May 08, 2016 Articles Comments Off on Globalization as Competing Projects: The Quest for Sustainable Development
Globalization as Competing Projects: The Quest for Sustainable Development
Dr. Niaz Murtaza, Executive Director, INSPIRING Pakistan
Social Development Issues (Journal), 2011
Abstract: The validity of three globalization projects–Neoliberal, Statist and Green—is evaluated. Little support is found for the neoliberal project. While the statist project has allowed several countries to progress, it is not a viable strategy due to environmental, equity and global demand issues. The green project, with its emphasis on quality of life issues, best ensures sustainable development.
Key words: developing countries; globalization; international economic order; neo-liberalism
Globalization is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. While opponents of globalization highlight the balance of trade and currency crises faced by developing countries from excessive trade and capital account liberalization, its supporters emphasize the economic stagnation and high poverty in countries like North Korea that do not participate much in the global economy. This article contends that these disagreements stem from a lack of a nuanced analysis of globalization as both sides focus mainly on the pros and cons of the free flow of goods and money. However, globalization includes a variety of different flows that cannot be usefully analyzed. By disaggregating globalization along different flows and linking them to different ‘globalization projects’, this article undertakes a nuanced evaluation of the potential of globalization for developing countries. It concludes that while the indiscriminate liberalization of trade and financial flows advocated by the neoliberal project is inadvisable, there are other economic and non-economic forms of globalization supported by other projects that can help establish sustainable development globally.
WHAT IS GLOBALIZATION?
Some define globalization in economic terms (Bhagwati, 2004) while others also include its political, (Chase-Dunn, 1999), cultural (Scholte, 2000) and psychological dimensions (Glenn, 2007). In adopting the broader conceptualizations, this article defines globalization as ‘a process of increasing (level, scope, speed and/or complexity) transnational flows and/or their coordination which enhances global homogeneity and integration in different spheres’ (Modelski and Devezas, 2007). Transnational flows include those of goods, services, finances, people, nature and ideas (e.g., knowledge, emotions and values). Different combinations of these flows produce different spheres of globalization. Economic globalization results from the greater flow of goods, services, finances and certain types of people (e.g., tourists) and ideas (e.g., free trade theory) (Bhagwati, 2004). Cultural globalization means the development of common cultural patterns globally and is enhanced by the flow of goods, services, people and ideas (Adapted from Scholte, 2000). Psychological globalization refers to a sense of global community, which is facilitated by all types of flows (such as aid flows from all over the world during the Tsunami that highlighted the sense of global solidarity) and their coordination (Adapted from Glenn, 2007). This article defines ecological globalization as the process where changes in natural flows in one location have a global impact. Finally, political globalization refers to increased coordination on managing transnational flows (Adapted from Chase-Dunn, 1999).
Given globalization’s multifaceted nature, it seems inappropriate to analyze it as a monolithic process or accept or reject it in its totality. Globalization is better viewed as different globalization projects, where each project represents an effort by a coalition to increase certain types of transnational flows, coordination, integration and homogeneity and to reduce other types in line with their aims. As such, each project is both pro-globalization and anti-globalization. The next section evaluates the potential of the three main present-day projects to help establish sustainable development in developing countries and globally.
THE NEOLIBERAL AND STATIST GLOBALIZATION PROJECTS
The neo-liberal project, supported by neoclassical economists, multilateral financial institutions and conservative politicians, represents the most well-known face of globalization. Its main focus is on individual wealth creation which, it argues, leads to higher individual satisfaction, greater economic growth and the elimination of poverty and environmental problems. On the one hand, this project advocates for free movements of goods, services, and private finance (Bhagwati, 2004; Wolf, 2004). On the other hand, it argues against: i) the free flow of people from poor to rich countries (Rector, 2006), ii) the free flow of scientific ideas (through intellectual property rights) and official aid from rich to poor countries (Easterly, 2006; Heritage Foundation, 1990) and iii) increased international regulation of markets (Wolf, 2004). Given the series of financial crises since the neoliberal project emerged in the 1980s, the statist project, sponsored by Keynesian economists, has emerged as its strong challenger recently. Its main focus is on national economic development. Arguing that free markets alone will not allow poor countries to develop, it favors restrictions on trade and capital flows but stronger international coordination on economic, political and environmental issue, increased international aid and easier transfer of technology to poor countries (Stiglitz, 2003 and 2006).
Both projects focus primarily on economic globalization and secondarily on related political globalization and generally ignore the remaining spheres of globalization. Thus, we evaluate their positions on these aspects of globalization only. Even so, the discussion here goes beyond the usual focus on trade and capital flows alone and includes several other flows, such as aid, technology, migration, remittances and foreign reserves, which are part of economic globalization but are frequently ignored in discussions on its merit.
Trade of goods and services: Using the theory of comparative advantage, neoliberals argue that free trade enhances global prosperity and helps developing countries gain access to the markets and technology of high-income countries (Wolf, 2004; Bhagwati, 2004). However, statist project supporters argue that the underlying assumptions (e.g., full employment and perfect competition) of this theory are unrealistic (Stiglitz and Charlton, 2005). Second, they argue that all countries have developed by initially restricting imports to help their industries become globally competitive (Chang, 2002). They also argue that political globalization related to trade has undermined the interests of developing countries. Thus, because of the Uruguay round agreements, low-income countries still face heavy protection in agriculture, which recruits almost two-thirds of their workers (World Bank, 2009) as OECD countries continue to give out economically questionable and environmentally damaging agricultural subsidies to large agribusiness firms ($265 billion in 2008 or more than twice the amount of OECD foreign aid), and maintain high tariffs on agricultural products (OECD, 2009). Similarly, rich countries maintain higher tariffs on manufacturing goods from developing countries than for OECD countries, restrictions in the labor-intensive textile and clothing sectors and escalated tariffs on processed goods than on raw materials (Stiglitz, 2006). On the other hand, developed countries forced the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement during the Uruguay round, which restricts the ability of developing countries to gain technology and medicine for HIV/AIDS at affordable prices. The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) opens up service sectors where rich countries have an advantage. (Stiglitz, 2006). The Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIM) agreement reduces the ability of developing countries to impose performance-related measures such as export targets and local partnership and purchase requirements on foreign companies (Stiglitz, 2003). Thus, statist project supporters argue for giving developing countries greater access to the markets of developed countries while allowing the former to maintain greater restriction on goods and services trade from developed countries. They also argue for greater support from the WTO secretariat for developing countries (Chang, 2002; Stiglitz, 2006).
Empirical studies on trade liberalization: Studies about the impact of free trade on poverty, inequality and economic growth by neoclassical economists show that openness to trade reduces poverty and enhances economic growth (e.g., Dreher, et al, 2008; Aisbett, et al, 2008). However, those by Keynesian economists show that increased trade and capital accounts openness actually increases poverty and does not necessarily increase economic growth (e.g., Sheikh, 2007; Sharma and Morrissey, 2006; Ocampo, et al, 2007; Krishna, 2009). While debate among neoliberal and statist scholars about methodologies thwarts a consensus, the positive studies mentioned above accept that benefits are not unequivocal or direct, and are mediated by complimentary policies that find no place in neoliberal frameworks, such as access to credit and social safety nets for the poor. Furthermore, the positive relationships relate mainly to countries such as China, India, and South Korea, which generally followed the more interventionist trade policies of the statist rather than the neoliberal project, especially during their period of initial development (Chang, 2002). Thus, India and China, where the bulk of the reduction in absolute poverty has occurred, are still classified as mostly un-free by the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom (Heritage Foundation, 2011).
Private capital flows: Neoliberal economists argue that developing countries can gain access to much needed capital by allowing the free flow of portfolio investments, private loans and foreign currencies. However, statist project supporters maintain that a large percentage of currency and portfolio flows are speculative and volatile in nature. For example, the percentage of foreign currency transactions related to ‘real economy’ has dropped from 90% in the 1970s to around 2% in the late 1990s (Scholte, 2000). This volatility has hurt the economies of several emerging countries recently, e.g., Argentina and Indonesia, as firms struggled to repay the excessive short-term external loans denominated in foreign currencies which were not renewed following an economic downturn. There is also little evidence that capital market liberalization contributes to long-term growth or macro-economic stability (Stiglitz, 2006). Lax regulation of capital flows also leads to flight of between $500 and $800 billion annually (more than remittances and aid combined) from developing countries through TNCs and international banks due to the failure of the IMF and rich countries to enforce proper regulation on capital flows (Eurodad, 2008). Thus, the statist project argues for greater controls and taxes on short-term capital flows (Stiglitz, 2006).
Foreign direct investment (FDI) and technology: The neoliberal project strongly recommends the free flow of FDI globally but argue for strong intellectual property rights where technology flows are involved (Rector, 2006). While the statist project acknowledges that FDI is generally less volatile than portfolio flows, it raises several problems that frequently undermine its benefits for developing countries. TNCs frequently force smaller, national companies out of business and restrict competition while mergers and acquisitions often lead to large-scale lay-offs and asset stripping (Stiglitz, 2006). Foreign banks generally lend less to small and medium-sized local businesses and more to TNCs and for consumption purposes. There is also often a lack of knowledge spillovers and adverse impact on domestic enterprises (De Mello 1999; Xu 2000), and crowding-out of domestic investment (Carkovic and Levin 2002). There is often a divergence between TNC interests and the host country’s objectives and manipulation of transfer prices by TNCs in intra-firm trade. FDI can also be volatile during bust periods, as new investments can dry up and existing sunk capital may leave through dividend payments and derivate-based hedging (Stiglitz, 2006). Consequently, the state has to carefully negotiate with TNCs to ensure greater benefits from FDI. However, GATS, TRIPs and TRIM agreements reduce negotiation scope. Thus, the statist project argues for a change in these agreements, easier flow of advanced technology to developing countries, greater authority for the UN to develop codes of conduct for TNCs and using domestic savings as the main source for investments and using FDI to fill any shortfalls (Stiglitz, 2006).
Bilateral aid: The neoliberal camp generally finds aid as wasteful and argues for relying on markets to achieve the goals pursued through aid (Easterly, 2006). The statist camp acknowledges these problems but argues for reducing the problems and expanding aid. Empirical studies on the impact of aid on economic growth provide mixed findings. However, in reviewing a large number of such studies over fifty years, McGillivray et al (2005) conclude that aid works when supported by the right policies. Total bilateral and NGO aid in 2008 was around 154 billion while developing countries have around 2.7 billion poor people with incomes under $2 per day (OECD, 2011; World Bank, 2009). This works out to less than 15 cents of aid per day per person, as against the poverty threshold of $2. Even this amount must be discounted further for the problems related to aid that are acknowledged by both projects, e.g., high overheads, tied aid, corruption, politically-motivated aid, and lack of community participation (Sachs, 2005; Easterly, 2006). In addition, a significant proportion of aid is focused not on economic growth but social development, such as reducing infant mortality per 1000 live births, which has fallen from 152 during 1950-55 to 52 during 2000-2005 (UNdata, 2011). Thus, the statist project argues that if levels of aid were increased and it was delivered effectively, it should provide high value for money (Sachs, 2005).
Multilateral loans: The neoliberal project supporters have often used the loans from the IMF and the World Bank to developing countries as a tool for neoliberal political globalization by attaching conditions that force these countries to liberalize trade, capital flows and the national economy. The southern debt crisis during the 1980s, itself the result of imprudent capital flow liberalization, significantly increased the ability of the World Bank and the IMF to impose neoliberal economic policies on developing countries under the influence of the US treasury and Wall Street (Bhagwati, 2004; Sachs, 2005). Studies, some even by the IMF and neoliberal think tanks, show that these policies frequently depressed economic performance, most disastrously during the 1997-98 Asian crises (Khan, 1990; Johnson and Schaefer, 1999). While the World Bank and the IMF now claim to allow more policy space to poor countries, the conditions attached to the new loans are still fairly similar to the old schemes (WDM, 2005). Similarly, while the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) launched by donors after intense NGO advocacy has helped reduce debt burdens, it is slow in its roll-out, does not cover all developing countries, involves too many IMF conditions, is frequently at the expense of new aid and does not break the cycle of debt dependence (Addison, et al, 2004; Jochnik and Preston, 2006). Thus, the statist project argues for more grants, less loans and conditions, greater leeway in the HIPC initiative, and an international debt restructuring mechanism for private debt (Stiglitz, 2003 and 2006).
Migration and remittances: The two projects also switch positions with respect to migration to developed countries. Remittances by migrant workers to developing countries have grown from $31 billion in 1990 to 338 billion in 2008 (World Bank, 2006 and 2009). Thus, remittances are higher than official aid and portfolio investments combined and similar in levels to FDI for developing countries (World Bank, 2009). Remittances increase national income, contribute to poverty reduction, improve a country’s creditworthiness, expand access to capital and lower borrowing costs and move counter-cyclically to the economic cycle for developing country (World Bank, 2006). However, the neoliberal project opposes increased immigration to developed countries (Rector, 2006) despite the fact that many of them are experiencing shrinking populations that are undermining their economies. An increase in migration of just 3% of their labor force by developed economies would increase global welfare by $156 billion, i.e., 1.5 times the gains expected for developing countries from further trade liberalization (Walmsley and Winters, 2003). High-income countries have relaxed immigration for skilled labor. However, this is a mixed blessing for developing countries as human capital flight may impair growth, create shortages of critical skills and reduce pressures for better governance. The benefits may outweigh the gains for middle income countries that have a high supply of skilled labor but not for poor countries (World Bank, 2006). Thus, the statist project argues for greater access for unskilled migrant workers in developed countries as well as support for poor countries to help retain human capital (Stiglitz, 2006).
Foreign reserves: The two projects also hold divergent views on foreign exchange reserves flows, which have increased sharply after the 1997 Asian crisis when developing countries discovered the need to maintain high reserves as protection against portfolio investment volatility and imposition of IMF conditions. These reserves are normally invested in low-yielding U.S. or European government bonds and help in keeping the cost of borrowing low for rich countries while developing countries borrow from western financial institutions at significantly higher rates. The losses from this difference are around 1 percent of GDP since the Asian crisis (Rodrik, 2006). Investing in US dollar reserves also exposes these countries to foreign exchange losses as the dollar looses value as a result of the high US government debt. The “carry cost” of these reserves is around $130 billion per year for developing countries, i.e., larger than total ODA from OECD countries to developing countries in 2008 (TWN, 2009). In addition, the annual opportunity cost of not investing these reserves in high return domestic activities is around $300 billion (Stiglitz, 2006). Thus, statist project supporters argue for an international reserve currency as a way of helping poor countries avoid these costs (Stiglitz, 2006; TWN, 2009). However, neoliberal project supporters oppose it based on perceived technical and political difficulties (Eichengreen, 1999).
In summary, the impact of economic globalization on developing countries varies considerably according to different flows and spheres. The impact of excessive liberalization of imports and capital flows and the denomination of global reserves in dollars are unambiguously negative for developing countries. The benefits from exports, official aid, remittances, technology transfer, economic migration and FDI are frequently undermined by the policies of rich countries and multilateral institutions but can be made more positive with suitable policy changes. In fact, it would be virtually impossible for developing countries to reduce poverty without linking themselves to at least some of these aspects of globalization. Thus, there is little support for a policy of complete delinking from the global economy. At the same time, the countries that have progressed most in recent years, i.e., East Asian ones, have done so not by adhering to neoliberal policies but to policies similar to the ones espoused by the statist project (Stiglitz, 2006). Thus, there is little evidence to support the highly liberal positions of the neoliberal globalization project either. The balance of evidence is in favor of the more nuanced position of the statist project.
Does this mean that the prescriptions of the statist project are the way forward for developing countries? Not quite, as there are three major problems associated with it. First, all developing countries cannot follow the export-led strategy followed by East Asian countries as this may lead to oversupply and insufficient demand in the global economy. Second, the statist approach does little to arrest the ecological globalization caused by climate change. Not surprisingly, the most successful practitioners of the statist strategy, such as China and India, are rapidly becoming the biggest environmental polluters globally, as earlier with western countries (World Bank, 2008). Third, the prescriptions of the statist project are unlikely to be accepted unless there is a: i) fundamental change in western countries about the current, highly material, growth-oriented conceptions of individual life satisfaction and national development based on a better acceptance of the perils of economic globalization and ii) greater sense of solidarity in western countries towards developing countries, based on psychological globalization. The green globalization project gives much greater attention to these issues compared with the statist project.
THE GREEN GLOBALIZATION PROJECT
Even though the green movement may not see itself as a globalization project as it opposes globalization vociferously, a nuanced analysis reveals that it supports greater globalization along several dimensions. For example, while it opposes unfettered trade and capital flows, it supports greater global regulation, and flow of aid and technology to poor countries and migrants to rich countries. The project opposes western cultural hegemony but supports cultural globalization based on mutual respect and psychological globalization based on a sense of global community. Thus, we treat it as a globalization project and review in detail its positions in different globalization spheres.
Ecological globalization: The green globalization project essentially grew out of concerns about ecological globalization. While the other projects also accept the importance of environmental issues (though these are not central issues for either project), there is significant difference of opinion on solutions. Neoliberals support market-based technical solutions while the statist project supports international coordination and regulation. Greens argue that the potential of technical solutions is uncertain, while attempts to increase regulation will continue to fail until basic values change (Porritt, 2007). Thus, pointing to the large literature that shows that wealth does not increase life satisfaction beyond a certain level (Myers and Diener, 1996; Kasser, 2002), this project argues for a change in focus from economic to quality of life issues at the individual and national levels. It favors a gradual move towards a steady-state economy (zero population and economic growth), more immediately by rich countries, and by poor countries once they eradicate poverty (Daly, 1991).
Economic globalization: Greens accept the positions of the statist project on economic globalization but go beyond on many dimensions. Greens criticize the poor working conditions in export-oriented industries set up with the collaboration of TNCs. Neoliberals counter that these jobs provide better benefits than other options. Greens view this argument as exploitation given that improving the salaries to decent levels (e.g., above the $2 per day per person poverty threshold for a family) will not reduce the competitiveness of TNCs or low-income countries significantly. Green critics highlight cases where the WTO has ruled against high national environmental standards or where export-oriented production facilities have caused environmental degradation. While the number of WTO rulings may be limited, they do provide precedents for future. Finally, greens argue that each country should have self-reliance in critical sectors, such as food. Thus, while the statist project argues for more careful trade and investment openness, the green project raises more fundamental issues about trade. It advocates greater aid from high-income countries so that low-income countries can develop local production capacities and are not forced to compromise on national security, labor and environmental issues. They argue that the optimum level of trade should depend not only on economic issues but also on these other issues (Bello, 2005; Cavanagh and Mander, 2004). Greens do not stand for autarky. Rather, aid and technology flows from developed countries and economic migration to them would be key elements of international exchange under it to foster development among developing countries. Trade and financial flows will also occur but will not be the main drivers of national development. Finally, Greens argue that the problem is not only with globalization but also domestic economies that over-emphasize consumption and thus also advocate changes in the patterns of the domestic economy.
Political globalization: While the neoliberal project uses existing global institutions to enhance the power of the free market and resist regulation, the statist project advocates the reform of existing economic institutions to make them more attuned to the development needs of developing countries. However, the green project argues that existing multilateral institutions, such as the WTO, IMF and the World Bank, are beyond reform and must be dismantled (Bello, 2004). It argues for democratizing the UN system and setting up a number of new global institutions under its rubric, such as an environmental agency a development finance agency and an agency for the accountability of TNCs (Cavanagh and Mander, 2004).
Cultural and psychological globalization: Neoliberals consider western civilization superior, pointing to the high levels of prosperity in western societies as proof, and support the spread of western values globally. Greens hold that all cultures have their positive and negative points. They point to the breakdown of solidarity and a loss of concern for environmental issues among traditional societies as they adopt western values and the much higher levels of crime, environmental degradation, personal dissatisfaction and stress in western societies as proof. They advocate for a society that builds upon the best aspects of all cultures, e.g., the emphasis on science in western societies and on solidarity, social consumption and environmental protection in traditional societies (Cavanagh and Mander, 2004). They also see psychological globalization, i.e., the development of a sense of global solidarity, as a prerequisite for changes in other spheres.
Thus, the green project goes beyond the statist project by arguing that the current global problems cannot be fixed by just adjusting economic policies but require fundamental changes in political, cultural and psychological globalization.
This article has presented a nuanced analysis of globalization. It argues that globalization is too complex a phenomenon to be accepted or rejected in its totality and proposes the idea of viewing the realms of globalization as consisting of three different projects, each aiming to increase globalization along some dimensions and reducing it along others. The analysis reveals that while a complete delinking from the global economy will likely lead to economic and political stagnation, the high degree of integration proposed by the neoliberal project is also inadvisable as it will undermine national development and exacerbate environmental degradation. Thus, a more selective approach to globalization is needed.
The statist project provides one menu for selective globalization. While its policies will alleviate many of the ills associated with the neoliberal approach, it is unlikely to eliminate others, like climate change, social breakdown and inequality. In contrast, green policies deal more comprehensively with all these problems. Greens propose a transition to a steady-state economy, initially in the developed countries and ultimately globally. This project does not stand for autarky. Rather, aid and technology flows and political and psychological globalization will increase, but the levels of trade and financial flows will be lower than those under neoliberal or even statist policies. Only with such changes can we ensure the economic and social needs of all people and species in current and future generations globally.
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