New York

10 September 2012

Deputy Secretary-General's Opening Remarks at the General Assembly Development Dialogue "Macroeconomic Policies for the Future We Want: Sustainable Development and Achievement of the MDGs"

I thank you for this opportunity to address the session of the Development Dialogue on behalf of the Secretary-General who is today in Geneva.  It is, Mr. President, of a particular privilege and pleasure for me to be again in this hall of the General Assembly and to speak from this podium.

Economic policy has been front page news since the outbreak of the global financial crisis in 2008 as we all know. We should expect these issues to stay in the headlines for some time.  Many countries continue to face deep-rooted economic problems, seriously affecting vulnerable segments of their populations.

I am gratified that these issues are being scrutinized by experts, the media and the public. There is a great deal of healthy debate, while policy-makers are struggling to come up with appropriate and effective approaches to economic problems with tangible social and environmental ramifications.

The debate has been hovering between two choices. The first is to provide more fiscal stimulus to get back on the growth track, to unclog credit channels, and to take measures to bring down unemployment. The second choice is to shift into fiscal austerity to reduce public debts to more sustainable levels.

The decisions facing policymakers in developing countries are particularly difficult to make. Commodity and financial markets are volatile. Policy-makers may need to create fiscal and monetary reserve buffers to cope with the external shocks. But they know that these precautionary steps can also impact their capacity to invest in development.

The choices they make today are not theoretical; they will have effects on whole societies, on families and especially the poor. Women and youth are particularly vulnerable.
That is why we should welcome the intention and the aim of the President of General Assembly on this Development Dialogue to establish a clear connection between macroeconomic policies and the fundamental objective of achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

One of the most important tasks for the United Nations and its Member States and in fact all other stakeholders during the next three years and four months, is to work tirelessly for the achievement of the MDGs. This is our duty and our responsibility, and macroeconomic policies of today should facilitate this task. Achieving the MDGs by 2015 is part of the future we want, and the people of the world deserve.

We then later face the daunting task of formulating a bold, yet practical, development agenda for the post-2015 period, which embraces economic, social and environmental perspectives.  And I note that the President of General Assembly made reference both to the intergovernmental working group set up in Rio and [to] the panel for the post-2015 development agenda, which is now starting their work in September.

We must not lose sight of this broad and long-term perspective. The conventional approach to economic development in recent decades was focused on low inflation and balanced budgets as the best way to stabilize economies in the short run and ensure growth in the long term.

These policies did not make full employment an explicit target. It was almost as though as if macroeconomic policies were not part of the work for daily sustenance and poverty reduction. In reality, as the President of General Assembly just underlined, these policies can spell the difference between stability and crisis, between prosperity and poverty and even between life and death.

The Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development recognized the importance of these interlinkages, not least in need for creating jobs. Participants supported forward-looking macroeconomic policies which promote sustainable development. The aim was nothing less than sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth. That is and must be the way forward in order to increase productive employment opportunities and promote development.

This means that we have to allocate more resources to the key sectors: employment, education and health. This will reduce poverty and open doors to a better future for coming generations. And, at the same time, it contributes to economic stability and long-term growth.

We also have to invest in protecting the environment, our common future. If the environment is degraded, crops may fail, food prices may go up and natural disasters become more frequent and more deadly as we have noticed recently. The economic, social and, indeed, political implications of environmental degradation and climate change are serious and far-reaching.

Mr. President,
Ladies and gentlemen,

As you enter this dialogue, I urge you to have a broad and far-reaching vision. Short-term gain should never occur at the expense of long-term progress.

Professor Jan Tinbergen, the first Nobel Prize laureate in economics and the first chair of the UN Committee for Development Policy, formulated an important rule for economic policy making. He stated that we should always have as many policy instruments as we have policy targets.

This means that we need more instruments as we add more targets. The way to do this is to integrate economic policy decisions with social, environmental but also industrial and labour market policies.

Mr. President,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Before I was appointed [as] the Deputy Secretary-General, I was in fact a part-time blogger. I wrote about the issues that you are discussing today – I wrote about poverty, hunger, and very often the lack of clean water and acceptable sanitation facilities. My audience was policy-makers, but also concerned citizens. I tried to bring the plight of individuals, which I had seen far too much of, to a broader public.

Although today’s discussion is mainly among experts, I urge you to remember the men, women and children whose lives are affected by your deliberations and decisions. Let us focus on how we can reach them and help them.

In the end, all our efforts should be aimed at the well-being and a life in dignity for all.  I wish you a meaningful, creative and productive Development Dialogue.

I thank you, Mr. President.