Pensions for All

Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Rob Vos

October 1st is the International Day of Older Persons. Just another day? Perhaps, but it should remind us that the world’s population is ageing, brought about by the combined effects of declining mortality and fertility rates and longer longevity. By mid-century, one out of five people will be over 65 compared to over one in ten now.
This is dramatic enough. What is equally compelling is that eighty per cent of older persons in the world will be living in developing countries by then – within two generations.

This ageing of the world’s population is one of humanity’s major achievements. Yet, significant challenges are keeping in step with this historic and emerging trend. For example, can health systems adapt to growing and new demands for care? What about the sustainability of social protection schemes? How do we keep our pension systems viable? These are serious, but solvable challenges.

The challenges are greatest, of course, in developing countries, where the vast majority of older persons lack adequate income protection. In the absence of pension incomes or other social transfers for older persons, the risk of spending one’s older years in poverty rises sharply. Moreover, in most developing countries, poverty compels older persons to continue working as long as they are able to. But reduced capacities, limited job opportunities, low incomes and other factors often combine to reduce their earnings.

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Leaders Pledge Action to Control Superbugs

Martin Khor

AT the opening of the Summit of the United Nations General Assembly on Sept 20, it sounded much like the swan song of two of the regular stalwarts of this annual affair.

It is the last General Assembly to be attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and United States President Barack Obama.

Both made interesting speeches. Ban listed all the woes afflicting the world, especially terrorism, while praising the Paris agreement and the sustainable development goals as big achievements of his eight years as the UN leader.

Obama, sounding like a professor, gave a lengthy analysis of the state of the world and the role of the United States, earning a laugh when he said it sometimes seemed the United States was being blamed for all the ills of the world and at the same time it was being asked to solve all its problems.

At the lunch for heads of state and organisations, Ban and Obama praised each other for their leadership in the past eight years.

Someone at my table wondered aloud what would happen to next year’s lunch if Donald Trump, who is known to dislike and distrust the UN, won the US election. Perhaps, as lea­der of the host country, he would have the traditional lunch cancelled.

This year’s UN summit will be remembered most for its high-level event on anti-microbial resistance (AMR), held on Sept 22, with many heads of government and ministers speaking on the need to fight this crisis.

The leaders adopted a landmark Political Declaration on AMR that recognised that antibiotic resistance is the “greatest and most urgent global risk” and that “due to AMR many 20th century achievements are being gravely challenged, particularly the reduction in illness and death from infectious diseases…”

This is the first ever statement by the heads of all the countries that recognises the AMR crisis and in which they pledge to take action.

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