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Crisis response (stimulus and austerity measures)

Financial reform: Progress, what progress?

In an op-ed written for the OECD 2014 Yearbook, Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, calls for multilateral action and public participation and debate to break the current system of unethical and deceptive business practices.

He argues that despite the devastation caused by the crisis, minimal to no effort was made to reform the systems that caused the crisis in the first place. Bailouts were not tied to accountability or reform, with few exceptions; instead, they increased public debt, leading to austerity measures that hit the poorest and most vulnerable populations hardest. Income inequality soared, with studies showing both the richer getting richer and the poorer getting poorer.

Shetty argues that these increases in income inequality are structural, not cyclical, and are furthered by governments. Instead of protecting the rights of their citizens, many governments are catering to the desires of big business, for example through policies allowing tax avoidance by businesses. Those policies divert funds from public programs, which can be used to protect human rights and further poverty reduction, to private hands. They also help enable illegal tax evasion, which takes away billions of dollars from the developing world every year.

Despite the anger over these issues, little reform has taken place to fight inequality. To ensure reform, Shetty asserts that open public debate and multilateral action are vital. Tax avoidance and bonuses are not necessary to attract investment; states and businesses must change how they interact to adapt to a system based on rights and dignity for all.

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February 2017
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