Monday, October 20, 2008

Jeffery Sachs on the reforming of the financial system

Jeffery Sachs says that the credit crisis is a clear indication that the international financial system is broken. But he also says it's broken in other ways. Such as a billion people being cut of from the system because of where they live, and no energy supply plan to address demand and climate change.

The next big international meeting is in December. In his latest commentary, Jeffery Sachs proposes an agenda for the meeting, as found in the Guardian.

Here, then, is an agenda for Bretton Woods II. First, we need to restructure global finance, based on an expanded system of capital adequacy standards, financial reporting, system-wide risk management, and new lender-of-last-resort capacities. Derivatives traders, hedge funds, and broker dealers would be brought under regulatory control. The IMF would be empowered to be a true global lender of last resort (as I urged a dozen years ago, warning of the threat of self-fulfilling panics). To make this possible, a small tax on financial transactions - a Tobin tax - would be implemented to expand the IMF's war chest in case of crisis and to fund other urgent international needs.

Second, the new global financial structure should help to rescue the world from human-induced climate change. A straightforward tax on the carbon content of fossil fuels, levied by all countries, would do the job, and much better than the enormously cumbersome emission-trading system concocted and championed by the same financial engineers who brought us our current banking crisis. Most of the carbon-tax revenues would stay at home in each country, to help finance low-emission technologies. Some would be directed to finance three global public goods: research and development on sustainable energy; transfer of sustainable-energy technology to low-income countries; and climate-change adaptation.

Third, the World Bank should be refocused with clear goals, and accountability for their success. Specifically, the bank should have one overarching assignment: helping the poorest countries achieve the millennium development goals to reduce poverty, hunger and disease. The bank is poorly organised for such leadership today. Like any bureaucracy, it avoids being held accountable for measurable results. With a tighter focus on the MDGs, the bank should also be supported with much larger financial resources from new revenue sources (such as the Tobin tax), so that the bank can better help the poorest countries expand vital infrastructure (power, roads, water, sanitation and broadband networks).

Fourth, the global trade agenda should be integrated with the finance, and environment objectives. The Doha trade round has failed because the world could not see any urgent reasons for its success. A trade agreement worthy of the effort would do two main things. Importantly, it would help the poorest countries to be more productive so that they can be full participants in the global trading system. "Aid for trade" would help these countries to build the skills, roads, bridges and clean power grids to support increased trade. In addition, global trade would promote environmental sustainability, to help enforce compliance with reduced carbon emissions and protection of endangered biodiversity.

All these reforms are vital for long-term sustainable growth and development. If the political leaders focus only on financial-sector stability, but neglect the long-term problems of energy supplies, climate change, food production, disease control and extreme poverty, then global growth might be restored in the short term, only to succumb quickly to another global bout of rising energy and food prices, and geopolitical instability.

No comments: