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Ann Pettifor

Ann Pettifor

I’m Ann Pettifor, author and analyst of the global financial system, and co-author of The Green New Deal (2008). I predicted an Anglo-American debt-deflationary crisis back in 2003, and in September, 2006 published The Coming First World Debt Crisis (Palgrave). I am known for my work on the sovereign debts of low income countries and for leading an international movement for the cancellation of debts, Jubilee 2000.

Articles by Ann Pettifor

Rentier capitalism is profoundly risk-averse

February 25, 2022

The following article is based on my speech notes for a presentation to University College London’s Global Business School for Health on 22nd February 2022. The webinar was titled: Health Innovation through Capital and Private Equity Markets webinar.
The question panellists were asked to address was this: “….whether capital and private equity markets are actually driving forward better and sustainable health innovation?”
I argued that private capital and private equity markets – far from driving forward sustainable health innovation – are contributing to rising rates of mortality from preventable diseases worldwide. The most egregious case of this failure of private capital to support sustainable health innovation was made stark by the COVID19 pandemic.
My case rests on the experience

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PRIME’s 2022 forecast

January 3, 2022

Each year the Financial Times invites economists to answer an economic survey for the British economy. This is PRIME’s submission.
1. UK economy
Will the UK economy outpace or lag behind other developed economies in 2022 and why?
UK trade performance on imports and exports has been among the worst of all OECD economies, with Brexit exacerbating the pandemic. This significant fall in total trade (compared to 2018) is an outcome, or consequence, of weak economic activity at home. Flat business investment is an ongoing key constraint. That is why we expect the UK will perform (in GDP terms) below the level of advanced economies in 2022. Annual GDP likely to rise by around 3.5-4% (well below HMT’s ‘comparison of independent forecasts’ which range up to 8.1%). UK GDP fell further in 2020 than

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Reclaiming Central Banks

September 21, 2021

This article first appeared on the Project Syndicate website on 21st September, 2021

Fifty years ago, a US president closed the gold window, ended capital controls, and launched a new era of globalized finance. The “Nixon Shock” reshaped the international monetary system overnight, and then gradually changed the status of central bankers. Instead of acting as servants of the domestic economy, monetary policymakers have become masters of the globalized and financialized world economy. And this development bears directly on our ability to tackle the problems of climate change and biodiversity loss.
Despite their technocratic mystique, central bankers are politically appointed public servants on government payrolls, and still derive their authority from the taxpayers in their respective

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Industrial Policy’s Comeback?

September 15, 2021

This is my comment on a major article on Industrial Policy in the Boston Review, published in September, 2021. The leading article was by Professor Mariana Mazzucato, Rainer Kattel and Josh Ryan-Collins.

In their well-executed argument for a new approach to economic policy, Mazzucato, Kattel, and Ryan-Collins spell out how governments could develop an industrial policy to shape and drive innovative opportunities for the future. They rightly demolish the folk tales of neoliberalism: the elevation of markets to mythical status, the reverence for allegedly “independent” central bankers, the skepticism of government action, and the deregulation of trade and foreign direct investment.
I deliberately use the word “could,” however, because a lot hangs on future conditions. While the authors

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Quantitative Easing: how the world got hooked on magicked-up money

July 25, 2021

Going cold turkey would finish off a dysfunctional global financial system that’s now hopelessly addicted to emergency infusions. The only solution is surgery on the system itself.
This article first appeared in Prospect magazine on 16 July 2021.
The world economy is a mess. The system, notionally governed by the invisible hand of the market, is no longer governed in any meaningful way: private excess puffs up bubbles that government indulgence ensures can never burst. We seem condemned to volatile commodity prices, wild capital flows, worsening imbalances in trade, taxation and income, and—before long—the next sovereign debt crisis. And then there’s inequality. During lockdown, the total wealth of billionaires rose by $5 trillion to $13 trillion in 12 months, the most dramatic surge

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Bill Gates: Save the jetset

March 21, 2021

Bill Gates: How to avoid a climate disaster : Review for the Times Literary Supplement, published on 12 March, 2021.
When I first began to use computers in the 1980s, my Techie pals in the opensource community were dismissive of Microsoft’s ‘clunky’ and vulnerable software and advised me against using its products. But I disagreed. In the eyes of geeks, the software may have been badly coded but it was accessible for me, a non-geeky beginner. For each glitch I just hit ‘update’ and Microsoft programmes were patched up.
Bill Gates brings those breezy and accessible characteristics to his book How to avoid a Climate Disaster. In explaining the technological solutions he believes necessary to tackle climate breakdown, he is careful to use laypersons’ terms, making his book as accessible as

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Bill Gates: How to avoid a climate disaster: review for the Times Literary Supplement

March 21, 2021

When I first began to use computers in the 1980s, my Techie pals in the opensource community were dismissive of Microsoft’s ‘clunky’ and vulnerable software and advised me against using its products. But I disagreed. In the eyes of geeks, the software may have been badly coded but it was accessible for me, a non-geeky beginner. For each glitch I just hit ‘update’ and Microsoft programmes were patched up.
Bill Gates brings those breezy and accessible characteristics to his book How to avoid a Climate Disaster. In explaining the technological solutions he believes necessary to tackle climate breakdown, he is careful to use laypersons’ terms, making his book as accessible as were those early MS programmes.
True to his original profession as a coder, Gates reduces the challenges the world

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After the furlough ‘tide’ recedes?

March 1, 2021

Is our biggest worry inflation? No, our biggest worry is a fall in employment, investment and income.
Inflation is caused by the economy ‘overheating’. Wage and price inflation arises when economic activity (investment, employment, income) exceeds the capacity of the economy.  Put simply, inflation most often arises in conditions of full employment, when incomes are high and rising and when investment in new jobs, speculation and the creation of new assets, surges. 
Many point to the 1970s as an example of high inflation, which indeed it was. In 1970 at the end of a period of Labour government, inflation was at 5%. Under reckless financial deregulation – defined as Competition and Credit Control – and instigated by Edward Heath’s Treasury Minister, Anthony Barber, the availability of

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Billionaires & the pandemic: in happy alignment

February 16, 2021

There are two global forces positively thriving – despite today’s crises. They are the lethal coronavirus and the world’s billionaires – engaged in a form of ‘co-production’. Why are they thriving? And why do their interests align so happily?
The ‘interests’ of a lethal virus are clear. The microbe’s supreme ambition is to spread as fast as possible, infect millions of humans, accelerate the process of transmission and evolve into a global pandemic.
Never mind the consequences.
How can this ambition align with the interests of say, Silicon Valley billionaires?
The answer is straightforward: Like the virus, Silicon Valley billionaires, aided by their friends in Wall St, in governments and in regulatory institutions, have designed and built their dream world – a globalised system of

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COP26: US gifts Wall St the Green New Deal

February 2, 2021

This article first appeared on Substack.
Last week the Biden team delivered their first press conference on the Democrat’s much-anticipated Climate Plan.
The good news is that Climate Envoy, John Kerry and Advisor, Gina McCarthy are talking about the Climate Plan delivering “Good paying Union Jobs”.
All hail to that ambition.
The bad news is that this ain’t no Rooseveltian New Deal.
Roosevelt confronted Wall St from the get go. His administration systematically drained the Street of power, and made it servant to the economy and ecosystem. Henry Morgenthau, Roosevelt’s Treasury Secretary could rightly boast:
We moved the financial capital from London and Wall Street right to my desk at the Treasury. (Rauchway, 2017, p. 227)
John Kerry on behalf of President Biden did the reverse. With

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How does Labour rebuild trust on the economy? Listen to the public

January 14, 2021

This article was cross-posted from Labour List where it was published on the 14th January, 2021.
Labour has a steep hill to climb to regain the public’s confidence that it can be trusted to manage the economy. I get that. And Labour has to recover from a catastrophic electoral defeat – a defeat that took place under the leadership of the left.
So, given past failures, how does Labour rebuild confidence? The first requirement, in my view, is for Labour to listen to, and trust the public. Their opinion, and their anger at the state of the economy is justified. The public can see what you and I can see.
Over the last 30 to 40 years, politicians (widely perceived as ‘the elite’) have allowed a fundamental rebalancing to take place between capital and labour – to the massive advantage of the

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COP26: system change to sustain life on earth

January 10, 2021

The UN’s conference takes place in November 2021and will be led by the British government. It is apparently committed to “uniting the world to tackle climate change”.
It needs to achieve far more. To tackle climate change and protect the ecosystem that sustains life on earth, we need to do more than just bring down emissions, and reimagine the economy.  We must transform the current globalised financial system. Why? Because the spigot of (largely) deregulated global credit fuels global economic expansion, rent-seeking and the constant impetus to capital accumulation by the already-rich. Production and consumption gorges in turn on fossil-fuel extraction, accelerating the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.
It is not rocket science.
The system has been designed and is maintained to

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Review: Trade Wars are Class Wars

January 9, 2021

The following review appeared in the Times Literary Supplement on 6th January, 2021.
 Trade Wars are Class Wars presents an eagle-eyed perspective on the global economy, underpinned by close analysis and a remarkable clarity of exposition. The book is a terrific survey of the forces behind today’s global trade tensions and imbalances – even if the authors ultimately fall short of defining an alternative system.
Matthew C. Klein and Michael Pettis contend that trade wars – such as currently being conducted between China and the US, or Germany and Spain – are caused by inequality within states, leading to tension between states. The argument runs thus: international conflicts are triggered when, domestically, massive transfers of income are made to the rich, and to the companies they

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Financing the Future We Want with the TNI

October 8, 2020

This is a You Tube recording of a discussion organised by the Trans National Institute (TNI) on Wednesday, 7th October, 2020. Jayati Ghosh, Ann Pettifor, Alvin Mosioma and Oscar Reyes hold a stimulating conversation on how to finance a recovery from COVID-19 and invest in a just climate transition.
They address key questions such as what options and mechanisms do we have in the current circumstances to avoid austerity and invest in a just transition? How can we ensure that the Global South benefits? How can we change the narrative to stop an unfolding crisis become a deepening emergency?
Panellists:
Professor Jayati Ghosh, award-winning economist Jawaharlal Nehru University, India. Author of India and the International Economy (2015) and co-editor of Handbook of Alternative Theories of

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How to transfer power away from markets and to democratically elected governments.

October 1, 2020

This article was written in July, 2020 for Project Syndicate where it was finally published on 1st October, 2020. The global economy suffers from dangerous imbalances.  Economic goals for endless ‘growth’ lead to rises in heat-trapping gases that conflict with the earth’s limited capacity to manage rising toxic emissions.  Urbanisation, pollution, soil erosion, deforestation, depletion of wildlife, degradation of marine ecosystems – these and other economic activities disturb the equilibrium of nature – humanity’s life support system. Ecological imbalances are compounded by economic imbalances. The production of gluts of for example, oil, steel, diamonds and cocoa contrast with trends towards under-consumption, driven by falls in global purchasing power. Deflationary

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How to transfer power away from markets to democratically elected governments

October 1, 2020

This article was written in July, 2020 for Project Syndicate where it was finally published on 1st October, 2020.
The global economy suffers from dangerous imbalances.  Economic goals for endless ‘growth’ lead to rises in heat-trapping gases that conflict with the earth’s limited capacity to manage rising toxic emissions.  Urbanisation, pollution, soil erosion, deforestation, depletion of wildlife, degradation of marine ecosystems – these and other economic activities disturb the equilibrium of nature – humanity’s life support system.
Ecological imbalances are compounded by economic imbalances. The production of gluts of for example, oil, steel, diamonds and cocoa contrast with trends towards under-consumption, driven by falls in global purchasing power. Deflationary pressures are but one

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On the Green New Deal – for The Chartist magazine

September 20, 2020

Nigel Doggett and Mike Davis of The Chartist magazine spoke to Ann Pettifor about why a Green New Deal is central to our recoveryPublished 20 September, 2020. How do you see the GND playing out against the Covid crisis?There are two roads to travel. One is the progressive one in which our leaders wake up to the scale of the climate threat and decide they are going to prepare. There are signs of that happening: little things like the French deciding to abolish burners in Paris streets.But there are signs of a nationalist, autocratic and reactionary response too. This in some senses is the gravest threat and perhaps more likely. I hate to be pessimistic but if you watch Trump, Bolsonaro, Poland and Hungary, but also the new bellicose American approach to China, there

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On the Green New Deal – for The Chartist

September 20, 2020

Nigel Doggett and Mike Davis of The Chartist magazine spoke to Ann Pettifor about why a Green New Deal is central to our recovery
Published 20 September, 2020.
How do you see the GND playing out against the Covid crisis?
There are two roads to travel. One is the progressive one in which our leaders wake up to the scale of the climate threat and decide they are going to prepare. There are signs of that happening: little things like the French deciding to abolish burners in Paris streets.
But there are signs of a nationalist, autocratic and reactionary response too. This in some senses is the gravest threat and perhaps more likely. I hate to be pessimistic but if you watch Trump, Bolsonaro, Poland and Hungary, but also the new bellicose American approach to China, there is a lot for us to

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Radically Transforming the EU Economy – and how to finance it

September 4, 2020

September 4, 2020The following article appeared on Progressive Post, the website of the Foundation of Progressive European Studies (FEPS)Today’s capitalism cannot tackle climate breakdown and cannot prevent the loss of biodiversity. It considers work as a cost to be minimised, to the detriment of the economy and the social meaning of work.High rates of return on capital (interest) require ever-rising extraction of the earth’s finite assets and the felling of its biodiverse ecosystem. Nature is crowded out by intensive agriculture, mineral extraction and housebuilding linked to expanded transport networks (shipping and airlines) and fuelled by hydrocarbons. These activities have stripped wildlife of habitats and brought societies into conflict with the animal world. More

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Radically Transforming the EU Economy – and how to finance it

September 4, 2020

The following article appeared on Progressive Post, the website of the Foundation of Progressive European Studies (FEPS)
Today’s capitalism cannot tackle climate breakdown and cannot prevent the loss of biodiversity. It considers work as a cost to be minimised, to the detriment of the economy and the social meaning of work.
High rates of return on capital (interest) require ever-rising extraction of the earth’s finite assets and the felling of its biodiverse ecosystem. Nature is crowded out by intensive agriculture, mineral extraction and housebuilding linked to expanded transport networks (shipping and airlines) and fuelled by hydrocarbons. These activities have stripped wildlife of habitats and brought societies into conflict with the animal world. More than 30 new disease-causing

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Remembering John Weeks

August 17, 2020

Late last month, pioneering socialist economist John Weeks passed away. Ann Pettifor remembers her colleague and friend – and his contributions to left-wing politics. This piece first appeared in Tribune magazine on 08 August, 2020. Please note correction at the end of this piece. John Weeks, brilliant Left economist and public intellectual, would have been well pleased that three days after his death the Financial Times published a letter he had signed attacking the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). The idea that posthumously he remained a thorn in the side of the British economics establishment would have brought this Texan-born socialist considerable satisfaction.  John was a warm, good-looking and radical economist, a dapper dresser and a man who knew how

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Remembering John Weeks

August 17, 2020

Late last month, pioneering socialist economist John Weeks passed away. Ann Pettifor remembers her colleague and friend – and his contributions to left-wing politics. This piece first appeared in Tribune magazine on 08 August, 2020. Please note correction at the end of this piece.
John Weeks, brilliant Left economist and public intellectual, would have been well pleased that three days after his death the Financial Times published a letter he had signed attacking the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). The idea that posthumously he remained a thorn in the side of the British economics establishment would have brought this Texan-born socialist considerable satisfaction.
John was a warm, good-looking and radical economist, a dapper dresser and a man who knew how to wear a Fedora. He had

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Green shoots: the best books to inspire hope for the planet

July 21, 2020

This review of books to inspire a green transformation appeared in The Guardian on 18 July, 2020.
Everyday life has been upended by the pandemic, but the Arctic heatwave is a reminder that the climate crisis still poses an urgent threat to humanity. We will need resolve, ambition and optimism as we emerge from lockdown, so we can forge the green recovery that is so crucial. One book that has sustained my faith in the future is Herman E Daly and John B Cobb’s hopeful vision, For the Common Good. Daly, once (briefly) the World Bank’s chief environmentalist, is an advocate of the steady state economy, central to the Green New Deal. This book is as relevant today as when it was first published, more than 30 years ago.
JA Baker’s 1967 memoir The Peregrine, is another vision – of the ecstatic

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Green shoots: the best books to inspire hope for the planet

July 21, 2020

This review of books to inspire a green transformation appeared in The Guardian on 18 July, 2020. Everyday life has been upended by the pandemic, but the Arctic heatwave is a reminder that the climate crisis still poses an urgent threat to humanity. We will need resolve, ambition and optimism as we emerge from lockdown, so we can forge the green recovery that is so crucial. One book that has sustained my faith in the future is Herman E Daly and John B Cobb’s hopeful vision, For the Common Good. Daly, once (briefly) the World Bank’s chief environmentalist, is an advocate of the steady state economy, central to the Green New Deal. This book is as relevant today as when it was first published, more than 30 years ago. JA Baker’s 1967 memoir The Peregrine, is another

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The duel: Should we aim to get the economy back to “business as usual”?

July 10, 2020

The following debate between Paul Wallace and Ann Pettifor appeared in Prospect magazine on 10 July, 2020.Is our capitalist economy an unparalleled engine of prosperity, or a human and ecological disaster? Two contributors debate whether the system is worth savingYes—Paul Wallace It is tempting, when living through a once-in-a-century event such as the coronavirus pandemic, to say everything must change: that it’s time to tear up the rulebook and to create a completely new kind of economy. Tempting, but wrong. In fact, what we need is to rebuild the existing capitalist economy, which for all its faults has been an engine for greater prosperity not just in Britain but around the world. The measures taken to suppress the pandemic have already exacted a huge economic cost as

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The duel: Should we aim to get the economy back to “business as usual”?

July 10, 2020

The following debate between Paul Wallace and Ann Pettifor appeared in Prospect magazine on 10 July, 2020.
Is our capitalist economy an unparalleled engine of prosperity, or a human and ecological disaster? Two contributors debate whether the system is worth saving
Yes—Paul Wallace
It is tempting, when living through a once-in-a-century event such as the coronavirus pandemic, to say everything must change: that it’s time to tear up the rulebook and to create a completely new kind of economy. Tempting, but wrong. In fact, what we need is to rebuild the existing capitalist economy, which for all its faults has been an engine for greater prosperity not just in Britain but around the world.
The measures taken to suppress the pandemic have already exacted a huge economic cost as GDP has

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Inequality and Morbid Symptoms of a Financialised System

June 29, 2020

This article appeared in a special, June 2020 edition of the Real-World Economics Review that majored on The Inequality Crisis. Today as the world endures the crisis of a global pandemic, “an old order is ending in convulsions”. So writes Rebecca Spang, historian of the French revolution in The Atlantic (Spang, 2020). In the 1790s, money, debt and the non-payment of taxes by France’s rentiers, played a critical role in revolutionizing France. Today purveyors of money and debt – creditors, investors and speculators – both avoid taxes and prey on a global economy radically weakened by the Great Financial Crisis and the policy response to the events

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Inequality and Morbid Symptoms of a Financialised System

June 29, 2020

This article appeared in a special, June 2020 edition of the Real-World Economics Review that majored on The Inequality Crisis.
Today as the world endures the crisis of a global pandemic, “an old order is ending in convulsions”. So writes Rebecca Spang, historian of the French revolution in The Atlantic (Spang, 2020). In the 1790s, money, debt and the non-payment of taxes by France’s rentiers, played a critical role in revolutionizing France. Today purveyors of money and debt – creditors, investors and speculators – both avoid taxes and prey on a global economy radically weakened by the Great Financial Crisis and the policy response to the events of 2007-9.  As a result, and unsurprisingly, the international economic system is both unprepared for, and prone to increasingly frequent

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Put Fairness at the Heart of Finance

June 26, 2020

This article appeared in the UK-based Church Times on 26 June, 2020 The coronavirus pandemic is a moment of reckoning for globalisation and our international financial system. The pandemic has shown how unjust the international system is towards low income countries; given us the opportunity to imagine another economy; and served as a warning.  If we do not fix the system to prepare for the coming, graver crisis of earth systems breakdown, the survival of humanity is at risk.  Just as it was hard for the ancient Israelites to imagine an economy apart from the Egyptian military-industrial complex on which they had become dependent, so it is hard for us to imagine another economy. "Would that we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our

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