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Equality of Opportunity as a Driver of Prosperity: The Case of Iran

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Augusto Lopez-Claros 1 The economic marginalization of women and ethnic, religious, and other minorities is a pervasive problem in virtually every country in the world. There is compelling economic evidence that shows that excluding minorities from the labor force not only undermines the legitimacy of the governments practicing various forms of discrimination but also ends up eroding the competitive potential of the country in an increasingly global and integrated marketplace. Much of the evidence has focused on how unequal treatment before the law and the associated violation of people’s human rights has adversely affected various metrics of human welfare and development. Perhaps the area that has delivered thus far the greatest insights is in respect of gender discrimination. At the World Bank over the past decade we built up a huge database comprehensively listing such discriminations embedded in the legislation of 190 countries and discovered that they are

Let’s have an honest debate about universal basic income

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This debate about UBI has recently come alive as governments have moved to deal with the asymmetric effects of COVID-19, with vulnerable groups being particularly affected.  Certainly, many countries are already providing temporary cash relief to the poorest, to limit the consequences of the lockdown, but in many countries the question of what happens afterwards has acquired renewed urgency because of the disproportionate effects on low-skilled workers, and the expectation that the world will remain vulnerable to other viruses in the future and the additional impact of climate change.  The opposition to UBI has several dimensions. For many UBI is seen as unaffordable and thus fiscally irresponsible, particularly against the background of the massive worsening of the public finances which will be a legacy of COVID-19. A second set of factors pertain to the role of incentives: delinking income from work and paying people to “stay at home” is seen as potentially destruc

A World Parliamentary Assembly as a Catalyst for Enhanced International Cooperation

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Andreas Bummel and Augusto Lopez-Claros 1 More than half a century ago UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld said that “the United Nations was not created to bring us to heaven, but in order to save us from hell.” This past year has seen considerable soul-searching about the future of the United Nations, against the background of the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Charter in 1945. Not surprisingly, the debates have not had the intensity that surrounded the creation of the UN during World War II. At the time, President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill brought together the allied nations in the war effort against the Axis powers and there was a tangible sense of urgency; humanity needed to avoid in the future at all costs the calamity of global war, the utter hell associated in the end with some 60 million casualties and the destruction of entire cities and countries. The UN steered the world through the process of decoloni

Why a carbon tax is the best way to mitigate climate change

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The problem In a recent article in the journal Foreign Affairs Nobel-laurate William Nordhaus argues that although there is broad recognition that climate change is the most important environmental challenge facing the world today, governments have continued to tackle the problem with a deeply flawed architecture that relies on uncoordinated, voluntary arrangements which encourage free-riding in international climate change agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol and the 2015 Paris accord. With a perverse incentive structure embedded in such treaties “the global effort to curb climate change is sure to fail.” Since the national targets agreed in the Paris accord are inconsistent with a two-degree temperature target and because studies have shown that annual global emissions would need to drop by about 3 percent between now and 2030 to limit warming to the two-degree limit, there is growing recognition that without major mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions global temperat

Strengthening the Lending Capacity of the Multilateral Development Banks

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An important question COVID-19 has shown, particularly in the emerging markets and developing world, a whole range of vulnerabilities in the economies of these countries. Public health systems have come under enormous strains, reflecting many decades of neglect. Budgets have been stretched, with very few countries having the fiscal space needed to respond to the crisis in a vigorous way, without imperiling the long-term health of public finances and/or without turning for immediate help from the international financial institutions. We have known for a long time that fiscal policies in the great majority of countries in the world have exhibited a “deficit bias,” that is, a tendency, regardless of the business cycle or whether the economy in question is in a phase of expansion or downturn, to register a budget deficit. Looking at the data for 191 countries over the 41-year period 1980–2020, countries have run deficits 75 percent of the years (with many advanced economies registeri