LEFT BEHIND BY THE G20

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In 2010, the G20 committed themselves to promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth. They argued that ‘for prosperity to be sustained it must be shared’ and also endorsed ‘green growth’, which promises to decouple economic expansion from environmental degradation. But G20 countries have some way to go to match this commitment. This paper assesses their record.

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g20Like the UNDP and Christian Aid reports featured in this Newsletter, this Oxfam report calls for a focus on inequality.  More starkly than the other two reports, it argues that ‘without attention to rising inequality, strong growth will not be enough to reduce poverty significantly over the next decade’.  Oxfam links inequality with sustainability since, it points out, ‘Economic activity is currently depleting the Earth’s natural assets, including the capacity of the atmosphere to absorb carbon dioxide, with the costs borne disproportionately by poor women and men.’
 
The report’s recommendations include:
to tackle inequality:
• redistributive transfers;
• investment in universal access to health and education;
• progressive taxation
• removal of the barriers to equal rights and opportunities for women;
• reforming land ownership, ensuring the right access to land and
other resources, and investing in small-scale food producers.
 
To make development more sustainable:
• Investment in public goods, such as research and development in
clean energy;
• Tax breaks, subsidies and other incentives to guide private
investment to where it is needed;
• Taxing undesirables, such as greenhouse gas emissions, to direct
economic activity towards more sustainable alternatives;
• Regulation to stop companies polluting or to encourage them to
provide goods and services they otherwise would not.
 
The authors argue that inequality and unsustainable development combine in a vicious circle:
Bringing humanity’s use of natural resources back within ecologically sustainable limits is essential. But inequalities in power and resources mean that poor people and poor countries are also vulnerable to the impact of making that transition to sustainability. International and national policies designed to protect their rights and interests are vital. Tackling underlying inequalities within and between countries becomes all the more important as a result.

The Oxfam report, citing an ECLAC study, is more positive than some other of the studies reviewed here about the impact on equality of cash transfer policies such the Brazilian Bolsa Família (p.16). This is an issue that perhaps needs further discussion.

 

Read the full report: 

http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/left-behind-by-the-g20-how-inequality-and-environmental-degradation-threaten-to-203569