The cacao bean, once thought a divine food by the Aztecs that imparted wisdom, is now considered by its farmers the curse of “brown gold.” The curse itself is easy to understand: manufacturers like Hershey’s and Nestlé must sell cheap chocolate to make a profit, and where else to cut costs but at the very bottom of this food chain? There, we find the cacao farmers of the Ivory Coast. These impoverished Ivorian farmers supply 40% of the world’s total supply of cacao beans alone. Despite playing such a dominant role in the global chocolate industry, the Ivory Coast benefits little from its position and does not have the leverage required to raise the prices of cacao exports to support its workers.Continue Reading

Tax cuts are generally a very popular policy. As then Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and other proponents of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act argued, who doesn’t want their government to “giv[e] the people their money back”? President Donald Trump went even further, claiming that the “…huge tax cut will be rocket fuel for [the] economy” by creating new investment, raising workers’ wages and bonuses, and increasing growth. Continue Reading

Why International Banks Struggle to Innovate in a Strict Ratings Market. The last time credit ratings probably played a major role in your life—if in fact they ever did—was during the 2008 Financial Crisis. As the canonical story goes, crediting institutions packaged subprime loans, often at B or C level confidence, as reliable A level bonds so that banks could extend their lending power.
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The inception and evolution of Hong Kong’s system of legal frameworks and institutions form the cornerstone of the city’s international and economic identity. Although they, along with the city’s economic system, have helped connect China economically to the rest of the world, the tensions and contradictions inherent in the post-handover system have been laid bare by recent socio-political turmoil and challenges to the rule of law. Hong Kong’s judiciary and legal sector are at a crucial crossroads – with not just the system itself, but with the semi-autonomous city’s economy, people, and future all at stake.Continue Reading

“Freedom from poverty is not free. The poor are willing and capable to pay the cost,” concluded a 1999 Reserve Bank of India taskforce on finance reforms. While that analysis might seem more at home in a Gilded Age drawing room than a modern boardroom, it reflects the core theory behind international economic development’s golden child: microfinance.Continue Reading