Global Redistribution and the Challenges of Externally Financing Social Policy and Development
The first international symposium of the AIDSOCPRO (Aiding Social Protection: the Political Economy of Externally Financing Social Policy in Developing Countries) research project, funded by the European Research Council and based at ISS in The Hague, part of Erasmus University Rotterdam.
16-17 February 2017 at the International Institute of Social Studies.
The symposium ran as a series of keynotes and plenary panels, where 30 invited international experts from across the fields of social policy and finance and development tackled and debated the following themes:
- how large scale global distribution could or should happen in light of the evolution of international financial and trade flows in developing countries today;
- whether the current aid system could be fit for purpose, or other modalities of global redistribution should be conceived;
- whether global redistributive flows should be directed towards social expenditures or productive sectors in poor countries; and
- the implications of directing aid towards social spending on the evolution of social policy and development in recipient countries.
The AIDSOCPRO research team also presented their initial findings on some of these questions from their ongoing research work in Ecuador, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Ghana, Paraguay, the Philippines, and Zambia.
Among a diverse and very rich range of insights, a few key highlights include:
- Contradictions within the international financial system between the demands for international financial stability versus the needs of financing development (see especially the keynote by Jan Kregel);
- The necessity to reduce regressive redistributions from poor to rich countries, such as through tax avoidance or financial outflows;
- The erosion of the aid system, in terms of the recent inclusion of military spending, commercial activities, and spending in donor countries;
- The importance of critically appraising whether various national developments towards expanding social protection in developing countries constitute progressive moves towards universalism (at least in a minimalist sense) or else whether they reinforce the segregation of social policy systems, often in combination with dynamics of financialization, structural adjustment, the recent forceful revival of conservative politics in many countries, and even demonitisation (in the recent case of India; see the keynote of Jayati Ghosh).
- The preeminent role of domestic politics, as well as local conceptions of social protection and redistribution, in shaping the particular trajectories of social policy in developing countries, as well as the subversion of these politics in highly aid dependent contexts.
Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
Jan Kregel, Director of research at the Levy Economics Institute, Head of the Institute’s Monetary Policy and Financial Structure program, and Professor of Development Finance at Tallinn University of Technology
Thandika Mkandawire, Professor of African Development, London School of Economics, and former Director of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development
‘The importance of bringing back functional income distribution in discussions about globalization and inequality, and its relation to global/national redistribution.’
The contributions of ISS and, within ISS, the Political Ecology research group are gratefully acknowledged.