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UNCTAD summer school hot debates: Debt, money and finance 10 years after the crashThe September 2008 bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers brought the international financial system to the edge of collapse. Ten years later, has global finance become safer, simpler,and fairer?

During September 3–7, 2018, UNCTAD’s Division on Globalization and Development Strategies hosted a summer school in Geneva (“Money, finance and debt: Old debates, new challenges”) to consider these questions and more. Co-organized with the Institute for New Economic Thinking’s (INET) Young Scholars Initiative, the weeklong gathering drew policymakers and scholars of all ages from 23 countries, who debated topics far and wide: money, finance and hyper-globalization, perspectives on financialization, financing for development and the Sustainable Development Goals, illicit financial flows and cryptocurrencies, and sovereign debt and development.

The UNCTAD Virtual Institute (Vi) was there to capture it all, as well as conduct one-on-one interviews with various experts. Here are some highlights.


Have policymakers fixed the fault lines that caused the financial crisis? Professor Gary Dymski of Leeds University (U.K.) was skeptical about claims asserting that today’s financial structure is “safer, simpler, and fairer.”


And Dr. Richard Kozul-Wright of UNCTAD offered a fascinating take on the evolution of financial markets,


and discussed what has changed since 2008.


Why has the promised transformation of finance not materialized? Dr. Kozul-Wright also gave three reasons for why reforms have been limited, and why developing countries are more exposed now to systemic risks.


The Vi also caught up with Professor Daniela Gabor of the University of the West of England. “Shadow banking” played a big role in the 2008 crisis, Gabor noted; unfortunately, it continues to flourish today under a new name “market-based-finance.” 


Gabor offered her analysis of the global policy response to the crisis, 


warned of the risks that shadow banking poses to developing countries,


and suggested an alternative global structure to finance development.


Another distinguished speaker at the summer school was Professor David Hall of the University of Greenwich (U.K.). Hall expressed his disillusionment with “public-private partnerships” (PPPs), which, he contended, are part of a misguided neoliberal economic agenda. Hall explained PPPs broadly.


He elaborated on how PPPs relate specifically to developing countries,


And questioned the effectiveness of PPPs.


Hall proposed other options for developing countries with fiscal constraints.


Yet another question that stirred debate at the summer school: How can finance be made more inclusive? was addressed by UNCTAD’s Penelope Hawkins.


She also discussed the kinds of policies that are needed if the financial sector is to better serve society’s poor and marginalized.


The Vi also sat down with some younger scholars to hear what they learned at the summer school, as well as how they plan to use the insights in their own work.

Francisco Perez (USA)
University of Massachusetts, Amherst


Nathalie Marins ( Brazil)
The University of Campinas (UNICAMP)


Devika Dutt (India)
University of Massachusetts, Amherst


Grygoriy Pustovit (Ukraine)
Goethe University Frankfurt and Research Center SAFE