Tag Archives: transparency

No need, no gain, no glory

Only nine years late, we are to have a Par­lia­men­tary debate about our involve­ment in the Afghan con­flict! What has bought our lead­ers to con­sid­er, at last, own­ing up to their duty to explain their poli­cies which have so far killed almost twen­ty Aus­tralians? They felt no such need dur­ing the elec­tion, so it can […]

Global Trade Alert

Global Trade Alert website

Just before the Lon­don G-20 Meet­ing in April, Andy Stol­er and I wrote a paper for a book­let pub­lished by the Cen­ter for Eco­nom­ic Pol­i­cy Research in which we sug­gest­ed that the best way to make G-20 gov­ern­ments live up to their promis­es was to expose their mis­deeds on trade policy—including those that nom­i­nal­ly com­plied with their WTO obligation—using a pub­lic web­site.

Specif­i­cal­ly, we rec­om­mend­ed that the site should not be run by one of the glob­al insti­tu­tions (WTO, World Bank) that are owned by gov­ern­ments, but should be a pri­vate ven­ture open to con­tri­bu­tions from indi­vid­u­als around the world. Why? Well, as the FT notes, in an edi­to­r­i­al today, sov­er­eigns are not like­ly to put much pres­sure on them­selves:

The prob­lem with nam­ing and sham­ing wrong­do­ers is that, all too often, they turn out to be shame­less.” Extract from Finan­cial Times

I am delight­ed to learn that the co-edi­tor of the book­let (Simon Evenett) and the pub­lish­ers (CEPR) have cre­at­ed just such a web­site: Glob­al Trade Alert. It has been launched in the past cou­ple of weeks with the back­ing of insti­tu­tion­al spon­sors (gov­ern­ment funds, most­ly) and an advi­so­ry board of dis­tin­guished ana­lysts. GTA already lists a cou­ple of dozen mea­sures with use­ful details includ­ing the trad­ing part­ners and tar­iff lines affect­ed (for goods mea­sures).

A nice­ly imple­ment­ed and poten­tial­ly intrigu­ing exper­i­ment in glob­al trans­paren­cy. Please vis­it and con­tribute.

Budget transparency turns murky

So much for the Government’s “Oper­a­tion Sun­shine” that was sup­posed to make bud­get pro­gram expen­di­ture more trans­par­ent and account­able.

On the biggest sin­gle pro­gram item, Defense—a stag­ger­ing 2.3% of GDP or $27 bil­lion dol­lars next year alone—it seems to be a case of re-neg­ging and obscu­ri­ty.

As the first bud­get after a new Defence White Paper, there is a glar­ing absence of sub­stan­tive infor­ma­tion on fund­ing, invest­ment and reform. The best that can be said is that the bud­get is con­sis­tent with a White Paper that’s silent on when any­thing will occur or what things will cost. All we are offered is a vision of what the defence force will look like in 2030.” Extract from Aus­tralian Strate­gic Pol­i­cy Insti­tute

The ASPI’s chief ana­lyst has described the Bud­get papers as “delib­er­ate­ly vague”.

More transparency in the Federal budget

The bud­get to be intro­duced next Tues­day will be the first to ful­ly imple­ment the rec­om­men­da­tions of the (for­mer Sen­a­tor Andrew) Mur­ray Review on cut­ting gob­bledy­gook and slop­pi­ness out of bud­get esti­mates and on enforc­ing more rig­or­ous report­ing and audit of gov­ern­ment use of our mon­ey.

All of this is a good thing. It is being man­aged by Lind­say Tanner’s Min­istry of Finance. But the pro­gram still falls some way short, in my view, of where the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment should be in report­ing pub­lic expen­di­ture; espe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing the amount of our cash that they’re slop­ping around in the name of ‘stim­u­lus’.

Empty words won’t limit the ‘wriggle room’

Democ­ra­cy ensures we get the gov­ern­ments we deserve.

Gideon Rach­man seems to think we deserve only to be con­soled for the polit­i­cal dilem­ma of G20 lead­ers rather than offered real solu­tions to the frail­ties of the glob­al trade frame­work. He agrees the prob­lem is the threat of ‘wig­gle room’ pro­tec­tion:

[I]f the world’s polit­i­cal lead­ers start delib­er­ate­ly increas­ing bar­ri­ers to trade, they will deep­en and wors­en the eco­nom­ic cri­sis – and risk mak­ing the process of deglob­al­i­sa­tion a per­ma­nent shift. Most polit­i­cal lead­ers know this – and so they are still a lit­tle embar­rassed about direct mea­sures to increase tar­iffs. So a new wave of pro­tec­tion­ism will take indi­rect forms.” Extract from Gideon Rach­man in the Finan­cial Times

But he’s sat­is­fied with the appear­ance of col­lab­o­ra­tion to expose and pro­hib­it pro­tec­tion, being con­vinced there’s no resolve to take real action.

It will be tempt­ing to laugh, if and when the com­mu­niqué from the Lon­don sum­mit con­tains the famil­iar pledges to avoid pro­tec­tion­ism and to com­plete the Doha round. But it is prob­a­bly impor­tant that world lead­ers at least promise to fol­low the path of virtue – even if they know that they may sin.”

That’s too sophis­ti­cat­ed a dish for me, GR. If you say that you’re hap­py to eat smoke, then smoke is what you’ll be served.

This is the worst mar­ket reces­sion since the glob­al trad­ing frame­work was cre­at­ed six­ty years ago. We know what the threats are, we know what it means to avoid them. Don’t we deserve more than ‘emp­ty words’ from gov­ern­ments?

Can the G20 halt ‘murky’ protectionism?


What should the G20 do, when they meet in Lon­don next month, to put an end to the grow­ing use of what I’ve been call­ing ‘wig­gle-room’ pro­tec­tion? Is ‘murky’ pro­tec­tion­ism caus­ing the com­ing col­lapse in trade vol­umes? Or will pro­tec­tion­ism rise as a result? Sup­pos­ing that they want­ed to, could the G20 real­ly crack-down on actions that close mar­kets or dis­crim­i­nate against imports but are not clear­ly pro­hib­it­ed by WTO?

Richard Bald­win and Simon Evenett’s book, now avail­able for down­load (free) at the VoxEU site, com­pris­es brief essays by trade Min­is­ters (notably, Australia’s Trade Min­is­ter, Simon Cre­an), high pro­file ana­lysts and a num­ber of lead­ing trade experts.

This ebook presents con­crete steps that G20 lead­ers should take to avoid a neg­a­tive pro­tec­tion-reces­sion spi­ral and the threat it would pose to a glob­al recov­ery.” Extract from The col­lapse of glob­al trade, murky pro­tec­tion­ism, and the cri­sis: Rec­om­men­da­tions for the G20

Andrew Stol­er (for­mer Deputy Direc­tor Gen­er­al of WTO) and I have a paper in the col­lec­tion: “G20 sur­veil­lance of harm­ful trade mea­sures” that pro­pos­es a nov­el but poten­tial­ly high­ly effec­tive ‘crowd-sourc­ing’ approach to the expo­sure of harm­ful ‘wig­gle-room’ mea­sures.

We pro­pose an open, pub­lic sur­veil­lance sys­tem whose com­po­nents already exist—some of them in this web­site among thou­sands of oth­ers. Unlike the WTO sur­veil­lance mech­a­nisms of the past, it allows those who have most at stake in a pros­per­ous glob­al economy—firms and house­holds in rich coun­tries and poor—to help safe­guard the glob­al recov­ery. Please check it out and let me know what you think.

Transparency as stimulus


This is a great idea that the Rudd gov­ern­ment should adopt.

…The ‘Amer­i­can Recov­ery and Rein­vest­ment Act,’ bet­ter known as our nation­al Hail Mary stim­u­lus bill, … also con­tains a mea­sure pro­mot­ing a less-not­ed type of eco­nom­ic infra­struc­ture: gov­ern­ment data. In the name of trans­paren­cy, all the Fed’s stim­u­lus-spend­ing data will be post­ed at a new gov­ern­ment site, Recovery.gov“Extract from Wired Mag­a­zine

Lack of trans­paren­cy (in finan­cial mar­kets) has turned a cycli­cal down-turn into a deep, world-wide, reces­sion. Noth­ing bet­ter demon­strates the cru­cial role of trans­paren­cy in mar­kets. But trans­paren­cy in gov­ern­ment can stim­u­late growth, too.