Tuesday, August 4, 2009

High Noon

I just finished reading Jean Francois Rischard's book, High Noon: 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to solve them. I was very pleased to see global poverty as one of his main underlying themes.  Knowing that such passionate and intelligent people are running our world institutions is very heartening. 

Rischard's main thesis is that two forces are shaping our future.  One is the demographic explosion, with the world's population forecast to reach 8 billion by 2025. Rischard sees no good in any of the implications of population growth.  However, the other force, that of the New World Economy, which basically finds new ways to do everything, abounds with opportunities.

Others have blogged about his list of twenty global problems, so I won't reiterate the list here.  As an expat living abroad in what is basically a tax free haven, I am not fond of the idea of the Canadian government instituting worldwide taxation.  I am not the American model of wordwide taxation is particularly effective.  Currently the foreign earned income exclusion is currently set at $87, 600.00, and $18.4 billion dollars claimed as exclusions, which is about half of what US citizens earn abroad.

Rischard proposes two possible solutions.  One is for people to come together in global issues networks (GIN) around each of these twenty issues. (he does acknowledge that there may be additional issues).  Each GIN would enlist members from governments, business, and NGO's. Essentially, each GIN would draft benchmarks and then score each country with respect to the progress they were making towards meeting that benchmark.  His alternative solution is to use the G7 structure and add additional countries to create "G20's" made of responible ministers around each of the 20 issues.  He sees this solution as less desirable as it's track record so far has not demonstrated that it has the agility and flexibility needed to address these issues in a timely manner.

This book was written seven years ago.  Rischard was right on the money when he wrote that global financial architecture was an issue that needed a global regulatory approach.  However, we are now a third of the way through Rischard's twenty year timetable.  While reading the book, I was thinking how depressing for him, none of the solutions he proposes have been taken up.  Neither the Global Issues Networks, nor the G20 models.  The urgency around these issues, even global issues has not gained traction.

Rischard also displays a great openness to new ideas.  At the conclusion of he book, he asks for reader input at his website http://www.rischard.net.  Unfortunately, this domain has expired and is now parked, so there is no way to evaluate the quality of responses he received.

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