Expert voices Vol , No. - March 2018

Fix the roof while the sun is shining, economy experts advise

“Fix the roof while the sun is shining” can best describe the unique opportunity that the international community has been given by the recovering economy.  The global economic outlook has visibly strengthened, creating a favourable environment for countries to remove the barriers that are impeding the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At a recent seminar on the “Global Economic Outlook and its Implications for the Sustainable Development Goals,” experts looked at how the current vibrancy of the global economy can allow countries to strengthen the process of implementing policies that support the SDGs.

More people have been lifted out of extreme poverty in the last 15 years than ever before, but deep inequalities persist.  Because of positive economic conditions, policy changes to halt or reverse the rise in income inequality can now be realized, which would have a positive effect on advancing the Sustainable Development Goals.

The experts pointed out that a focus on one of the SDGs does not mean neglecting the others. For instance, by using innovation and infrastructure (SDG 9) to directly impact the other goals, progress on realizing all SDGs can be expedited.

Another important piece of the puzzle is the balance of labour and capital.  Although the economy has picked up, it has not yet translated into sufficient job growth.  The experts agree that employment growth is not in sync with the current rate of working-age population growth, especially when it comes to youth.

Vinicius Pinheiro from the International Labour Organization said that “huge investment in skills development is needed not only to prepare the current generation for the current labour market, but to prepare for the future.”  This is vital especially for the youth who are just beginning their careers.

The economic boom can also contribute to finding concrete solutions to environmental problems.  Although each country has its own unique environmental concerns and challenges, with improved economic conditions, policies that align with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement can be implemented.

Heather Tallis of The Nature Conservancy noted there was a “real opportunity for there to be an alignment between economic growth and a strong and healthy environment.” She demonstrated how the Happy Seeder project in India was able to reduce air pollution while ensuring more successful yields.  Technological innovations in farming and air quality can open a whole new industry for jobs and improve the lives of people all around the world, she said.

The private sector has its own role to play in advancing the Global Goals. Instead of waiting for government incentives, many companies are taking the initiative and involving local communities into their projects.

The American infrastructure company, Meridiam emphasizes inclusion in all the projects they are involved with. For example, during the refurbishment of LaGuardia Airport in New York, they are insisting on employing local workers and using local materials to involve New Yorkers in a project that is a part of their community.

Although the global economic boom is exciting news, serious risks remain for countries. Intense fragmentation and security concerns in vulnerable regions around the world make it difficult to implement policies that would progress job growth and the SDGs.  In addition, market unpredictability could affect investments in the technologies that are needed to achieve the Goals. Weak structural growth is also a concern.  With innovations in infrastructure and technology to support the Goals, must come new structures to properly support them.

With the global economy on the rise and the willingness and determination from countries to come up with policies that support job growth, inclusion and the Sustainable Development Goals, success is possible.  Although risks must be considered, countries and the private sector should take the current bull market by the horns and come up with new solutions and technologies that support the advancement of a society that is inclusive and sustainable.

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