Archive | October, 2012

Tokyoites Speak Up About IMF-WB Annual Meetings

Posted on 13 October 2012 by elainehuang

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Next Development Mantra: ‘Inclusive Growth’

Posted on 13 October 2012 by json


By Zofeen Ebrahim

TOKYO, Oct 13 (TerraViva) – World Bank president Jim Yong Kim first used the phrase, and then the International Monetary Fund’s Christine Lagarde followed. Or was it the other way round? Whatever the case, ‘inclusive growth’ will be the new development mantra, adding to the already jargon-infested discourse of the world of the United Nations and non-governmental organisations. Continue Reading

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Q & A: ‘Seeds of Innovation Are Everywhere’

Posted on 13 October 2012 by json

TOKYO, Oct 13 – That old saying “necessity is the mother of innovation” comes to mind as a restless world seeks global solutions in the face of nagging economic maladies that affect big and small nations and communities alike. Against this backdrop, the Asia Innovation Forum 2012, a two-day event on Oct. 12-13, 2012, brought together a mix of creative minds to exchange views and explore ways to create what organisers called a “chemical reaction” of fresh, productive ideas. Continue Reading

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A Tale of Two Countries

Posted on 13 October 2012 by json

By Kunda Dixit*

TOKYO, Oct 13 – Civil society activists are not  surprised that there has been a reversal in some countries in progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), because they say it was based on flawed premises to begin with.

Many poor countries are facing a challenge in meeting the goals on poverty, nutrition, health and education because of falling incomes due to inflation, the global recession and climate change. All three causes are linked to neo-liberal values and marketisation that have driven growth and globalisation, they say.

The roots of the crisis are all interlinked: Unsustainable growth based on petro-based economies led to global warming, which resulted in the increased frequency of droughts. This reduced food production, so countries tried to reduce their carbon footprints by turning to bio-fuels which in turn put additional inflationary pressure, and volatility in food prices hit vulnerable populations in poor countries hardest. This meant parents send their children to work in the fields instead of sending them to school. Which, in turn, resulted in countries regressing in efforts to meet their primary-school enrollment MDG targets.

Speakers at a seminar on ‘From MDG1 to Inclusive Economy’, organised at the sidelines of the World Bank-IMF meeting in Tokyo this week, felt that international development organisations have finally seen that the growth models they were pushing were not sustainable, but still don’t dare to make a paradigm shift.

China has often been cited as a country that has been the most successful in world history in reducing poverty. In fact, China has already met most of its MDG targets, including over-achieving the goal to reduce extreme poverty by slashing it from 85 million to 35 million between 2000 to 2009.

While admitting that progress has been made, activists say, the Chinese model masks a widening gap between the rich and poor, huge out-migration from rural areas, a big problem with water and air pollution, glacier retreat in Tibet because of the impact of China’s growth on the global climate. China’s e-waste is exported around the world, and its demand for wildlife products has decimated national parks and oceans. Arable land is decreasing, and the use of chemical fertilisers has destroyed existing farms.

Lau Kin Chi is a professor at Hong Kong’s Lingnan University, and the author of books, including ‘China Reflected’. She said: “China may have reduced poverty, but its development model has increased inequality and exacerbated environmental problems.”

“Inclusive growth” is a term being used in World Bank-IMF documents, and activists fear it will become a buzzword like “green growth”. The jargon doesn’t mean anything until economic justice, sustainability and the environment are taken into account.

“China’s growth model produces poverty. We need to redefine what we mean by growth and progress,” Ki Chi said.

To be sure, at a stock-taking of the MDG targets at a Saturday panel discussion, the World Bank’s new president Jim Yong Kim said that a post-2015 goal had to take into account inclusive and equitable development.

India and China took different roads to spur economic growth, and they are also taking different paths to poverty eradication. While China has increased outlays for social welfare, environmental cleanup and promoting green technology, it still faces huge social problems with managing the expectations of its disenfranchised.

The Indian government has been even slower in addressing equitable growth, and today is numerically the world’s poorest country. There are 2 million NGOs in India and they were all doing piecemeal work, but lately they have taken a collective rights-based approach to work with parliament to legislate the right to health, education, jobs.

The most successful example of this is the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) which, since it went into effect in 2006, has improved the purchasing power of rural people, a third of them women. It has cut down on rural-urban migration by creating jobs in conservation, water supply, forestry all over the vast country and benefited 80 million households.

“India has shown that social movements can force a national parliament to act to look at poverty reduction holistically,” explained Vinod Raina, of the All India People’s Science Network. Combined with right to health and education, it provides income, decreases inequality and people can keeping living in their own areas keeping their ties to the land. Such holistic programmes will have far-reaching impact on India meeting MDG targets.

Japanese civil society activist Masaaki Ohashi of the Japan NGO Centre for International Cooperation (JANIC) summed it all up: “In the 1970s, the Rome Report showed us the limits to growth. We are now seeing it happen all over the planet through climate change, and proof that poverty comes from excess.”

*Dateline Earth is a column written by Kunda Dixit, editor and publisher of ‘The Nepali Times’, during this TerraViva edition.



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Activists Create Space at Meetings

Posted on 13 October 2012 by json

TOKYO, Oct 13 (TerraViva) – Whether it is finding a venue to push their causes, debating with others or catching up with trends in the work of the IMF and WB, various activists say they have found the Annual Meetings useful. Continue Reading

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Why No Protests?

Posted on 13 October 2012 by json

World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings have become synonymous with anti-globalisation protests, some of them having had to be violently put down with tear gas and water cannons. Continue Reading

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What Will It Take

Posted on 13 October 2012 by json

By Kunda Dixit

TOKYO, Oct 13 (TerraViva) – After a decade of progress, it had seemed that the world was on target to meet many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were set in 2000 to halve extreme poverty and hunger, boost health and literacy in 15 years. Continue Reading

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Q & A: Poverty Limits Youth Capacity

Posted on 12 October 2012 by json

Mak Chamroeun, president of Khmer Youth Association, is the lone activist from Cambodia at the IMF-WB Annual Meetings in Tokyo, Japan. He chats with IPS Asia-Pacific TerraViva’s Sam Rith about what he learned from the meetings.

TerraViva: What have you learned from these meetings?

 Mak: What I learned most relates to the youth, the shortage jobs for youth that the leaders of IMF and World Bank are very interested in. I found that there are a lot of joblessness among the youth, and that there will be more cooperation to resolve the economic crisis, youth issues, and joblessness. I have listened to different guest speakers in different seminars during the IMF-World Bank meetings talk about how to resolve the joblessness of the youth. They said that SMEs play very important role (in this). I found out that the leaders of IMF and World Bank showed high commitment not (only to) reduce the poverty, but to end poverty.

TerraViva: What are the challenges that Cambodian youth face today?

 Mak: Cambodian youth now are facing illiteracy, lack of education, lack of skills that the market requires. Not many of our youths now participate in implementing political, democracy, human rights and local governance. We have about 8 million youths, about 60 to 65 percent of the population. We do not have parliamentarians aged below 35. Each year, thousands of students graduate from schools and colleges but there is no working opportunity in their local areas. The other issue is that the poverty limits them from being able to get education, health treatment and other services. Drugs are still a problem.

TerraViva: Cambodia has been receiving a lot of aid from developed countries, World Bank, IMF and others after the civil war. How important will aid continue to be for the country?

 Mak: We still need aid from outside because the government has not yet managed effectively to raise internal resources including natural resources, human resources and others.

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Japan’s Crisis May Yet Be A Wake-up Call

Posted on 12 October 2012 by json

Tokyo at night.

   By Suvendrini Kakuchi

TOKYO, Oct 13 (TerraViva) – Forty-eight years ago in September 1964, Japan hosted the International Monetary Fund-World Bank annual meetings as a borrower. This week, the gleaming Japanese capital hosted the same meetings as a top international lender and the world’s third largest economy.

    The story of Japan’s change from aid recipient to top donor has been a recurring backdrop at the meetings here, but analysts warn that this revolutionary transformation gives no reason for smug celebration.

   Instead, they say, the deeper mood in Tokyo as it basks in the international limelight is one of restless foreboding coupled with a yearning for reforms of the very same institutions that nurtured it when it was a post-war economy on recovery.

   “Japan faces tough challenges today even though the country has come a long way from the ashes of the war when it was defeated in 1945,” said Dr Takehiko Ohta, an expert on land conservation policy who taught at the prestigious University of Tokyo.

   “I would describe the national mood as somber as we embark on the transition road to find apt and long-term solutions to our pressing problems,” said Ohta.

   Indeed, emerging alongside the major advances that Japan has made are those \that threaten its much-admired achievements.

   A stubborn three decade-long economic recession has seen growth rates fall to an average of 2 percent annually, a trend that has forced the government to cut back on its much-touted overseas development assistance (ODA) budget. It now ranks fifth among international donor countries, and its ODA has been decreasing by more than 7 percent annually.

   Its rapidly ageing population – Japan has the fastest ageing people in the world and some 20 percent of citizens are over 60 years old – is also something the country needs to find urgent solutions to, apart from wasteful public infrastructure projects and public debt that is ballooning as the government scrambles to support growing health and pension budgets.

   Unemployment – almost 10 percent among the younger generation – is also hurting public confidence given the fact 16 percent of Japan’s 127 million people is now on welfare assistance.

   Job opportunities for young people have become harder to find because companies are restricting hiring as they face competition from industrialising Asian neighbours that are now entering the global market.

   “Japan faces one of its worst postwar crises…. While the Great East Japan earthquake did immense damage to the country, it is undeniable that the self-conceit the nation developed during the period of high economic growth is partly to blame,” wrote the ‘Nikkei’, a leading Japanese financial daily, in its special on Japan-World Bank relations.

   Nikkei advocates that policymaking in Japan undergo oversight from third parties, pointing out that “government agencies are not always best at making plans”.

   While analysts view the Mar. 11, 2011 triple disaster of the Great Eastern Earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear accident as a huge blow to Japan, there is also growing consensus that this crisis could become the long-awaited catalyst to usher in important reforms.

   “The disaster has shaken the very foundations of Japan by revealing cracks in a system that was admired before. But the sobering evidence has brought important reform, some of them unthinkable in Japan,” observed Ohta.

   Ohta is now working on a coastal reforestation project in the tsunami- devastated north-east, led by a trilateral partnership among the local Nattori city, the civil society organization Oisca, and Wal-Mart Japan, which provides most of the funds.

   “Such collaboration and new partnerships would have been unthinkable a few decades ago,” he explained.

   For Japan’s Finance Minister Koriki Jojima, finding solutions means extending political support to weakened sectors of agriculture and medicine, which fell behind during the growth times that focused, among others, on developing the country’s much-vaunted automobile technology.

   “Subsidies aimed for job security now focuses on training youth,” he said, explaining the necessity for the younger generation to survive in a tougher and meaner global system. This situation is a far cry from that of their parents, who worked during the high-growth years.

    The Fukushima nuclear accident has indeed encouraged positive changes in Japan, according to Yurika Ayukawa, an expert on clean energy. She points to growing public opposition to nuclear power, which she says is “a major feat in a country that had traditionally accepted government slogans that justified large investments to build nuclear reactors on the basis of supporting economic development.”

   “When considering the support for change among average Japanese, there is no turning back,” insists Ayukawa. “This is the symbol of real change.” (END)


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Training, English and ICTs: Job-Hunting Tools

Posted on 12 October 2012 by elainehuang

By Sam Rith

TOKYO, Oct 13 (TerraViva) – Vocational training, knowledge of international languages like English and information and communication technologies (ICTs) are the major factors that young people need to get jobs, development experts here said. Continue Reading

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With the Support of:

The Rockefeller Foundation




  • Official site of IMF-WB meetings
    Official site of IMF-WB meetings
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    Japan host site
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