Austerity and global economic justice

Sir, – Over the past 18 months, Covid has taught us, more than ever before, the importance of public sector services. Yet, across the globe, blunt and ineffective public sector wage cuts are damaging the very sectors governments claim to want to protect. This week, the 2021 World Bank Group and IMF annual meetings will take place in Washington, where austerity and further public sector wage cuts will remain very much on the cards.

A new report by ActionAid, Public Services International and Education International, The People Versus Austerity, shows that International Monetary Fund (IMF) advice to cut government spending in 15 developing countries has wiped nearly $10 billion from public sector wage budgets. This is the equivalent of cutting more than three million jobs, including doctors, and nurses and teachers at the height of the pandemic. This has undermined progress on health and education and other UN sustainable development goals and women’s human rights.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates there is a shortage of 5.9 million nurses, with almost 90 per cent of those shortages being in low- and middle-income countries. Meanwhile, Unesco estimates that 69 million more teachers need to be recruited in the next ten years to achieve the UN sustainable development goal of universal access to primary and secondary education by 2030.

The impact of this undermines global development efforts in very real ways in the very countries that Ireland is supporting in bilateral aid. Ireland needs to use its voice and influence globally to ensure that the global economic architecture does not undermine the very things we support. In addition, tax dodging costs developing countries an estimated $300 billion every year in lost revenues. Ireland has played a role in this, by acting as an entry point to Europe for big multinationals, allowing them to avoid paying tax in the poorest countries through loopholes, tax treaties and tax structures.


Neoliberalism has been oversold for 40 years and has stifled the very growth and development it was supposed to value. It is time for fundamental overhaul, for a system change focused on economic justice. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive Officer,

ActionAid Ireland,

Dublin 1.