Billionaires Beware

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 7 2020 – The latest November 2019 UBS/PwC Billionaires Report counted 2,101 billionaires globally, or 589 more than five years before. Earlier, Farhad Manjoo had seriously recommended, ‘Abolish Billionaires’, presenting a moral case against the super-rich as they have and get far, far more than what they might reasonably claim to deserve.

Anis Chowdhury

Manjoo also argues that unless billionaires’ economic and political power is cut, and their legitimacy cast in doubt, they will continue to abuse power to further augment their fortunes and influence, in ways detrimental to the economic, social and public good.

Benign billionaires?
In defence of billionaires, Josef Stadler, head of ultra-high net worth at UBS Global Wealth Management, argued that their wealth “has also translated into their philanthropy, as billionaires seek new ways to engineer far-reaching environmental and social change.”

Philanthropic ethics expert Chiara Cordelli notes that philanthropy and donations have diverted social responsibility from governments, and created other problems by bypassing democratic political processes and accountability. “The philanthropist should not get to decide – in virtue of her or his disproportionate influence – which world we should live in”.

An ostensibly benign ‘billionaire effect’ cannot offset the adverse impacts of billionaires’ wealth accumulation, tax avoidance and abuse of power to corrupt political processes and policy making. Rather, ‘every billionaire should be regarded as a policy failure’. To create fairer societies, we need to end extreme wealth concentration and its problematic consequences.

Dubious sources
Robert Reich has shown that a significant share of billionaires’ wealth is undeserved and does not bear any reasonable connection to their ability, intelligence or contribution, as expected in a society supposedly based on meritocracy and fair competition.

Oxfam estimates that about a third of billionaire wealth is inherited. There is no real economic case for inherited wealth as it undermines social mobility, economic progress and meritocracy, the main basis of legitimation in modern society.

Other work finds that about 43 per cent of billionaire wealth comes from crony connections to governments and monopolies, e.g., when billionaires use such connections and corruption to secure government concessions and contracts.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

In developing countries, this share was even higher, 56 per cent, according to a 2015 Oxfam study. The Economist’s crony capitalism index also suggests that corruption and crony connections to governments are behind much billionaire wealth.

Another source of billionaire wealth is abuse of monopoly privileges granted by patent laws. While intellectual property has been justified as necessary for innovation, recent research, summarized by the The Economist, disputes the supposed link between patent rights and innovation, and deems the patent system a dysfunctional way to reward innovation or new ideas.

Since the 1980s, patent rights have been extended well beyond what may be considered necessary to incentivize innovation. For Richard Posner, a respected US judge, “such extensions offer almost no incentive for creating additional intellectual property”.

Insider trading – taking advantage of privileged information not yet made public – has been significantly abused for ‘unfair’ advantage in markets. The New York Times has found, “Some of the most prominent cases of illegal insider dealings have involved very wealthy people”.

Growing wealth concentration
A large and growing share of the global economy is controlled by a few large transnational corporations (TNCs). Decades of mergers, acquisitions and ineffectual anti-trust legislation have seen market power concentrated despite claims to the contrary.

Such TNCs, cartels, other monopolies and oligopolies extract lucrative rents, enabling them to secure super-profits, accelerating wealth accumulation and concentration at the expense of petty producers, workers and consumers.

The way wealth is used by the super-rich confirms their own ‘social disutility’. They accumulate more quickly by paying as little tax as possible, making good use of tax advisers and havens. A study found that the super-rich pay as much as 30% less tax than they should, denying governments billions in lost tax revenue.

The extremely wealthy also get the best investment and tax evasion advice, enabling billionaire wealth to increase by an average of 11% annually since 2009, far more than average investors and ordinary savers get.

‘Dark money’ corrupts societies
The secretive Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), representing over 20,000 wealth managers, has successfully lobbied many governments to reduce taxes on the richest. STEP has spent billions to ‘buy’ legal impunity, politicians and the media to lower taxes on its clientele. Such lobbying has accelerated wealth concentration and accumulation.

Such ‘dark’ money is used to influence elections and public policy the world over. An Oxfam study has shown how politicians have been ‘bought’ by Latin America’s super-rich, e.g., with substantial financial backing for ethno-populist, racist and religiously intolerant leaders.

Over a century ago, monopoly power was seen as a major threat to the US economy and society. Anti-trust legislation and action, especially by President Theodore Roosevelt, broke up cartels and monopolies. Years later, his cousin, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt warned, “government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organised mob”.

Neoliberalism “oversold”
However, in recent decades, neoliberal economists have taken a much more benign view of oligopolies and monopolies, distinguishing them from classical liberal economists committed to market competition.

Conversely, insisting on competition in small developing economies has effectively prevented domestic firms from becoming internationally competitive by building on economies of scale and scope.

Significantly, even the International Monetary Fund, which imposed neoliberal policies for nearly four decades as a condition for credit support, now accepts that neoliberalism was “oversold”, while the World Bank acknowledges disappointing growth after neoliberal reform.

Deregulation, liberalization, privatization and globalization have strengthened the market power of corporations, reduced the progressivity of tax systems, reduced public provisioning, increased the frequency and intensity of financial crises, and slowed growth and development.

How Gender-based Violence Should be Reported in the Media

A study of Yazidi survivors found that some were negatively affected by their experiences with journalists, expert Sherizaan Minwalla said. Credit: UNFPA/Khetam Malkawi

By External Source
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 7 2020 – Sexual and gender-based violence terrorizes women and girls around the world, affecting as many as one in three women. Reporters play an essential role in bringing these cases to light so that authorities can take action and prevent further abuses. Yet reporting on gender-based violence comes with serious risks to survivors.

When journalists tell these stories carelessly, or without proper training, they can leave survivors feeling exploited or exposed to stigma and retaliation.

When members of the Yazidi community faced targeted sexual violence and enslavement by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS or Da’esh), news reports sparked urgent action by the international community.

Some women hoped sharing their stories would help bring justice. But others felt the reporting itself caused harm, said Sherizaan Minwalla, a legal expert who has studied the issue.

“We explored how Yazidi women themselves felt about the ways in which journalists gathered and reported on their stories,” she explained.

“Overall, a majority of our respondents described experiences with, or perceptions about, reporters that suggested a patterned breach in ethics among journalists, who appeared to disregard the extent to which the reporting of the story might negatively impact highly traumatized survivors, with further harm to women’s individual and collective well-being.”

Dr. Nagham Nawzat specializes in providing care to Yazidi survivors in Iraq. Interviews with health professionals, counsellors and the community can help reporters show the wider impact of sexual and gender-based violence. Credit: UNFPAIraq/Turchenkova

But new initiatives are aiming to help journalists navigate the dangers of this important reporting. UNFPA and the Rutgers University Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) are partnering to help provide resources and guidance to reporters, among other efforts.

“Journalism constitutes one of the few available avenues for [survivors’] stories to be heard,” said Jafar Irshaidat, a UNFPA communications specialist in Jordan. “Unfortunately, journalists can inadvertently become part of the problem.”

Irshaidat has led trainings for journalists that both encourage the coverage of gender-based violence and caution reporters about the potential to cause harm. These seminars use videos and guided discussions to explore issues of consent, protection, re-traumatization and myths about victims of violence.

“This training was truly eye-opening. I was never really exposed to information on gender-based violence and the sensitivities of reporting on it,” said Bushra Nairoukh, a reporter in Jordan. “I feel more responsible as a journalist now that I have been introduced to this important subject.”

UNFPA has also worked with humanitarian partners to create media guidelines and a Syria-specific handbook for journalists. UNFPA offices in Yemen, Syria and elsewhere have also conducted media workshops on these issues.

These efforts are already making a difference. Since 2014, more than 500 journalists have attended the UNFPA trainings held in Jordan, and some 1,500 have been reached through related messages.

“I learned a lot about the potential consequences of reporting and how to carefully phrase my writing to ensure that I am not harming those I’m trying to help, particularly vulnerable women and girls,” said Fatma Ramadan, from Egypt.

Krishanti Dharmaraj, the Executive Director of CWGL, and Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of UNFPA, at the partnership signing. Credit: UNFPA/Malene Arboe-Rasmussen

CWGL, the founder of the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence campaign, has been working in parallel to create a handbook, website and app to help journalists address these issues.

In 2018, CWGL and UNFPA jointly held consultations with dozens of journalists in Amman to understand their challenges and needs. The information gathered will help inform CWGL’s handbook and other resources under development.

Many journalists have indicated that trainings should reach further into the newsroom, as well. “Journalists complain that, in many cases, their stories are dropped at the editor’s table, stressing the need to target editors in any awareness efforts,” Irshaidat said.

At the same time, he added, journalism offers opportunities for creative thinking and problem solving. Reporters can be encouraged to find novel ways to report on gender-based violence without relying on invasive personal interviews, such as “more explorative features that examine the wider social ramifications of gender-based violence and male dominance,” he said.

On 19 December, UNFPA and CWGL officially partnered together to work towards eliminated gender-based violence. The partnership will include efforts to reach, inform and empower journalists – who can then help change global perceptions about violence and gender norms.

“We are looking at our work around the journalist initiative and shifting the discourse on how [gender-based violence] is reported in the media,” said Krishanti Dharmaraj, the Executive Director of CWGL, at the partnership signing in New York.

“This alliance is going to pick up the pace,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem. “It is going to accelerate action.”

This was originally published by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

RadioMedix and Curium Announce FDA Filing of copper Cu 64 dotatate injection New Drug Application

Houston and St Louis, Jan. 07, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — RadioMedix Inc. and its commercial partner Curium announced today that the New Drug Application for copper Cu 64 dotatate injection was filed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Copper Cu 64 dotatate injection is a PET diagnostic agent intended for somatostatin receptor (SSTR) expressing neuroendocrine tumors (NETs). The FDA previously granted Fast Track designation to copper Cu 64 dotatate injection. "If approved, we expect that copper Cu 64 dotatate injection will be the first FDA approved Cu 64 labeled radiopharmaceutical for PET/CT imaging. In addition, this drug will provide an exciting new imaging agent for NET physicians, patients and caregivers," said Ebrahim Delpassand, MD, CEO of RadioMedix. "Copper Cu 64 dotatate injection will be the first neuroendocrine PET diagnostic agent available to all medical centers with PET capability across the country. This will alleviate the scheduling and supply challenges many geographies have experienced with other somatostatin analogue PET agents. We are currently pursuing a Priority Review with the FDA to expedite commercial availability." "If approved, the clinical utility of this new agent will allow Curium to enhance patient care in the U.S. by bringing the accuracy of PET SSTR to all hospitals and imaging centers," said Curium CEO, North America, Dan Brague. "Our ability to manufacture copper Cu 64 dotatate injection at a central location and distribute quantities to meet the needs of hospitals and imaging centers demonstrates our continued focus on patients with neuroendocrine tumors. We are excited to be bringing Cu 64, an exciting new isotope for PET imaging, to the market. We look forward to exploring additional applications that can help patients and physicians." About RadioMedix RadioMedix, Inc. is a clinical stage biotechnology company, based in Houston, Texas, focused on innovative targeted radiopharmaceuticals for diagnosis, monitoring, and therapy of cancer. The company is commercializing radiopharmaceuticals for PET imaging and therapeutic (alpha and beta–labeled) radiopharmaceuticals. RadioMedix has also established contract service facilities for academic and industrial partners: Full cGMP manufacturing and analytical suites for human clinical trials, and commercial phase manufacturing of the radiopharmaceuticals, in addition to small animal Molecular Imaging Center for the pre–clinical evaluation of new targets in vitro and in vivo. To learn more, visit For more information about this press release, please contact: About Curium Curium is a world–class nuclear medicine solutions provider with more than a century of industry experience. Curium is the largest vertically integrated radiopharmaceutical product manufacturer in the industry. With manufacturing facilities across Europe and the United States, Curium supports over 14 million patients around the world with SPECT, PET, and therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals. The Curium brand name is inspired by the work of radiation researchers Marie and Pierre Curie and emphasizes a focus on nuclear medicine. To learn more, visit For more information about this press release, please contact Janet Ryan media contact for Curium: janet@ryan– About Neuroendocrine Tumors Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are a heterogeneous group of rare neoplasms that originate from neuroendocrine cells. These neoplasms occur mostly in the gastrointestinal tract and pancreas, but can also occur in other tissues including thymus, lung, and other uncommon sites such as cervix, heart and prostate. Most NETs strongly express somatostatin receptors (SSTRs).


Let’s Give Trade a Chance

Courtesy: ESCAP

By Mia Mikic and James Gregory Gallagher
BANGKOK, Thailand, Jan 7 2020 – Imagine going through the day without consuming or using some product, service, data, technology, personal contact, or payment which has not – at least in some part – crossed one or more national borders before reaching you.

We live in a globalized world where connections across borders are no longer just between governments or businesses but increasingly person to person. Many of us would have a hard time to adjust to life without these benefits from globalization.

Globalization, described as the spread of products, services, technology, information, and jobs across national borders, is often understood as the deepened interdependence of economies, cultures, and people.

The pace of globalization has been primarily driven by technological progress intertwined with the steady reduction of costs in international transactions coming from the policy side.

Mia Mikic

Fragmentation enabled the spread of production through global value chains integrating many developing countries into the global economy. Millions of new trade-related jobs were created in countries such as China, Viet Nam, and other South-East Asian economies with increased productivity, incomes, and reduced poverty [APTIR, 2015]. Women have especially benefited from the expansion of global value chains (GVCs) into developing countries.

But there is the other side to this story. The benefits of globalization have not been shared widely or equitably. While workers producing smartphones, cars, or other GVC products in a few developing countries were gaining, their gains were relatively less than high-skilled or capital owners locally and overseas.

Offshoring production has meant a loss of mostly lower-skilled jobs in the advanced economies. These changes gave rise to a denouncement of globalization in both developed and developing countries. The high-speed growth of GVCs in the late 1990s and early 2000s, might have contributed to a degradation of the environment and overuse of resources.

The spread of resentment against globalization was recognized in several economies through populist policies focusing on short-term gains for those assumed to be hurt by globalization. Such policies go directly against the rationale for having a global governance of trade.

James Gregory Gallagher

Unilateralism advances national interest at the expense of other countries and invites similar retaliatory policies and ultimately trade wars. ESCAP has estimated that the imposed tariffs could cause GDP losses of at least $400 billion worldwide (almost a loss of Thailand’s GDP) and $117 billion in Asia and the Pacific (100 million workers being paid a minimum monthly wage of $100 for a year).

Yet the loss is potentially much more significant. Trade tensions have spread from bilateral tit-for-tat tariffs, into the multilateral arena threatening the functioning of the global trade governance under the WTO. This system is not flawless and the calls for reform are justified. But that should not mean destruction before fixing it.

The global trade regime functions as a public good which is necessary to enable trade for delivering sustainable development. As demonstrated by ESCAP work, there are direct and indirect links between trade and the attainment of sustainable development. The channels are the following.

    1. Trade facilitation and in particular digital trade facilitation reduces the cost of trade (by about 25%) and make its benefits accessible to many more, in particular women and SMEs.
    2. Services are increasingly important for employment and value creation. They are closely linked to the process of digitalization of economies. The use of digital frontier technologies will allow for a new phase of globalization, unleashing the ability of professional services to be remotely provided across the globe. Asia’s advantage in offering varied professional services through digital technology are clear and would contribute to all three dimensions of sustainable development (prosperity, inclusivity, and environmental responsibility). Moreover, digitalization will offer more opportunities to countries and groups still excluded to participate in global markets.
    3. As shown in APTIR 2019, the amount of NTMs has been increasing. The trade costs that come from NTMs are estimated to be more than double that of ordinary customs tariffs, with the economic costs of SPS and TBT measures estimated being up to 1.6% of global GDP, amounting to $1.4 trillion and the average trade costs of the Asia-Pacific region from NTMs is 15.3%. Yet NTMs often serve as a tool for the delivery of crucial public policies, such as the protection of human, animal, and plant health and protection of the environment. Can we keep NTMs but make them cheaper to use? Yes! By adopting new digital technologies and adjusting policies so that NTMs are aligned with international standards.

For these channels to remain open, there must be a functioning system of rules based on transparency, stability, predictability, and fairness. By working together, governments can improve the current WTO regime.

The opportunity comes up with the 12th Ministerial Conference in 2020 in Kazakhstan, and the ESCAP secretariat is already working with the Governments and other stakeholders towards ensuring that trade remains an effective means of implementation for sustainable development.