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Opinion

Ecumenical economics

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The Church of England's senior prelate, Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury, hosted a lively discussion about capital flows in the global economy and their impact on emerging markets last month.

He joined Muhammad Yunus, founder of micro-credit provider Grameen Bank, and economist John Kay in London's St Paul's Cathedral to address the question: "Is there an alternative to global capitalism?" Yunus argued that the developing world's workers are highly specialized and could escape subsistence, but are excluded from the global financial system.

"The cause of poverty is institutional, not personal," he argued. "More than half the world's population has no access to financial services."

The archbishop said that as well as making tough practical decisions on debt relief and protectionism, the financial world could learn from ecumenical experience.

"The balance of the congregational and the global is something which all Christian churches are constantly wrestling with," he said. There are financial parallels. The World Bank, for example, should support local micro-credit programmes.

Without social and political support, market economies fail the poor. "Russia tried as rapidly as possible to create liberalized, liquid capital markets and transfer property to private ownership," said Kay.

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