Global pursuit of the SDGs falling short of the mark: IMF and World Bank call for increased focus on their delivery

Day 4 of the 2018 IMF and World Bank Group Annual Meetings maintained the rapid tempo set by the prior days. The Meetings continued exploring a range of themes from previous days, including: income and gender inequality, enabling innovation in the developing world, and environmental pollution.

Discussions on these topics merged into a common thread that ran through the day: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  One major presentation covering this theme was ‘Implementing the SDGs in a Changing World: Localization, Inclusiveness, and Investing for Impact.’  Here, multiple panels covered a few key points for the SDGs: how different countries are progressing, the importance of private investment alongside government institutions and investment, and the importance of predictable flexibility of investment. Overall, while progress is being made, estimates put the rate as too slow to achieve all of the SDG goals by the 2030 deadline, creating a greater need for governments, organisations, and individuals to increase and innovate their delivery of these objectives.

A number of presentations focused on specific SDGs, like the ‘Sin-Tax Policy Reform: Policy Tools to Improve Health Behaviours and Increase Financing SDG 3.’  There, the focus was on SDG 3, which tasks countries with ensuring the healthy well-being of all of its citizens. This presentation focused particularly on cigarette taxation, and how it was being used to achieve key outcomes: internalising the external negative effects, collecting tax revenue to support healthcare efforts, and as a deterrent to consumption. A number of other goods were also considered for similar taxation purposes throughout the presentation: alcohol, more general tobacco products, and sugary drinks.

Over the course of the week, the Annuals managed to cover an impressive range of themes, from corruption and energy accessibility, to economic growth and the role of technology in the future of work. Something that struck me as particularly interesting, was the strong presence from CSOs, including in two large sessions where CSOs questioned senior members of the IMF and the World Bank on the future risks and opportunities in developing regions such as Asia, the Pacific Islands, and Africa. In particular, there seemed to be a level of distrust of public-private partnerships (PPPs), where the World Bank and governments work with private corporations to achieve objectives. Interestingly, this sentiment was not held more widely, however, with the majority of presentations touching on PPPs providing positive sentiment about their ability to create global partnerships.

By: Aaron Semtner, University of Newcastle