Where do governments fall short?

Jean-Francois Rischard is an economist. He was the Vice President of World Bank from 1998 to 2005. Born in Luxembourg in 1948, Rischard holds doctoral degrees in law and economics and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

  • Transcript


Jean-Francois Rischard: As I did in my book, I analyzed some 20 global problems in some detail. And about eight of them . . . seven or eight of them were problems of sharing the planet. In other terms, the environmental issues like climate change, ozone, biodiversity losses, deforestation, water deficits and so forth. About a third of them had to do with sharing not so much the planet, but sharing our humanity. In other terms, economic and social issues that take a worldwide coalition to solve, like poverty itself; education for all, which could be the big lever to solve the other issues; peace keeping; terrorism fighting is another one; and many other such issues, including the terrifying issues of AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, SARS, avian flu and other contagious diseases; as well as natural disaster mitigations. Natural disasters are running at 15 times the rate of the 1950s. And then the third group of issues I looked at have to do with regulatory issues where you need some minimal critical mass of global rules. Biotechnology research, for instance; electronic commerce; migration and labor rights, etc. And as I looked at these issues, I found that they all had politically and technically feasible solutions, even climate change. I found that to solve them would take probably only $1 trillion a year, which is roughly three percent of world GDP, and therefore affordable, and a small number compared to the huge cost of not solving an issue like climate change. On the other hand, I find that these were issues that could not . . . We couldn’t wait 30, 40, 50 years to solve them. They had to be solved yesterday, or in five years, 10 years, maximum 20 years. So it’s a one-time window to solve them before they get out of hand, particularly the environmental issues of the first group. And the fourth thing I found is that none of them – with the exception of ozone, which is the exception that proves the rule – none of these 20 issues were seriously being solved by the international system.