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世界银行:普惠金融有助于减少不平等,促进和平

其他国际资讯

世界银行:普惠金融有助于减少不平等,促进和平

过去几年里,不平等的上升是引起各界广泛关注的一个重要议题。乐施会2015年发表的报告《财富:拥有全部,想要更多》估计,到2016年,全球最富有的1%人口拥有的财富将高出其余99%人口的财富总和。布兰科·米拉诺维奇的“大象曲线”概括了收入增长的不均衡和不平等的上升。该曲线显示,世界上最贫困的10%从经济增长中受益寥寥,但全球精英却获益良多。全球来看,中间阶层(收入居于10-70%水平)也获益颇丰——这主要是由于中国和印度的推动,而发达国家中产阶级的境况却停滞不前。

全球不平等与冲突的关联

过去几十年里,经济学家对不平等对经济的影响做出了不少论述并发出了警告。约瑟夫·斯蒂格利茨所著《不平等的代价》一书警告说,不平等上升将会造成经济增长放缓、GDP下降和不稳定加剧。托马斯·皮凯蒂的《21世纪资本论》则警告说,不平等将会引发全社会的广泛不满,最终破坏民主价值观。

现实似乎为这些经济学家的观点提供了佐证。数据显示,随着收入不平等的急剧上升,全球因为冲突、暴力而陷入流离失所境地的人口已经达到前所未有的水平。根据联合国难民署的数据,2015年12月全球被迫流离失所者达到6530万,在仅仅五年时间里就翻了一番,达到第二次世界大战结束以来的最高纪录。难民冒着极大风险渡过地中海的影像现已深深地印入人们的脑海。

普惠金融对解决这两方面挑战都有帮助,尤其是在脆弱和受冲突影响的国家

鉴于上面提到的那些统计数字,也就难怪联合国可持续发展目标包括了减少不平等(目标10)和建设和平社会(目标16)这两项内容。虽然我们没有不平等导致暴力的直接证据,但毫无疑问,人们对现状的诸多不满都是由不平等引发的。解决深度不平等的方案包含多个方面,但大多数方案的核心都围绕着两个重要概念:包容性增长和社会公正。而这些概念的背后则是机会与服务平等的原则,即不管阶层、种族、宗教信仰或性别如何,都能平等地获得机会和公共服务。

实现包容性增长和社会公正无疑需要对现有制度加以反思,包括对现有的政治、金融和教育架构进行思考。决策者们需要想办法尽可能消除只供精英阶层专享的机会,同时为此前被边缘化的人口增加充分参与国家经济体系的机会。发展普惠金融是推动包容性增长和社会公正的重要途径,这一点在脆弱国家和受冲突影响的国家尤为突出,因为那些国家的金融服务非常有限但需求很大。

脆弱国家和受冲突影响国家金融服务有限但需求很大

脆弱和受冲突影响的国家由于基础设施很差或受到破坏,给金融服务获取带来严重影响。开展金融服务所需的网点网络或电讯基础设施往往在战乱或暴力中损毁,而没有这些基础设施,获得最基本的金融服务也会充满挑战,尤其是在穷人生活的那些地区。在很大程度上,正在由于这个原因,脆弱和受冲突影响的国家约80%的成年人生活在正规金融体系之外,对那些本来可以帮助其家庭克服不稳定的金融服务获取有限。

然而,尽管脆弱和受冲突影响国家穷人的金融服务获取水平较低,但与那些生活在稳定环境中的人们相比,他们的实际服务需求更大。由于这些国家的形势动荡不安,难以预测,穷人必须依靠金融工具来帮助他们管理频繁出现的风险。下图显示,脆弱和受冲突影响国家与低收入和中等收入国家相比,人们更多地因为紧急情况和其他事项使用贷款(包括正式和非正式贷款)。

为那些最需要金融服务的人改善服务

从某种意义上讲,金融体系是经济运行的神经系统。它是进行市场交易的平台、政府分配福利的手段,同时也是公民通过纳税、为政府服务付费来展示其公民责任的机制。确保金融体系的包容性对建立更包容、平等与和平的社会至关重要。

一方面,将金融体系向穷人和边缘化群体开放将使他们能够:利用各种金融产品来创办和发展企业;投资于教育和工作技能,以适应不断变化的劳动市场需求;保护自己、家人和企业免受各种冲击的影响。这样就为他们提供了广泛参与经济活动的更多机会。

另一方面,如果政府用数字支付系统来发放养老金、工资和福利款项,则可以减少腐败机会。数字支付系统还有助于提高问责制和透明度,因为公民与国家之间的所有交易都被记录在案。在关于印度智能卡的一篇论文中,研究人员发现,通过政府补贴项目的数字化,索贿情况减少了47%,从而使受益人可以拿到手的款项大为增加。

仅靠更具包容性的金融体系并不能解决不平等问题,也无法建立包容、和平的社会,但它肯定会对实现这两个目标做出重要贡献。实际上,如果没有包容性的金融体系,很难想象在促进平等、建设和平方面能有什么大的进展。

The rise of inequality has been the subject of many headlines over the past several years. Oxfam’s 2015 Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More estimated that the world’s richest 1% will own more than all of the rest of the world’s 99% by 2016. Branko Milanovic’s Elephant Chart summarizes the disparity in income growth and rising inequality by showing that while the world’s poorest 10% have gained little, global elites have made significant gains. Globally, those in the middle (the lower 10 – 70% of incomes) have also had important gains, driven primarily by China and India; but the middle classes in developed countries have stagnated.

The global inequality and conflict connection

Economists have been writing about and warning of the impacts of inequality on the economy and on society for decades. Joseph Stiglitz’ “The Price of Inequality” warns of slower growth, lower GDP and greater instability as a result of growing inequality. Thomas Piketty’s “Capital” warns that growing inequality threatens broad-based discontent and will eventually undermine democratic values.

Seeming to lend support to such economists’ views, data shows that as income inequality has soared, the world has witnessed an unprecedented number of people forcibly displaced by conflict or violence. In December 2015, the number of forcibly displaced reached 65.3 million, more than doubling in only five years, according to UNHCR. This represents a record high since World War II. The images of refugees making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean has now been etched in most of our psyches.

Financial inclusion can address both challenges, especially in fragile and conflict-affected states

With these kinds of statistics, it is not surprising that the Sustainable Development Goals have called out inequality (Goal 10) and peaceful societies (Goal 16) as important priorities under the new aid architecture. While we may not have the direct evidence that attributes violence to inequality, there is no doubt that inequality is stirring much of the disenchantment with the status quo. The solutions to deep inequality are manifold, but at the heart of most solutions are two important concepts: inclusive growth and social justice. Embedded in these concepts are principles of equal access to opportunity and services, regardless of class, race, religion or gender.

Creating inclusive growth and social justice undoubtedly requires reflection on existing systems, including political, financial and educational structures. Policymakers need to look for ways to eliminate as many of the opportunities for elite capture as possible, while increasing opportunities for those previously marginalized to fully participate in the economic system. There is an opportunity to promote inclusive growth and social justice by promoting financial inclusion — particularly in fragile and conflict-affected states (FCAs), where we see low access and high demand for financial services.

Lower access and higher demand in fragile and conflict-affected states

Financial access in FCA states is heavily affected by poor or destroyed infrastructure. Without branch networks or telecommunications infrastructure, which is often destroyed by war and violence, basic access can be challenging, particularly in regions where the poor are more likely to reside. Largely for this reason, almost 80% of adults in FCA states remain outside the formal financial system and have limited access to services that could help their families overcome instability.

Despite having lower access to financial services, however, poor people in FCAs actually demonstrate greater demand for them than those living in stable environments. Given the high levels of volatility and unpredictability in FCAs, poor people must rely on financial tools to help them manage frequent risks. The graph below shows the increased usage of loans (both formal and informal) for emergencies and other purposes in FCA countries as compared to low- and middle-income countries.

An opportunity for real impact on those who need it most

The financial system is, in a sense, the nerve system of an economy. It is the platform used for market transactions to occur, the means by which governments distribute benefits, and the mechanism used by citizens to demonstrate their civic responsibilities by payment of taxes and government services. Ensuring the financial system is inclusive is paramount in the process of creating a more inclusive, equal and peaceful society.

On the one hand, opening up the financial system to the poor and marginalized segments will increase opportunities for broader economic participation by allowing them to use various financial products to start and grow enterprises; to invest in education and job skills to adapt to changing workforce requirements; and to protect themselves, their families and their businesses from shocks.

On the other hand, a digital payment system used for government payments of pensions, salaries, and welfare benefits will reduce opportunities for corruption. A digital payment system also enables increased accountability and transparency as all transactions in and out between citizens and the state are recorded. In a paper on SmartCards in India, the researchers found that by digitizing government transfers, bribe demands were reduced by 47 percent, resulting in increased payments received by beneficiaries.

While more inclusive financial systems alone will not solve the problem of inequality and build inclusive and peaceful societies, it will certainly be an important contributor, and it is hard to imagine progress without it.


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