Monday 20th of March 2023

run comrade, retirement is getting away from you......

World leaders have begun meeting in Davos to discuss cooperation to address multiple crises, from Covid-19 and escalating inflation to slowing economic growth, debt distress and climate shocks.

Three months earlier, finance ministers gathered in Washington, D.C. for the same reason. The mood was grim. The need for ambitious actions could not be greater; however, there were no agreements, evidencing the fragility of multilateralism and international cooperation.


By Isabel Ortiz and Sara Burke
Inter Press Service


Worse, policy makers — advised by the International Monetary Fund — are resorting to old, failed and regressive policies, such as austerity (now called “fiscal restraint” or “fiscal consolidation”), instead of much needed corporate/wealth taxation and debt reduction initiatives, to ensure an equitable recovery for all.

A recent global report alerts of the dangers of a post-pandemic wave of austerity, far more premature and severe than the one that followed the global financial crisis a decade ago. 

While governments started cutting public expenditures in 2021, a tsunami of budget cuts is expected in 143 countries in 2023, which will impact more than 6.7 billion people or 85 percent of the world population.

Proven Harm 

Analysis of the austerity measures considered or already implemented by governments worldwide shows their significant negative impacts on people, harming women in particular. 

These austerity policies are: targeting social protection, excluding vulnerable populations in need of support by cutting programs for families, the elderly and persons with disabilities (in 120 countries); cutting or capping the public sector wage bill, reducing the number and salaries of civil servants, including frontline workers such as teachers and health workers (in 91 countries); eliminating subsidies (in 80 countries); privatizing public services or reforming state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in areas such as public transport, energy, water; reforming hard-earned pensions by adjusting benefits and parameters, resulting in lower incomes for retirees (in 74 countries); labor flexibilization reforms (in 60 countries); reducing employers’ social security contributions, making social security unsustainable (in 47 countries); and even cutting health expenditures despite Covid-19 not being over.

Austerity and all the human suffering it causes is evitable, there are alternatives. There are at least nine financing options, available even in the poorest countries, fully endorsed by the U.N. and international financial institutions, from increasing progressive taxation to reducing debt. Policymakers must urgently look into these. Many countries have already implemented them.

Protests Around the World

In recent years, citizens have protested austerity all around the world. A recent study on world protests shows that nearly 1,500 protests in the period 2006-2020 were against austerity. 

Citizens demand better public services, social protection, jobs with decent wages, tax and fiscal justice, equitable land distribution and better living standards, among others. Protests against pension reforms, and high food and energy prices have also been prevalent. 

Recently, the jobs and cost-of-living crises have been accentuated by the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in more protests despite lockdowns.

The majority of global protests against austerity and for economic justice have manifested people’s indignation at gross inequalities. The idea of the “1 percent versus the 99 percent,” that emerged a decade ago during protests over the 2008 financial crisis, has spread around the world, feeding grievances against elites and corporations manipulating public policies in their favor, while the majority of citizens continue to endure low living standards, aggravated by austerity cuts.


Let’s remember that trillions of dollars have been used to support corporations during the pandemic and to support military spending. Now people are being asked to endure austerity cuts, at a time when they are suffering a cost-of-living crisis. The 2023 meetings in Davos faced new protests and demands to tax the rich.

Unless policymakers change course, we shouldn’t be surprised to see increasing waves of protests all over the world. 

Clashes in the street are likely to intensify if governments continue to fail to respond to people’s demands and persist in implementing harmful austerity policies. Governments need to listen to the demands of citizens who are legitimately protesting the denial of social, economic and civil rights. 

From jobs, public services and social security to tax and climate justice, the majority of protesters’ demands are in full accordance with United Nations proposals and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Leaders and policymakers will only generate further unrest if they fail to act on these legitimate demands.

Isabel Ortizis director of the Global Social Justice Program at Joseph Stiglitz’s Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia University, former director at the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNICEF.

Sara Burke is senior policy analyst at Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) New York.

This article is from Inter Press Service.

The views expressed are solely those of the authors and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.






frog strikes....


Text by:Tom WHEELDON


It is the moment everyone saw coming – the moment after Macron pushed ahead with pension reforms and France sees the huge industrial action it is (in)famous for.

The last time Macron wanted to change the pensions system, during the winter of 2019-2020, France saw its biggest strikes since 1968. Covid soon made that upheaval seem quaint, and prompted Macron to shelve his plans. But Macron was re-elected in April 2022 after promising to re-introduce these reforms, then put them to parliament earlier this month. And now the opposition appears to be even bigger than before: France’s biggest and most moderate major union, the CFDT, has joined the strike action after declining to act the previous time.

“Projections show there’ll be a huge number of people taking to the streets; 1 million to 1.5 million people, which the strike movement will be very pleased with,” noted Arnaud Benedetti, editor-in-chief of specialist French politics publication Revue politique et parlementaire.

 ‘They don’t want to change it’

Many polls have shown a majority of French oppose Macron’s proposals. The two main planks of the reform both go down badly: 66 percent oppose raising the retirement age from 62 to 64, while 60 percent oppose increasing the length of time paying into the system required for a full pension to 43 years, according to a survey by OpinionWay for Les Échos and Radio Classique.

“A lot of the public opposition comes from this persistent idea of a French model that has to be defended,” explained Paul Smith, a professor of French politics at Nottingham University. “It’s very difficult for the Macron government to get over that and point out that the retirement age is currently higher everywhere else – it doesn’t work because people think this is the French model, the French exception, and they don’t want to change it.”

“As well as the French attachment to the current system, the Macron government has made communication errors in trying to sell the reforms – inconsistencies in their justifications,” Benedetti added. “To start with, Macron said he was opposed to lengthening the amount of time people have to work, and of course changed his position on this. Then the government tried to legitimise the reforms by saying it would free up money for other parts of the public sector like education, before they switched to saying they’re needed to make the pensions system sustainable and thereby save it.”

The unions are hoping to pull off a repeat of what happened in 1995, when prolonged disruptive industrial action combined with broad public support to force then-president Jacques Chirac’s government to ditch pension reforms.

“The unions won in ’95 because they mobilised with massive public sympathy, and they know they need to do the same thing again if they want to win,” Smith put it.

So the big question is whether a majority of the French public would remain on the unions’ side during a protracted standoff with Macron’s government. The two other big factors determining which side will win, Benedetti noted, are “whether the union members have the means to carry on striking during a long standoff and the impact of the strikes on parliamentary politics”.

Macron lost his parliamentary majority in the legislative elections in June – complicating the bill’s passage. Luckily for Macron, France’s traditional conservative party Les Républicains (LR) have the numbers to get the bill through the National Assembly, and the party leadership is in favour.

This was by no means a given, however, seeing as many LR politicians are keen to emphasise their distinctiveness from Macron as he occupies their historic territory on the centre-right of the political spectrum – while LR’s recently elected hard-right leader Eric Ciotti sees himself as closer to far-right ex-presidential candidate Eric Zemmour than he is to Macron.

Nevertheless, LR and its ancestor parties under the likes of Chirac have longed envisaged reforming France’s pensions system in similar ways to Macron. President of the Senate Gérard Larcher, one of LR’s most influential grandees, has been particularly enthusiastic about Macron’s pension reforms – declaring that “even though they are unpopular, these reforms are essential”. Then Ciotti and his lieutenants met Macron’s Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne last week and said they were “listened to” after making demands in exchange for a deal, notably to fix the minimum monthly pension at €1,200. 

“Ciotti is mercurial, and many LR MPs don’t want to look too 'Macron-compatible', as they say,” Smith pointed out. “But the bottom line is that pensions reform is something they’ve historically supported, while there’s a general sense that giving Macron the support he needs makes them look important again instead of going up in smoke. And the Républicains in the Senate have been putting pressure on Républicains in the National Assembly to support the compromise struck with Borne. Gérard Larcher is the key figure here.”