Opinion: Private Finance Is Not A Panacea For Development Woes

Opinion: Private Finance Is Not A Panacea For Development Woes

By Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director Oxfam International | From  Mail&Guardian

The world’s most powerful political leaders will be absent from the United Nations Financing for Development Conference when it kicks off in Addis Ababa next week. They would rather not put political capital into a meeting that their bureaucrats have spent weeks and months pulling apart.

Given the state of play, Addis risks delivering little more than warm words and funding for a few pet development projects. But this meeting is supposed to be about much more. It is supposed to establish a financing framework that will bolster genuinely inclusive growth and tackle poverty in the developing world. It should set out how the global community will fund a fairer, more prosperous and stable world, whether from the public purse, private finance, tax revenues or other innovative sources. To do that requires high-level engagement from around the globe, which doesn’t seem likely.

One billion people live in poverty. That’s one billion people who struggle to get enough to eat, or get an education. A billion people whose dreams of a better life are unlikely to be fulfilled no matter how hard they work. Extreme economic inequality is also spiralling out of control both within countries and between developed and developing countries; according to current trends, the richest 1% will own more than half the world’s wealth by 2016.

Too many people are being left behind and the consequences of that are unsustainable. For evidence, just read the daily news.

Setting the bar high

It’s imperative that we get financing for a development framework in place if we are to rid the world of destabilising and dehumanising poverty and inequality. Addis can start this process and set the bar high for the UN Summit for Sustainable Development Goals, a set of targets aimed at eliminating poverty and protecting our planet, that are due to be agreed on in New York in September, and the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris at the end of the year.

The potential for Addis is huge but the prospects are gloomy. Governments’ determination to put short-term political and commercial interests ahead of their citizens’ wellbeing means Addis risks doing more for global business than for those unjustly at the bottom.

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