Lagarde – equality champion?

27 February 2014

During a UK February speech, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde called for “21st century multilateralism to get to grips with big ticket items like inequality,” acknowledging that income inequality “leads to an economy of exclusion and a wasteland of discarded potential.”  In her speech, Lagarde quoted a mid-January report by NGO Oxfam International, including the finding that today, “the bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.”

The Oxfam report argued that the IMF supported “harsh austerity measures have not delivered the expected results in terms of growth and recovery, and have in fact harmed the prospects for growth and equality.” Lagarde has subsequently raised the issue on a number of occasions.

The report  proposed six measures to reduce income inequality,  including the need to strengthen wage floors and worker rights and cracking down on financial secrecy and tax dodging, however Lagarde did not address these in her February speech, or on other occasions when she has highlighted the issue. After the speech Nicolas Mombrial of Oxfam International still hoped that “this is a green light for governments to use fair tax systems and investments in health and education to reduce damaging income inequality.”