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Walking the Tightrope: UNCTAD, Development and Finance-Driven Globalization: Assessment: UNCTAD Trade and Development Report 2015

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... Alarm bells have sounded from OECD-focused scholars and practitioners concerned over the G20 and World Bank's shift away from ODA and its traditional mission of development assistance to the use of public money to 'trigger' or provide risk guarantees for private sector actors to invest in filling development financing 'gaps' in an envisioned 'Maximizing Finance for Development' (MFfD) agenda, or turning 'billions to trillions' to finance the SDGs (Mawdsley 2018). Concerns have been raised over how uneasily the profitability of private finance sits alongside social and environmental development goals (Saad-Filho and Tomkinson 2017); how resource flows from finance-driven globalization are often highly concentrated geographically and sectorally, bypassing the poor and the long-term investment needs of the poorest developing countries (UNCTAD 2015); how this contributes to interconnected risk, potential for volatility and financial fragility (Akyuz 2017; Gabor 2018b); and how this constitutes a subsidy to the private sector at the expense of taxpayers in donor countries and potential public beneficiaries in developing countries ( Mawdsley et al. 2018). ...
... There is a need then to distinguish between the relative advantages and disadvantages between developing countries of the south, and yet scholarship consistently lumps together 'emerging'/middle income countries with lesser 24 On debt-financed development and a rebuttal to neo-developmentalists, see: (Fischer 2018) 25 (Horner and Hulme 2019) For a more thorough political economy take, see: (Saad-Filho 2014) developed countries which are far from such levels into the same acronyms such as EMDs (emerging and developing countries) (Grabel 2019); DTCs (developing and transition economies) (Saad-Filho and Tomkinson 2017); and DECs (developing and emerging countries) (Gabor 2018a). This is not merely a semantic issue, but an analytic, conceptual, and descriptive matter which shapes how people think about forms of coupling and integration or polarization within the 'south' and between certain 'southern' states and the global 'north.' ...
Thesis
This thesis offers a detailed study of the disadvantages of post-Cold War late development at the confluence of shifting regimes of development finance. As Lao PDR emerged from relative isolation at the end of the Cold War, it was quickly integrated into a Bretton Woods-led regional and global development regime that was itself undergoing a shift from aid to private-sector led development. This thesis contends that liberalizing reforms initiated by the Asian Development Bank and driven further under the aegis of the World Bank in its bid to re-enter the global hydrolending landscape through its landmark NT2 project in Laos led to the introduction of tools of modern finance into contemporary Lao infrastructure building. Seemingly small and innocuous institutional innovations brought to Laos and installed by OECD-DAC agencies, some for the purposes of environmental conservation, led to perverse outcomes and momentously facilitated a watershed of financialized regional infrastructure investment by state-coordinated business groups from neighbouring Thailand, Malaysia and China in the aftermath of the Asian (1997) and Global (2008) financial crises. The installation of financial instruments and practices by Bretton Woods institutions intending to further the public-private-partnership (PPP) paradigm and business interests of corporations established in OECD states has instead paved the way for the expansion and deepening of financial markets in the name of development led by emerging Asian business actors eager to transition from ‘national champions’ to international powerhouses. This historical account demonstrates both continuity and change as the neomercantilist aspirations of East and Southeast Asia’s emerging economies beneficially utilize the liberalizing environment spearheaded by Bretton Woods institutions to further their own interests while creating parallel governance institutions and divergent lending and environmental practices to the Development Assistance Committee. Based on over fifteen months of in-country research and interviews, this thesis sheds light on the ways in which state elites internalize ideologies of development in pursuit of autonomous economic development while reinforcing conditions of dependency through external economic reliance. Building on insights gleaned from early dependency scholars, this thesis provides a critical contribution by adapting their observations concerning constraints to development for a post-Bretton Woods development landscape which has shifted from MNC-led industrial investment to finance-driven portfolio investment. In doing so, this thesis upends the traditional ‘centre-periphery’ framing of asymmetric exploitation by introducing the notion of ‘proximate dependency’ to capture the pernicious dynamics of exploitation between (post-WWII) late developers and their even later (post-Cold War) brethren, cutting against popular discourses of south-south development.
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