reaffirmed the importance of a timely and independent debt restructuring process, it was necessary to go beyond those principles. Reminding the Council that if developed countries fell into debt distress, it would have a systemic impact on the global economy, she called attention to the negative social impacts of debt, saying that it had taken Latin America two decades to recover from the effects of debt on the most marginalized peoples.
In the ensuing discussion, representatives of civil society highlighted the importance of responsible investment and safety nets, and asked about the growth of the shadow banking system, which included lightly regulated hedge funds. Yet another representative of civil society asked about the lack of movement in regulating financial markets while a fourth representative noted that the “elephant in the room” underlying the debt issue was the classical mismatch between currencies.
Responding, Mr. FRIDAY agreed with the need for stronger safeguards and noted that more and more extreme weather events could be expected in the future. Therefore, hurricane clauses should be automatically included, particularly for small island developing States. Mr. MULLER said that GDP-linked bonds should be seen as part of a toolkit that contributed to debt sustainability. Ms. UY said that it was time to assess the impact of financial sector regulatory reforms.
Mr. TIWARI said that the promise of jobs and higher incomes hinged crucially on creating the right environment for sustainable growth. Infrastructure was a prerequisite for that kind of growth. The strengthening of standards regulating financial instruments had resulted in unintended consequences such as the shift to shadow banks. Ms. MIRANDA stressed the importance of transparency and open data, which she noted was a challenge not only for international financial institutions, but also for States. Debt could be a symptom that there was something wrong in the economy, and therefore, it was necessary to look at the larger picture including tax systems, she said.Read More