Le Dessous des cartes

Land Matrix on ARTE (28.02.15)

On 28 February 2015 at 6.30pm (Pretoria time) the Franco-German TV station ARTE will broadcast the documentary,”Terres arables : un marché pas comme les autres” (Arable lands: a market like no other) featuring the data and the work of Land Matrix.

The documentary, avaiable in French and German, is the second part of an investigation on arable lands.
The first episode can be found here: “Competition pour les terres arables” (Competition for arable lands)

Channel Africa SABC

Towards an African passport?

From Channel Africa, SABC

At the just ended 24th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU Summit) held on 30-31 January 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, under the theme: “Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”, the Executive Council of AU deliberated on and requested the Commission to present detailed roadmaps for implementation of, among other flagship projects, The African Passport and Free Movement of People. GovInn Researcher and Co-Director, Chris Nshimbi, participated in panel discussion on the idea of an African passort on the African Dialogue program on SABC’sChannel Africa, 16 February 2015.

AUDIO: Lorenzo Fioramonti on “Capital in the Twenty-First Century”

Loane Sharp (Economist at the Free Market Foundation) and GovInn Director Lorenzo Fioramonti discuss their divergent views on Thomas Piketty’s highly influential Capital in the Twenty-First Century on 702 Talk Radio.
Listen to the full conversation (broadcast on 15 december 2015) below:

VIDEO Rising economic inequality casts a shadow on the WEF -SABC

Rising economic inequality continues to cast a shadow over the World Economic Forum, says GovInn director Lorenzo Fioramonti in a live interview on SABC news (22 January 2015).
Oxfam set the tone earlier this week in a report timed to the start of the Davos conference: it estimated that the combined wealth of the world’s richest 1 percent could overtake that of the remaining 99 percent by next year.
Will the WEF do something about it?

Redistribution the only way to stop the downward spiral – Business Day 21.01.2015

Business Day 21.01.2015This week on Business Day, South Africa’s leading business newspaper, GovInn director Lorenzo Fioramonti -drawing conclusions on Piketty’s research – discusses why redistribution is the only way to tackle inequalities in South Africa and worldwide: will the WEF listen?

“One does not need a doctorate in economics to recognise that SA is one of the most unequal societies in the world. We see it every day, when we drive through our cities and across the country, when we go shopping or take our kids to school.

While inequality is a fact of life (we are different people, with different capacities, interests and aspirations), it becomes a social malaise if it exceeds certain levels. And each society should democratically decide which degrees of inequality are acceptable.”

“Such a level of inequality also reinforces violence, frustration and crime.

In SA and elsewhere, economic growth has been employed as a magic wand to avoid a serious debate on inequality. The belief that the economy can grow infinitely and at a sustained pace has been comforting to the ruling elites, as this means the pie will continue expanding without the need to redistribute its shares.

Indeed, allowing the rich to become richer has been often presented as a precondition for the economy to excel for the benefit of all.

Nowhere has this been as evident as in the justification of the stellar salaries of top managers of private and public corporations.

The reality, however, is that this “trickle-down” vision of economic development is largely a dogma, as Piketty has now confirmed with his data.
Moreover, he finds no correlation between the pay cheques of “super managers” and the performance of the companies they lead.
In his view, the only thing that explains these skyrocketing salaries is the fact that managers can easily influence the scale of their remuneration, often with the support of complacent boards of directors, while common workers cannot.

Read full article on Business Day

World needs a new Bretton Woods with Africa in the lead – Business Day 27.11.2014

This week on Business Day, South Africa’s leading business newspaper, GovInn director Lorenzo Fioramonti reflects on the need to redefine the economic system and the very definition of economic progress.

“After the 2007-08 global economic collapse, we have not yet seen one major reform. Both bail-outs and quantitative easing (a cryptic term to hide the fact that governments have resorted to the old-fashioned, Zimbabwe-esque remedy of printing money out of thin air) have done exactly the opposite: they have condoned business-as-usual practices, providing an incentive for the financial sector to continue speculating.”

Our leaders make public appeals for more growth, but fail to specify what “type” of growth they want. While in the postwar period the world could have been satisfied with economic growth at all costs — most countries had been destroyed by the conflict and the future was simply about rebuilding — the new century has brought some critical reality checks. The planet is in pain, unbridled economic growth has increased inequalities in many countries and environmental damage has become a concern not only for tree-huggers, but for anybody interested in social and economic stability.

Read the full article on Business Day. 

Creative ideas on migration will open the doors to growth -Business Day SA-

“South Africa is the destination of many workers from the rest of Africa and from the rest of the world. We know that about 7% of SA’s workforce is foreign. More than 38% of workers in gold mines are non-South African citizens and more than 22% of mine workers in all sectors hail from Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique.

Data are sketchy and grossly underestimate the phenomenon. Many migrants are employed in informal positions, with precarious jobs, both in terms of safety and social security. Most undocumented migrant workers are poorly captured by official statistics. By all means, migrant workers are a fundamental factor in SA’s economic development. But how supportive and reliable is the present administrative and legislative framework?

What we need is a simple and clear framework to allow citizens of neighbouring countries to seek work and business opportunities in SA. We may even want to consider experimenting with free movement, for instance, within the Southern African Customs Union. In the European Union (EU), where free movement is a reality, most people have not relocated to other countries. As they benefit from clear arrangements that allow them to return regularly to their home country, they need not relocate permanently.”

In his regular column on Business Day, Lorenzo Fioramonti discusses how South Africa could transform its position of African immigration hub into an economic opportunity.

Read the full article on Business Day

“Competing with Capitalism to Maximize Well-Being” LEDDA framework on Thruth Out

What would you do to reinvent capitalism, to make it less destructive and more focused on what people really need?
It’s not that the benefits of capitalism are undesirable – jumbo jets and smart phones are sheer wonders – it’s that the collateral damage is growing untenable. Democracy and the commons are being sold off to the highest bidders.

GovInn Director Lorenzo Fioramonti and John Boik, creator of the Principled Societies Project present on TruthOut the Local Economic Direct Democracy (LEDDA) framework.

A LEDDA, Local Economic Direct Democracy Association
, is a membership-based, community benefit association open to residents, businesses, schools, nonprofits, local governments, public services, and others that choose to participate. The LEDDA framework is the local economic system – comprised of software, policies, standards, and procedures – that a new LEDDA implements. Once live, the membership can alter the local framework as desired.

In effect, the framework offers a secondary level of organization on top of an existing local economy.

Each LEDDA governs its own local framework through an online process of direct democracy, and all LEDDAs are networked together within a global association, which is also governed through online direct democracy. Thus the focus is both local and global.

The LEDDA framework integrates and builds on numerous initiatives already existing in cities and regions around the world, including buy local, local currency, open source, crowdfunding, socially responsible business, open data, smart cities, and participatory democracy. It contains its own monetary system, which issues a local electronic currency, called the token. And it has its own financial system, called the Crowd-Based Financial System (CBFS), which resembles crowdfunding and participatory budgeting. The framework is sophisticated, and there are many more elements.

The LEDDA framework is synonymous with LEDDA economic direct democracy, an economic system that offers all participants roughly equal and direct opportunity to influence their local economy. The framework infuses a local economy with democracy, in part by using money as a voting tool and by increasing and equalizing family incomes.

A computer simulation model has been published that illustrates the process. Inflation-adjusted mean family income more than doubles during the twenty-eight-year simulation period. As incomes rise, they become more equal. By the end of the simulation, every member family receives a pre-tax, take-home income equivalent to about $107,000, just above the 90th percentile of baseline income. Even very wealthy families would see a small direct gain.

By the end of the simulation, the LEDDA, located in an averaged-size US county, channels the equivalent of more than $2 billion dollars annually toward local businesses, schools, public services, and nonprofit organizations. Tax revenues for the county markedly rise. With such abundant resources, and democratic control over funding decisions, a community could remake its economy into one that best suits its needs.

The LEDDA framework is still theoretical, and the partnership is just forming. Over time, we hope to provide answers to the host of questions that such an approach naturally raises. In this, we invite your participation.

Imagine a democracy-infused economic system that maximizes well-being. The long-run social and environmental returns might be valued in the trillions, thousands of times greater than the costs of development and pilot trials. Isn’t it worth the effort?

Read the full article on TruthOut

Business by numbers can dull creativity of workforce -BusinessDay-

Fioramonti’s article this week focuses on the dangers on relying on simplified figures such as GDP to assess the development and the wealth of a country and make business decisions.

“When businesses base investment decisions on indicators such as the gross domestic product (GDP) they miss the forest for the trees. GDP is a very myopic measure of economic performance, which counts profits but excludes costs. Moreover, it flattens society and the market, thus giving the impression that growth affects all businesses (and people) in the same manner. In fact, there can be good and bad, equal and unequal, sustainable and unsustainable GDP growth.

“The “Africa rising” debate animating the investment community these days is a case in point, insofar as it does not pay attention to issues of sustainability and distribution, which are likely to hamper the performance of these “rising” economies. “

“Even good numbers can be misleading: indeed, numbers, by design, (over)simplify reality. In a numbers-driven world, only what can be measured counts. A metric-dependent business is more likely to forfeit long-term goals, which are harder to quantify, for short-term returns.”

Read it all on BusinessDay

gdproblem
“Our mis-leading indicators”: book review featuring “Gross Domestic Problem”

gdproblemThe book review website Public Books features GovInn director Lorenzo Fioramonti‘s “Gross Domestic Problem” in its article on GDP “Our mis-leading indicators”.

“GDP became the yardstick for measuring progress and still often serves as a proxy for overall national well-being. Policymakers think of national economic life in terms of GDP: raising GDP is a primary policy goal and people across the world look to GDP growth rates to assess how well their leaders are guiding economic policy choices. Yet today GDP is under fire from a variety of sources. Why?”

Gross Domestic Problem is reviewed along with Diane Coyle’s “GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History” and Zachary Karabell’s “Leading Indicators: A Short History of the Numbers That Rule Our World”. In his in-depth analysis Stephen Macekura, postdoctoral fellow at the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College (US), says of Fioramonti’s book:

“Fioramonti presents the most scathing critique. He criticizes the deeply held faith that raising GDP can solve all political and social problems—what he calls the “dogma of infinite GDP growth.” For him, the reliance on GDP derives from a technocratic worldview that glorifies experts, corrodes communal values, and devalues the natural world. In addition to inveighing against this worldview throughout his book, he highlights contemporary social movements that are challenging both the use of GDP and mainstream society more broadly. He explains the “transition” and “de-growth” movements, which seek to downscale production and consumption, encourage participatory decision-making, decentralize power towards the community level, redistribute resources along more equitable lines, and lower humankind’s ecological footprint. Similarly, he recounts the efforts of communities that use their own currencies and banking systems to break free of the larger financial power structures (states, multinational corporations) that dominate economic transactions worldwide. In general, he sees technocracy and its GDP “dogma” as powerful centralizing and anti-democratic forces, and he celebrates grassroots, local movements that show “alternative ways of life are not just possible but also desirable.” His prescriptions are thus cultural and political; no merely technical fixes will suffice.”

Read the full article on Public Books