Meghan McCormick, Alumna, MIT Sloan School of Management
“Macro indicators show good performance, but below the surface, there are economic and social issues that threaten the cohesion of Ghanaian society.” With these words of both optimism and caution, Hamdiya Ismailia, the General Manager of the Venture Capital Trust Fund and Chair of Impact Investing Ghana (IIGh) debuted IIGh to a room full of stakeholders in Ecobank Ghana’s brand-new auditorium.
This renewed push for impact investing in Ghana specifically, and more broadly around the world, comes out of necessity. According to Sylvia Lopez-Ekra, the UN Resident Coordinator for Ghana, $5 to 7 trillion are needed each year to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are a bold collection of 17 goals set by the UN General Assembly in 2015 to be achieved by 2030. Like the Millennium Development Goals that came before them, they include such stretch goals as ‘No Poverty’ and ‘Gender Equality’. It will take an equally bold combination of innovation in policy, implementation, and financing to achieve them.
Robert Pozen, Senior Lecturer, MIT Sloan School of Management
Equity investors are euphoric about the Federal Reserve’s expected move to lower interest rates, after its four small increases in 2018. However, rates are still far below normal levels, so this move would create serious problems for government policy and investor choice.
By keeping interest rates so low for so long, the Federal Reserve is losing its best monetary tool for fighting the next recession, and implicitly undermining Congressional efforts to constrain spending and preserve fiscal firepower. During this extended period, the Fed’s suppression of interest rates is also taking a heavy toll on bond investors: They can’t find relatively safe bonds with reasonable yields, so they are reaching for higher yields by buying very risky bonds.
When the U.S. economy falls into the next recession, as it inevitably must, the Federal Reserve needs to respond by sharply lowering interest rates. This is the main monetary tool the Fed has to push the economy back into a growth mode. However, U.S. interest rates are now so low that the Fed has little dry powder in its arsenal. For example, rates on 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds have dropped to 2%, as compared to a 5% average before the last financial crisis in 2008.
The American engine of progress and prosperity is in serious trouble. Innovation has stalled. The number of good, middle-class jobs is dwindling. Wealth and opportunity are increasingly concentrated in a few coastal megacities. And cultural divides are widening. How do we turn this tide?
The answer lies in science — specifically, government-funded science. Investment in science is the ultimate pro-growth policy: It leads to more invention, higher productivity and broad-based economic development.
According to our research, if the U.S. government were to boost funding by $100 billion per year with strategic, geographically dispersed investments and initiatives, the result would be roughly 4 million new jobs.
Daron Acemoglu, Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics, MIT Sloan School of Management
From Project Syndicate
In the Middle Ages, Italian city-states led the European “commercial revolution” with innovations in finance, trade, and technology. Then something strange happened. In 1264, to take one example, the people of Ferrara decreed that, “The magnificent and illustrious Lord Obizzo … is to be Governor and Ruler and General and permanent Lord of the City.” Suddenly, a democratic republic had voted itself out of existence.
In fact, this was not an uncommon occurrence in Northern Italy at the time. As Niccolo Machiavelli explains in The Prince, the people, seeing that they cannot resist the nobility, give their support to one man, in order to be defended by his authority. The lesson is that people will abandon democracy if they are worried that an elite has captured its institutions.
Medieval Italy’s democratic institutions succumbed to what we might now call populism: an anti-elitist, anti-pluralistic, and exclusionary strategy for building a coalition of the discontented. The method is exclusionary because it relies on a specific definition of “the people,” whose interests must be defended against not just elites, but all others. Hence, in the United Kingdom, the Brexit leader Nigel Farage promised that a vote for “Leave” in 2016 would be a victory for the “real people.” As Donald Trump told a campaign rally the same year, “the other people don’t mean anything.” Likewise, former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe often speaks of the “gente de bien” (the “good people”).
MIT Sloan Distinguished Professor of Management JoAnne Yates
From The Washington Post
Over the past few years, world politics have been governed by a backlash against globalization. From the Brexit mess in Britain to restrictive immigration policies and tariffs in the United States and elsewhere, global economic integration is under assault.
But such integration offers many benefits: a greater variety of less expensive goods, greater opportunities for travel and cultural exchange, a more cosmopolitan world. In this climate, nongovernmental entities may be crucial to preserving them.
Thankfully, engineers have spent the past century building just such international bodies, because they believed that economic integration must remain above politics. These organizations have long set voluntary standards to ensure integration even when the political winds blow against them. This conception of global business standards will be crucial in the years to come as we struggle to preserve the benefits of cohesive systems for international trade, even as politicians battle over how interconnected they want to be.
It is ironic that the British should find themselves in the Brexit mess, because it was British engineers who created the first of the national standards bodies. Their project, a forerunner of today’s British Standards Institution (BSI), was a product of the expansive British Empire. It was founded in 1901 to ensure that industrial products and transportation networks within the United Kingdom and across its empire would be compatible with one another. Although some government representatives were included in its processes, the engineers leading the effort believed such standards should be voluntary, not government-mandated.