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Public Finance, Maximum Available Resources and Human Rights

Chapter in Human Rights and Public Finance: Budgets and the Promotion of Economic and Social Rights. Oaf Nolan, Rory O'Connell, Colin Harvey, eds.

From the Introduction:

"In chapter one, Elson, Balakrishnan and Heintz explore a central umbrella obligation imposed by international ESR law: namely, the requirement under Article 2(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social Cultural Rights (ICESCR) that States Parties deploy the maximum of their available resources towards the realisation of ESR.3 The authors outline how the human rights com- munity has recognised the importance of government revenues, as well as public expenditure, to the concept of maximum available resources. Highlighting the different approaches adopted by neoclassical and Keynesian/human development approaches to economic policy, Elson et al demonstrate how the human rights understanding of ‘maximum available resources’ could be enriched by consider- ation of the concepts of fiscal and monetary space. The authors then proceed to relate ‘maximum available resources’ to different components of public finance: public expenditure, taxation, official development assistance (ODA), budget defi- cits, borrowing and debt and monetary policy and financial regulation. In doing so, they consider how specific understandings of concepts like ‘efficiency’ and ‘effectiveness’ will impact on the extent to which public expenditure will advance the realisation of ESR. They also highlight the way in which different perspec- tives on the desirability of tax revenue mobilisation will colour tax policy and, hence, mobilisation of resources for the achievement of ESR. The authors make clear the problems that may arise with regard to the conceptualisation, direction and employment of ODA in terms of the implementation of human rights, cit- ing issues of recipient state capacity, human rights-compliant development and loan conditionality. The complex interplay between borrowing, debt and resource mobilisation is also explored, as is the role of monetary policy conducted by central banks. The chapter’s central message is that governments do have alternatives, singly and together, which must be considered before public finance decisions are taken."

Chapter in Human Rights and Public Finance: Budgets and the Promotion of Economic and Social Rights. Oaf Nolan, Rory O'Connell, Colin Harvey, eds.

From the Introduction:

"In chapter one, Elson, Balakrishnan and Heintz explore a central umbrella obligation imposed by international ESR law: namely, the requirement under Article 2(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social Cultural Rights (ICESCR) that States Parties deploy the maximum of their available resources towards the realisation of ESR.3 The authors outline how the human rights com- munity has recognised the importance of government revenues, as well as public expenditure, to the concept of maximum available resources. Highlighting the different approaches adopted by neoclassical and Keynesian/human development approaches to economic policy, Elson et al demonstrate how the human rights understanding of ‘maximum available resources’ could be enriched by consider- ation of the concepts of fiscal and monetary space. The authors then proceed to relate ‘maximum available resources’ to different components of public finance: public expenditure, taxation, official development assistance (ODA), budget defi- cits, borrowing and debt and monetary policy and financial regulation. In doing so, they consider how specific understandings of concepts like ‘efficiency’ and ‘effectiveness’ will impact on the extent to which public expenditure will advance the realisation of ESR. They also highlight the way in which different perspec- tives on the desirability of tax revenue mobilisation will colour tax policy and, hence, mobilisation of resources for the achievement of ESR. The authors make clear the problems that may arise with regard to the conceptualisation, direction and employment of ODA in terms of the implementation of human rights, cit- ing issues of recipient state capacity, human rights-compliant development and loan conditionality. The complex interplay between borrowing, debt and resource mobilisation is also explored, as is the role of monetary policy conducted by central banks. The chapter’s central message is that governments do have alternatives, singly and together, which must be considered before public finance decisions are taken."

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