Deputy Secretary-General Stresses Need to Close Off Avenues through Which Countries Lose Potential Revenue to Illicit Financial Flows

DSG/SM/1215-ECO/293-ENV/DEV/1882
24 September 2018

Deputy Secretary-General Stresses Need to Close Off Avenues through Which Countries Lose Potential Revenue to Illicit Financial Flows

Following are UN Deputy Secretary‑General Amina J. Mohammed’s remarks on the IMF/SDSN event “SDG Costing and Macroeconomics:  Spending Needs for Achieving Selected SDGs” [Sustainable Development Goals], in New York today:

It is my pleasure to participate in this event today and I thank the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and SDSN [Sustainable Development Solutions Network] for bringing us together to share the important work of addressing the needs of the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development].  At last, SDG financing has moved to centre stage.

The message was clear at this year’s High‑Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development:  the financing needs for achieving SDGs are vast, and mobilizing financial resources for implementing the 2030 Agenda is a fundamental challenge for countries.  The big question is:  how can we close large funding gaps for SDGs without jeopardizing macroeconomic and financial stability?

The costing analysis that will be presented to us today takes us a step further.  It provides us with a granular picture of investment needs at the country level in key sectors and compares these to Governments’ capacity to meet those financing needs.

Permit me to share two concerns amongst others.  First, the hard realities.  Public spending needs significantly exceed available fiscal space — a space that is shrinking further.  Thirty least developed and low‑income countries are already considered at high risk of debt distress or are currently in debt distress — a crisis in the making.

Second, developing countries are faced with the challenge of accelerating investments in a very complex global economic context.  Trade conflicts, record high global debt levels, tightening global financial conditions and volatile capital flows threaten growth prospects.  For some, it risks erasing, within months, development progress achieved over many years, and in others, achieving SDGs increasingly becomes a distant prospect.

We need to devise and operationalize a multipronged approach to meet the large investment demands — especially in an environment where constraints on further debt financing will likely become more binding.  Preserving macroeconomic and financial stability is critical.

The Addis Ababa Action Agenda provides us with a global financing framework.  It calls on us to make use of all resources, public, private, domestic and international.  Enhancing domestic resource mobilization remains an urgent priority.  Many low‑income developing countries will continue to rely on concessional financing, but the lion’s share of public investments in sustainable development will have to come from domestic resources requiring strong tax regimes.  This is a significant challenge for many developing countries where weak fiscal administrations and widespread informality constrain efforts to enhance domestic revenues.  Revenues lost through illicit flows and tax evasion compound this problem.  We must step up our international collaboration to close off the avenues through which countries lose potential revenue to illicit flows.  This is a very urgent collective responsibility as flows leaving developing countries invariably land in developed countries.

At the same time, while insufficient to finance SDGs, we cannot and must not step back from commitments on ODA [official development assistance].  ODA can also be catalytic to help countries raise greater domestic resources or leverage private finance.  Such blending is appropriate for investments that have significant returns, but it is critical that risks are managed carefully and shared fairly.

Later today, the Secretary‑General will launch his strategy for financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  It lays out actions the United Nations will take to accelerate financing SDGs, building on the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.  The Secretary‑General’s strategy will step up our efforts to contribute to a further alignment of global policies and financial systems with the sustainable development agenda.

We are committed to enhancing national and regional financing and investment strategies and facilitating the use of new financial technologies to mobilize additional financing for SDGs.  We cannot do so alone; as we reform our development system to be fit for purpose, we will strengthen our country‑level collaboration with the IMF, World Bank and other partners to help countries address challenges in building capacity and in mobilizing public and private resources for the SDGs.

This goes hand in hand with a financial system geared towards providing long‑term financing for sustainable development.  Finally, financial innovation and technology can expand access to finance for all, but their potential is unlikely to be realized without a concerted effort by policymakers to ensure the benefits reach everyone.

These are some of the challenges to be resolved as we look urgently for the solutions to meeting the promise of the Addis Agenda.  I look forward to our discussions today, and to strengthening our institutions’ collaboration, both globally and at the national level to deliver on Agenda 2030.

Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.