As governments have imposed physical distancing measures to slow the spread of the virus, the engines of global economic production have ground to a standstill. Almost half of humanity is under some form of lockdown. No one knows for certain the long-term impacts, but the IMF predicts that global output per head will shrink by 4.2 per cent this year, almost three times more than the amount logged in 2009 during the global financial crisis. In some cases, the once-creaking welfare systems of rich Global North countries have responded with remarkable speed, announcing a range of measures to keep businesses afloat, protect employment, and provide income support to those who have lost their jobs—although Alexandria Ocasio Cortez has pointed out that the American version, true to form, benefits corporations more than individuals. As Pankaj Mishra recently put it, “it has taken a disaster for the state to assume its original responsibility to protect citizens.” However, citizenship is the fulcrum upon which this newfound social solidarity turns. Workers in the Global South who have lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19 have been left destitute and homeless with almost no support forthcoming from their governments or the international community. Similarly, many migrant workers in the United States fall outside the purview of the state welfare aid. (more…)
Our corporate landscape has relevance for our post-Brexit future. Yet deep public distrust exists not just with regard to our politicians but also with regard to business. Recent debacles involving the now defunct British Home Stores and Sports Direct are just the tip of the iceberg in what is widely seen as a broken economic and political system that has given precedence to the leading market actors.
Corporate governance is the key means by which global wealth is distributed but that wealth is not distributed fairly. Two stakeholder constituents are prioritised: boardroom directors who frequently enjoy eye-watering pay and perks, and shareholders, at least in theory, through the profit maximisation imperative. Both groups have focused on making a quick buck rather than the long term interests of their companies. Workers, at the bottom of the corporate hierarchies, have little chance of improving their means of living and face greater levels of insecurity in their working and home lives. Workers further down the supply chain risk their lives trying to scratch a living in countries only too glad to gain trade from the powerful multinationals. Consumers lose out as product quality and services are whittled down and the environment, as a natural resource constituency, barely gets a look in. (more…)