Introducing the TripleCrisis Blog

Kevin P. Gallagher and Jayati Ghosh

Crises are not new to the world economy, or to developing countries. Indeed, our current predicament is a convergence of at least three crises: in global finance, development, and environment.  These areas are seemingly disparate but actually interact with each other in forceful ways to reflect major structural imbalances between finance and the real economy; between the higher income and developing economies; between the human economic system and the earth’s ecosystems.  This blog seeks to contribute to a more open and global dialogue around these three crises: about how they interact, and how they can collectively be solved.

Though the global financial crisis is seen as having started between 2007 and 2008, the underlying processes have been in operation for much longer. The preceding boom was not only unsustainable, it deeply accentuated existing global inequities.

The excesses of finance in the higher income countries, which were enabled by inadequate regulation and supported by changes in fiscal and monetary policy, were one side of the coin.  As well, the financial bubbles in the United States attracted savings from across the world, including from the poorest developing countries.  In other words, in large part the South transferred wealth and opportunity to the North.

Because the world failed to put in place adequate mechanisms to prevent and mitigate financial crises after the crises of the 1990s, developing countries built up and sequestered massive foreign reserves as insurance policies against future crises.  The cost of this approach was a limited capacity among developing nations to invest in the real economy.

Even during the boom, growth did not produce sustainable livelihoods across much of the globe.  In much of the developing world, growth during the boom period was driven by export-oriented activities that generated relatively little employment or linkages to the broader economy, but added greatly to local and global forms of environmental degradation.

Old jobs across the globe were lost and the majority of new jobs were fragile or insecure and low-paying, even in the fastest-growing developing economies. The persistent agrarian crisis in the developing world hurt peasants and urban consumers alike and generated global food problems.

Government responses to the financial crisis may have saved the world economy from the brink of financial collapse, but they have not resolved these underlying problems. Bailouts have not been accompanied with preventive regulation.  The food crisis persists and has even aggravated. Employment continues to be elusive and fragile.

Most of all, the attempt of policy makers across the world to return to “business as usual” is unlikely to work for long simply because of the ecological constraints upon future growth. These constraints are being expressed not only by climate change but also in the over-extraction of resources, toxic pollution, congestion, and numerous other environmental problems associated with the current type of boom and bust economic cycle we are currently in.

So why another blog? While there are a number of commendable blogs on various aspects of these three crises, this blog will examine all three crises and from a global and integrative perspective not often found in mainstream media outlets. In so doing we have assembled a truly global roster of economists and other social thinkers from across the world.

In this blog on the Triple Crises we aim to provide fresh analyses of long term forces, current processes, and future possibilities. Understanding the causes and effects of these multiple crises is of utmost importance. In addition to informing practical policies for immediate change, they also provide major opportunities for changed paradigms for re-organising economic and social life. Such change cannot emerge without concerted public discourse, which can translate into public action.  Discussing and debating current policy can broaden the debate and play a role in bringing a more sensible approach to dealing with these crises.  Looking critically at the past gives guidance for the present, and helps in thinking about and articulating an alternative future.

The TripleCrisis blog is co-chaired by Kevin P. Gallagher, Boston University professor and research associate at the Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University (GDAE); and Jayati Ghosh Nehru University professor and co-chair of the Economic Research Foundation.  The blog will be administered by GDAE. GDAE’s Timothy A. Wise serves as the managing editor of TripleCrisisblog.

19 Responses to “Introducing the TripleCrisis Blog”

  1. Laurie Dougherty says:

    I’m very grateful to GDAE for hosting this blog. It’s so necessary to bring the three crises you name into a common analytical framework. I have many questions about how to make an economic system work that is not dependent on incessant growth and excessive demand. GDAE is the perfect vehicle for this kind of discussion. Thank you.

  2. Congratulations! This is terrific; GDAE’s output has long been important and helpful, and the blog with this great list of contributors will make it that much more visible.

  3. Thank you,

    This is a great idea, and I’m glad that you qualify with the term “at least three crises.” Finance, development and environmental crises are firmly linked through the overarching moral crisis expressed through cruel and premeditated injustice.

    I just finished Amartya Sen’s “Idea of Justice” and am now reading Frederick Soddy’s “Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt” along with “Freefall” by Joseph Stiglitz; all of which are very interesting. This new blog will I’m sure be a wonderful companion to everyone’s reading list.

    Thanks again, cordially and gratefully,

    Garrett Connelly

  4. Perfect initiative with perfect timing. I will follow the blog. Thank You

  5. Daniel S. Zbytek says:

    Thank you, it is a crucial point in a global economy that financial realm departed from a real one establishing itself as independent. Crisis of 2008/9 has shown enormous waste of money but also confirmed that real economy investment in developing countries has been directed by profits to be gained in the developing world notwithstanding to the needs of the Third World and diregarding innovative needs of the Globe economy. New order in global ecomony is a must. Brgds

  6. Taras Bebeshko says:

    Thank you for the blog,

    I am working on monetary and philosophical aspects of what we called ‘three crisis of sustainable development’ and will be pleased to see others opinion on this cross-disciplinary issue.

    Taras Bebeshko

  7. Per Kurowski says:

    You say “Three crises threaten the world. These relate to the economic and financial system; the climate and natural resources; and human lives and livelihoods. Our existing political institutions are geared to solving the problems of yesterday not the challenges of tomorrow. Therefore, political strategies and institutional priorities must shift in order to affect fundamental transformations in economic, environment and development spheres.”

    I could not agree more because our financial regulators who keep totally focused on subsidizing with their low capital requirements for banks whatever is perceived by the credit rating agencies as having a low default risks and, in relative terms, taxing what is not, they do not see, or have no time, or have no interest, in all of the other risks that economic growth and human development entail.

    There is no way the world can solve the challenges we confront without realizing that you cannot fight off these type of risk in a safe way… we need to go out there and take risks… even if we do not know what those risks are.

    Just thing of how much better off the world could have been had it not wasted around 2 trillion in badly awarded mortgages to the subprime sector in the US, just because credit rating agencies labelled these as AAA when packaged, and just because bank regulators, just because of that AAA label, required for these operations only 1.6 percent in equity, which is the same as authorizing a staggering leverage of 62.5 to 1.

    I have asked the World Bank, and others, over and over again, during the last decade to review from a development perspective the risk-adverseness built into our regulatory system… but they keep ignoring it.

    Perhaps with your help we can raise consciousness about risk being the oxygen of any development. The only purpose for our banks that the current regulators care for is for the banks not to default. That is the silliest objective of all, since what use do we have of banks surviving if the rest of the world goes down?

  8. Ugo Poli says:

    Will Triplecrisis overwhelm the role of G20? It could be a chance for real economies still struggling along the W, if not L, recovery of growth. My small think-tank ( is working since a year for providing evidence to the combined potentials of productive restoration in EM of Central & Eastern Europe, that is pivotal for thousands of SMEs in Italy like in most of EU more developed countries.But adequate guidance about new products for sustainable development & new trading ties between EM worldwide is still lacking.Facilitation of a new opinion building process at transnational level is a great initiative. Good luck Triplecrisis!

  9. TRIPLE CRISIS was originally analysed in June 2009 !!

    Times of India Editorial 8 June 2009
    TOP ARTICLE: Three in One Solution
    Vinod Thomas and Mohan Munasinghe

    The economic crisis has quickly relegated global warming and global poverty, once reliable headline generators, down the list of priorities. But it is a mistake to think that governments should triage, that is, deal with poverty and the environment only after they have put the financial crisis behind us. The reason is that we actually face a threefold global crisis: the economic downturn, rise in poverty and climate change. We cannot escape one without addressing the others. In the absence of a return to high growth, it is hard to see how poverty will be lessened or environmental actions will be financed. Equally, unless carbon emissions are cut and poverty reduced while reviving the economy, further growth prospects will be doomed. The truth is that poverty and climate change are no longer distant threats to progress. Carbon dioxide concentration in the air has already exceeded 385 parts per million — perilously close to the 400-450 level that would put us on an irreversible path to an ice-free world where sea levels would have risen several meters. The consequences of this scenario for natural disasters alone will dwarf the subprime meltdown. Similarly, allowing poverty to balloon, runs the risk that political stability will be undermined and continuation of growth itself hampered, increasing the prevalence of failed states and making the world less safe for investment and trade. Some 150 million more people slipped into poverty worldwide during 2007-08 and a further 50 million this year. This threefold conundrum presents especially significant challenges for the large nations, be they emerging economies such as China and India or Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries such as the United States and Japan. Their response will crucially affect the prospects for their own population as well as the direction for global development. Yet for any one of these countries, it is unquestionably tough to attack the three heads of the hydra simultaneously. But remarkably, the current crisis offers some unique opportunities that can be seized. There are policies, investments and deals that can help these nations separately and collectively to confront two if not all three of theses dangers with a single swipe. Here’s how. First, this is the time for nations to reverse policies that sacrifice the climate in the name of immediate growth. The most egregious example is energy subsidies, which cost almost a third of a trillion dollars in 2007 worldwide. These are frequently justified as protecting
    the vulnerable but the bulk of subsidies does not reach the poor. They also encourage energy waste and drain fiscal resources. Another dual-purpose policy is to set up robust social safety nets, providing a boost to consumption while lifting millions out of poverty. Conditional cash transfers in Brazil and Mexico are examples of efforts to both reduce poverty today and, by tying them to children’s education and health, also boost future growth. Outlays amounting to just about 1 per cent of GDP can make the difference. Second, this is the chance for countries to invest a sizable share of the stimulus packages in energy efficiency. This was a core feature of Barack Obama’s election pitch. Government funding for green and carbon-saving technologies, as in the US or China, could not be better timed. Taking advantage of declining capital costs of hydro, wind, geothermal and solar, it would pay to invest in these technologies now, anticipating the resurgence of fossil fuel prices. Such investments would help sever a link that has long been the bane of anti-poverty campaigners. No country has managed to lift living standards without increasing its carbon footprint. But under the vastly changed global environment today, it is essential that they do so. Global warming hurts the poor the most. Climate change is causing a spike in natural disasters as well as gobbling up arable land and reducing water availability in critical areas. Third, this is the moment to make deals leading to a surge in financing for development and its effective use. You only have to look at global projections to see that the boost to growth from the fiscal stimulus is envisaged to be greater in developing countries. That is because infrastructural investments or policy improvements can deliver sharper increases in growth in these economies compared to the more affluent ones. Hard though it may be to sell to this idea in rich nations, their governments might consider proactive actions that promote capital flows to emerging economies as well as augment development assistance in low-income settings. When the world is increasingly dependent on developing economies to re-energise the failing global economic system, support for such financial flows would be an important aspect of the global stimulus. Policies aimed at immediate growth at the expense of social safety nets or greener investments will be suicidal. Economic, social and environmental dimensions of the recovery are no longer distinct goals with phased solutions. They are part of the same package of needed actions.

    Vinod Thomas is director-general, Independent Evaluation Group, World Bank Group, and Mohan Munasinghe is vice-chair, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change-AR4, co-winner, 2007 Nobel Prize for Peace, and director-general, Sustainable Consumption Institute, Manchester University, UK.

  10. ngo manh lan says:

    The triple crisis well analysed, on which there’s no disagreement on my part, should be viewed as the global crisis of capitalist modernity – or creative destruction – implying also crisis of ways of life, mass consumption, and overall culture and civilisation based on income inequalities and self-enrichment at any cost that was spreading worldwide along with globalization. This is due to the failure of neo-liberal globalization and policies during the fifty years or so of the last century, which have ended up with the systemic economic crisis we are still be going through for a much longer time than expected. The issues of mass unemployment and public indebtedness along with the risks of stagflation and monetary instability looming ahead, will probably lead to other crises starting either from the North or the South, out of which the international capital markets and the financial sphere would have another chance to restore their dominance over the real economy, despite State attempts to bring in new supervising and control measures and policies in the financial and banking sectors.

  11. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Taij Kumarie, Dylan Cate and TripleCrisis, Holger Hansen. Holger Hansen said: Introducing the TripleCrisis blog – […]

  12. Anil says:

    I would suggest you correct the institutional affiliation of Prof. Jayati GHosh–it is Jawaharlal Nehru University, not Nehru University.

    Otherwise, this sounds like really really timely project and I am benefiting a lot from the writings posted here. I write a column for The Kathmandu Post and might be using some of the insights–with due credits, for sure–from your writings.

  13. Nick Aster says:

    Dear Jayati, Kevin & Matias,

    I just discovered TripleCrisis via my former Economics professor at Presidio, Maggie Winslow. It’s great to have some expert economic voices addressing these issues. Congrats. Please get in touch with us at if you ever want to guest blog or exchange ideas!

    – Nick Aster

  14. I think my work in development project would of great interest. It is called TRANSFINANCIAL ECONOMICS. See my p2pfoundation entry on the subject…

  15. S.P.SHUKLA says:

    May I draw your attention to Samir Amin’s seminal observation on this subject of multiple crises? In his essay titled” The Battlefields Chosen by Contemporary Imperialism: Conditions for an Effective Response from the South” he says :
    “The current crisis is neither a financial crisis, nor an ensemble of multiple systemic crises, but the crisis of the imperialist capitalism of oligopolies, whose exclusive and supreme power risks being challenged, once again by the struggles of all the popular classes and by those of the peoples and nations of the dominated peripheries, whether or not they seem to be “emerging.” It is simultaneously a crisis of US hegemony. The capitalism of oligopolies, the political power of oligarchies, barbarous globalization, financialization, the hegemony of the United States, militarization of the management of globalization in service to the oligopolies, the decline of democracy, the pillage of the planet’s resources, the abandonment of the development perspective of the South: all these are indissolubly linked.
    The real challenge is this: will the struggles succeed in converging to open the way, or ways, to the long road of transition to world socialism? Or will they remain separated one from another, even coming into conflict with each other, and thus be ineffective and leave the initiative to the capital of oligopolies? ”
    I look forward to this blog devoted to the ” Triple Crises”
    wrestling with real issue on which Samir Amin is focussing.

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