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wider_0203 - World Institute for Development Economics...

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World Institute for Development Economics Research United Nations University O ver 120 experts from the academic, policy, non-government and government communities met on 5-7 September 2003 in Helsinki to discuss the preliminary findings of the WIDER research project on Innovative Sources for Development Finance , commissioned by the UN s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) and to participate in the WIDER conference on Sharing Global Prosperity Professor Tony Atkinson, the Warden of Nuffield College, Oxford University and director of the project presented the initial findings The two-day conference on Sharing Global Prosperity focused on ways to increase the global economy s benefits for poor countries and poor people The topics included: development finance; private capital flows and foreign aid; international trade and foreign investment; globalization s development impact Some 70 papers were presented, with a wide range of developing country participants, including from Brazil, China, Ghana, South Africa and Tanzania International and donor agencies participated including the ACP, DFID, the IMF, and Sida The concluding presentation on Global Public Economics was made by Professor James Mirlees, University of Cambridge, the 1996 Nobel Prize laureate in economics The project and conference papers are available at: www wider unu edu WIDER Conference on Sharing Global Prosperity 2003 WIDER Annual Lecture Global Labour Standards versus Freedom of Choice by Kaushik Basu The Conundrum M ost reasonable people agree that workers, wherever they happen to be, should have the guarantee of certain basic rights and minimal standards of wellbeing But as soon as we try to convert this seemingly innocuous demand into concrete policies, we run into controversy Would one standard, no matter how low we set it, not do injustice across nations demanding too little of the industrialized countries and too much of the poorest? If poor workers in one of the least developed nations feel that they are willing to expose themselves to large health hazards in order to be able to feed their families, should an international organization or government have the authority to disallow such work? Of course, we will all agree, that no one should be poor enough to have to do such work But the question is: if they are so poor, do we have the right to stop such work? Underlying these practical questions are deep philosophical and analytical issues and they form the focus of this lecture Such analytical inquiry is important to ensure that our interventions do not go wrong, and hurt the very constituency they are meant to help In the city of Calcutta, an area called Salt Lake, which was originally a salt marsh, was developed by the local government to enable relatively worse-off people to own land and houses So plots were sold off at a subsidized rate But it then struck the government that these people to whom the plots were sold could lose their land to rich buyers So a law was enacted to
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