December 10, 2013
Bernardo KliksbergSunday, August 25, 2013
‘Bring back ethics to economics’
Born: Buenos Aires City
Lives: New York City
Education: MBA’s Degrees in Sociology, Administration and Public Accountant. PhDs in Economics and Administrative Science
Distinctions: Order of Merit of King Juan Carlos I of Spain, named Illustrious Citizen by Buenos Aires City, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento award of the Senate and Educar Award of the BA Archidiocese, among others.
Author of 56 books, Bernardo Kliksberg is recognized around the world as the founder of social management and the pioneer of development ethics. Kliksberg is currently the Special Adviser to the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Bureau for Political Development and heads the Ibero-American Network of Universities for Corporate Social Responsibility. He also created and currently leads a programme for development of young professors in economics and management, based at the University of Buenos Aires but implemented in 40 universities of Latin America.
On his visit to Buenos Aires to work on his documentaries on Encuentro TV channel and to receive an award from the AMIA Jewish community centre and Cáritas, Kliksberg talked to the Herald and explained the importance of social management.
How can ethics be connected with the economy?
It is fundamental to reinstate that connection again. Economy used to be a social science based on ethical values and we can see that in numerous authors like Adam Smith. The current trends of economy have expelled the ethics and only accept technocratic ideas without any values. The financial bubble of 2008/2009 happened due to the lack of regulations and ethics of the main actors involved.
Which was the main factor that led to the current economic crisis numerous countries now suffer?
Greed is the reason of the current economic problems and it has led to corruption in the public and private financial sectors. It’s one of the characteristics of the savage capitalism, described recently by the pope. I analyze economic systems based on the effects they have on people’s lives and savage capitalism clearly creates extreme inequalities. One percent of the world’s population now has 44 percent of the world’s GDP.
Should financial education in universities be changed so as to promote ethical values?
I studied for many years how the main universities around the world work and what financial leaders and general managers learn. They have great careers in technical aspects but they don’t analyze any ethical issues. The social responsibility of companies is not taken into consideration. Luckily they are critical about this aspect and they are trying to change it.
How do businesspeople react when you talk to them about ethics and corporate social responsibility?
I am frequently invited to speak on conferences around the world and I always find in businesspeople valuable reactions mixed with hope. By acting with social responsibility, a company will make more money, be more competitive and have more loyal customers. But, more importantly, life will have more meaning for businesspeople.
Is it possible to create an alternative model to savage capitalism?
Savage capitalism is strong around the world but it’s not the only option. The best example are the northern countries of Europe such as Finland, Sweden and Denmark. Their economies encourage equality investing mainly on education, health and job creation. These are the three most important thinks a society needs to have to be equal. A way to see if an economy is working is the number of jobs created. If the numbers are low, something is failing. Austerity policies encourage unemployment and lead to inequality.
How is Latin America working toward that objective?
No one can expect that everything will change overnight but some interesting things are happening in these countries. In the 1990s the region was extremely poor and 42 percent of its citizens were below the poverty line. It was an extreme situation. But now, due to numerous changes and the will of society, a lot of things are changing. They are far from being on an ideal situation but they are pointing at the right direction. Positive changes have been done and not recognizing that is pointless.
Focusing on Argentina, what are the improvements the country has made?
Argentina has made amazing progresses on education and public health. 3.3 of the GDP used to be destined to education when Menem was the president and now they have doubled those values. Kids used to receive six vaccines in the 1990s and now they receive 12. A lot of people that didn’t have drinking water now do. They are all major changes that didn’t happen thanks to one politician but because people are asking for an economy with a human face.
How has the Universal Child Allowance (AUH) helped to achieve those upgrades?
Social programmes are extremely important to bring people who had been excluded back to society. They don’t focus on just helping; it’s about giving back basic rights that had been taken. Argentina decided to invest 1.2 of its GDP to protect 3.500.000 poor children around the country. Because of it, attendance to schools has increased and families have reconnected with schools. The country’s economy also benefits from the programme since expenditure on basic goods like clothes and food increases.
What is the role young people fulfill in the search for a new economic model?
There was a time when I thought it was almost impossible to change reality and bring about a different society but now I am full of hope. Young people represent that hope and they have proven themselves with action such as the students in Chile. They have the possibility to organize themselves and fight for a cause, no matter their social classes or races. They are well informed and have the social networks to reach a wider audience.
Why are Chilean students your main example?
Nobody has created a social movement in Latin America as organized and serious as the Chilean students. It’s the most important student rebellion so far. They were repressed by the police but nothing crushed their spirits. They are asking for ethical and reasonable things such a free and quality education. Three Education Ministers had to resign because of them and now their claims are the base of Michelle Bachelet’s presidential campaign.
What is the role media play regarding ethics?
Media have a strong influence on people since by choosing what to write about they decide what are the main problems society has and what the solutions to those problems are. They are companies so, like any business, they have to act with social responsibility. Latin America is the most unequal region but the media don’t seem to understand that. Poverty and inequality are issues not taken into consideration by them.
Since you now live in New York City, what are the main differences you see from life in Buenos Aires?
NYC is a very diverse city that gives you the possibility of living in the same place with people from different races and cultures. Buenos Aires is one of the most cultured cities in the world with amazing cultural offerings. But they both have something in common, which is solidarity. Numerous people give money every month or volunteer with diverse organizations. They have a hunger for solidarity.