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The World Bank should be defunded

Australia is currently being shocked on a daily basis with the revelations in our Royal Commission on Banking, which show that our financial services sector (banks, insurance companies, financial planning, etc) is deeply corrupt, with criminal behaviour clearly rife. Hopefully, many of the top executives and board members of these firms will be prosecuted and do time. Another ‘bank’ that has totally lost any sense of moral compass, not to mention effectiveness, is the World Bank. Its behaviour over the years has been scandalous. Earlier this year we learned that its so-called ‘Doing Business’ strategy deliberately manipulated its reporting to undermine a democratically elected government (Chile). And, last week (April 26, 2018), the World Bank released the Working Draft of its upcoming – World Development Report 2019: The Changing Nature of Work – where it attempted to pressure governments into widespread labour market deregulation, which if carried through would further disadvantage workers and further redistribute national income towards profits. The World Bank has outlived its purpose. It is now a seriously dangerous international institution and progressive governments should set about defunding it.

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The Weekend Quiz – April 28-29, 2018 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

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Critics of the Job Guarantee miss the mark badly … again

My blog post last week – On the path to MMT becoming mainstream (April 17, 2018) – discussed the way in which the language and concepts that have been developed by the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) authors are now permeating mainstream narratives and the media. While this has increased the pushback and hostility from both the Right and Left opposition to MMT, it is also a sign that the public understanding of the way in which the monetary system works and the policy options available to currency-issuing governments, is improving. Most recently, there is been a flurry in the US media discussing employment guarantees, which is a welcome relief from the previous saturation coverage of impoverished UBI ideas. It is fabulous, that at the policy level, the idea that the state can eliminate mass (involuntary) unemployment if it so chooses is becoming more acceptable. That’s down, in part, to the great work being done there by my MMT colleagues. There are also derivative public sector job creation proposals getting ‘airplay’ which I do not consider to be MMT-inspired nor are what I would call Job Guarantee initiatives, but which are still, to their credit, raising awareness of the need for the state to ensure there are sufficient jobs for all rather than dispatch citizens who are unable to find work to the unemployment queue. The push back is increasing and that is a sign that dissonance is being felt by the neoliberals who oppose the state taking responsibility for mass unemployment and using its fiscal capacity to render it a thing of the past. Many of the critics from the Left do not have the courage to come out and say they prefer the alternative to a Job Guarantee, which is entrenched unemployment. That leaves them carping away with no legs to stand on. The Right objections are venal as they always are – they want mass unemployment to persist to dampen wages growth and allow more real income to be captured by the top-end-of-town.

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100 years ago today in France …

Today is a public holiday (ANZAC Day) where we remember the efforts of our past generations who fought in wars. I am not very enamoured by the hype that surrounds these days – commercialisation reigns and the black/white nature of the narrative (we were good they were evil) obscures the reality of war and the political machinations that typically accompany it. In Australia’s case our involvement in several wars has been the product of unnecessary colonial master-servant type arrangements (us being the servant) and/or ridiculous alliances with the war mongering US. But the soldiers certainly did it tough and I have sympathy with that – and personal association with my grandparents and parents. Some history to follow as a reflection and some music that I was listening to on the plane as I winged North today.

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Bank of Japan’s QE strategy is failing

On April 20, 1018, the IMF presented its – Asia and Pacfic Department Press Briefing – in conjunction with the release of the April 2018 World Economic Outlook and the upcoming (May 9, 2018) release of its Asia and Pacific Regional Economy Outlook. The Deputy Director of the Asia and Pacific Department, one Odd Per Brekk, told the audience that Japan should continue its Quantitative Easing (QE) program and maintain transparency in its purchase volumes so as to ensure the strategy to accelerate the inflation rate up to the 2 per cent target is achieved. Part of this strategy involves shifting inflationary expectations from their recent low levels. Critics of the program shriek that the asset base of the Bank of Japan is now approaching the nominal GDP level and given that a high proportion of those assets are comprised of Japanese Government Bonds, that reversing the strategy eventually will be difficult and risks involving the Bank is huge losses, which might render it insolvent. Insolvency has no application in the case of a central bank which can never go broke. Further, the Bank never needs to reverse the QE purchases. There is no relevance in the rising assets to GDP ratio. The problem is that QE will not achieve the desired end. The Bank has expanded its QE program significantly yet the inflation rate and inflationary expectations remain well below the 2 per cent target. They will eventually work out that the mainstream theory that predicted otherwise is erroneous.

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Forget European reform – the Germans have anyway

For readers who follow my Twitter account, you will be aware that occasionally I have have brief interchanges with various Europhiles who have an abiding faith in the capacity of the Eurozone to reform itself along progressive lines to make it resilient against economic cycles and capable of advancing the prosperity of all the citizens who share the currency. They were particularly incensed when my latest book – Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World with Thomas Fazi was published in September last year. Our argument has always been that Germany is Germany and as such there is little hope that the basic flaws in the EMU will be resolved any time soon. Well in the last week, the Europhile bubble has been well and truly pricked by the decision of new German finance minister Scholz to retain the hard-line order-liberal Ludget Schuknecht as the chief economist in the Finance Ministry. Signal: nothing is going to change in the EMU that matters.

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The Weekend Quiz – April 21-22, 2018 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

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Australian labour market – weakens further in March 2018

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest – Labour Force, Australia, March 2018 – today which showed that the Australian labour market has weakened further in the first three months of 2018 and is decidely weaker when compared to 2017. Employment growth was virtually zero (4,900 net increase) in March 2018 and participation fell, suppressing the otherwise inevitable rise in unemployment, which would have accompanied the weak employment growth. Unemployment fell slightly but only because the participation rate fell. Had the participation rate been constant across the months, the unemployment rate would have been 5.7 per cent rather than the official rate for March 2017 of 5.5 per cent. Further, underemployment rose marginally as did the broad labour underutilisation rate, which stands at 14.3 per cent (nearly 1.9 million workers are either without work or do not have sufficient hours of work. The teenage labour market was slightly improved. Overall, my assessment is that the Australian labour market has weakened again in March and remains a considerable distance from full employment. There is a lot of slack remaining and defies the foolish calls in recent days from those demanding reductions in the fiscal deficit.

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