Jeffrey D. Sachs in Project Syndicate:
At last month’s COP26 climate summit, hundreds of financial institutions declared that they would put trillions of dollars to work to finance solutions to climate change. Yet a major barrier stands in the way: The world’s financial system actually impedes the flow of finance to developing countries, creating a financial death trap for many.
Economic development depends on investments in three main kinds of capital: human capital (health and education), infrastructure (power, digital, transport, and urban), and businesses. Poorer countries have lower levels per person of each kind of capital, and therefore also have the potential to grow rapidly by investing in a balanced way across them. These days, that growth can and should be green and digital, avoiding the high-pollution growth of the past.
Global bond markets and banking systems should provide sufficient funds for the high-growth “catch-up” phase of sustainable development, yet this doesn’t happen. The flow of funds from global bond markets and banks to developing countries remains small, costly to the borrowers, and unstable. Developing-country borrowers pay interest charges that are often 5-10% higher per year than the borrowing costs paid by rich countries.
Developing country borrowers as a group are regarded as high risk. The bond rating agencies assign lower ratings by mechanical formula to countries just because they are poor. Yet these perceived high risks are exaggerated, and often become a self-fulfilling prophecy.