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On 10 October 2017, the Henry Jackson Society was pleased to host an event with Gabriela Ramos — Chief of Staff and Special Counsellor to the Secretary-General, OECD, and Sherpa to the G7 and G20 — by invitation of the Rt. Hon. The Viscount Waverley, to outline how models which ensure increased productivity and inclusivity can be implemented in the new century.
Ms Ramos began her discussion by warning the OECD is currently experiencing a backlash to the model developed and implemented for the past three decades, itself triggered primarily by the interconnectedness promoted through the advent of the Internet and the “globalisation phenomenon.” Faced with hard economic conditions, exacerbated by rising levels of migration and facilitated through social and cultural change, disillusioned minorities and disadvantaged majorities respond to these changes by opting for “radical and extreme” political options; through this lens, according to Ms Ramos, should we understand the Brexit referendum in the UK and the election of Donald Trump to the presidency in the US.
Political tumult paradoxically occurs at a point in which the world economy, having suffered a chronic and intractable crisis, appears to be growing at a stable and sustainable rate; Ms Ramos emphasised that countries which have chosen to dislocate from global interactions will therefore “miss out” on this recovery. The case par excellence appeared to be the UK: Whereas the world economy is due to grow at 3.5 percent this year, the British economy will gravitate at 1.6 percent this year, to fall to 1 percent in 2018 — all this before the UK finalises its withdrawal from the EU.
Profound uncertainty in the political sphere has been partially caused by soaring rates of inequality, as improvements in growth rates predominantly benefit those with rising incomes. Ms Ramos stipulated that inequality has an intergenerational profile, wherein youth unemployment in Europe occurs at a higher rate than the access to benefits from older generations; younger and poorer communities thus have less access to basic universal goods (i.e., healthcare and education).
Ms Ramos concluded by questioning how the OECD might create a growth model sustainable and applicable for all. She maintained that part of the issue in diagnosing the problem has been a primary focus on the “material measure of growth.” This, she alleged, was a misnomer; GDP may not reflect inequalities in income distribution. Ms Ramos advocated efforts to look at increasing growth through inclusive means, such as encouraging women to fulfil a greater presence in scientific research. Finally, she emphasised that the OECD considers itself to be an evidence-based institute, which inevitably cannot have the answers to these entrenched problems at hand: Due to the sheer interconnectedness of communities and countries in the new century, Ms Ramos said, a global conversation was vital.