World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings: Thursday Wrap-up

By Katie Zhang, University of Melbourne Faculty of Business and Economics Scholar

We started the day early, arriving at the World Bank headquarters by 8:30am for the seminar ‘Towards 2030: Trends, Opportunities, Challenges and Policies and Inclusive Growth’. There, we heard the keynote speech by Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard University, who shared insights on major risks and challenges to inclusive growth in developing countries. Next, we watched a panel discussion between James Manyika (Chairman of McKinsey Global Institute), Mthuli Ncube (Professor of Public Policy at Oxford), Carolina Sanchez (a Senior Director at the World Bank) and Gayle Smith (President and CEO of ONE Campaign). Against the gloomy backdrop of Rodrik’s warnings, the panel discussion focused on the opportunities that technology provided in the movement towards inclusive growth. 

Fiscal monitor session at the IMF (Photo: International Monetary Fund) 

Fiscal monitor session at the IMF (Photo: International Monetary Fund) 

Next we met with a member of the legal team for the World Bank Group, Edward Chukwuemeke Okeke (Make for short). There, we heard about the (legal) inner workings of The Bank’s operations, including regaling stories of past cases handled by Meke himself. We also heard about his past experiences working at the UN and UNESCO. Most notably, our meeting with the jovial Meke was filled with informal but very practical advice for working at a place such as the World Bank.

Our meeting with the delightful Meke ended too soon, but we were already on our way to the next event – the flagship CNN Debate. Hosted by the ever frenetic Richard Quest, the all-star panel, including Christine Lagarde (Managing Director of the IMF), Finance Ministers Sri Mulyani Indrawati (Indonesia), Bruno Le Maire (France) and William Morneau (Canada), and Gita Gopinath (Professor in Economics at Harvard University) to keep all the panellists “honest”. The finance ministers expressed an upbeat outlook for their respective economies. While acknowledging challenges, they believed that the best was still yet to come. With many references to “fixing a leaking roof”, Lagarde noted that “it is when the sun is shining [that] you want to fix the roof.”

The afternoon was filled with ‘New Economy Talks’. The first was on ‘Why the Liberal Arts Matter in an Algorithmic World’, presented by Scott Harley, venture capitalist and author of ‘The Fuzzy and the Techie’. Harley spoke of the misleading nature of the division between ‘fuzzies’ and ‘techies’ and how it is actually the fuzzies, not the techies, who are playing the key roles in driving some of the most creative and successful business ventures of the past decades and reinforces why liberal arts are still relevant in the increasingly techie world. Harley was gracious enough to step aside after his talk to spend a couple of minutes to share his knowledge with the delegates and also signed all of our copies of his book. The last event was called ‘Augmented Intelligence: Human + Machine = Amazing Work’. Louis Richardson, Chief Storyteller for IBM Watson, shared some of the capabilities of Watson. He stressed that the role of Watson was not to take over our jobs, but to augment our capabilities – hence ‘augmented intelligence’.

World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings: Wednesday Wrap-up

By Arlen Dabinett, the University of South Australia Business School Scholar. 

Arlen poses for a photo on the Baker-McKenzie rooftop overlooking the White House and the Washington Monument. 

Arlen poses for a photo on the Baker-McKenzie rooftop overlooking the White House and the Washington Monument. 

Wednesday demonstrated the exclusiveness of the Global Voices experience with a schedule of events even the Prime Minister would have envied. Our first meeting at WBHQ was with Jason Allford, the Australian Executive Director to the World Bank Group. Mr Allford explained the objectives of the World Bank and its renewed commitment to investing Bank resources into climate conscious projects. The Bank is particularly concerned with ensuring projects address the diverse implications of climate change on member countries and the difference between ‘adaptation versus mitigation’ policies.  

We then met with Christine Barron, the Alternate Executive Director for Australia at the International Monetary Fund and her Senior Advisor, Gemma Preston. Our discussion centred around current IMF projects and the diversity of priorities and challenges faced by the sixteen countries Australia represents at the IMF. The conversation highlighted the significance Australia plays within the Pacific and our commitment to these nations, particularly smaller island nations. Our neighbouring countries are already being impacted by climate change and their infrastructure is already being challenged. Creating resilient nations is a large focus of the IMF and as forecasts have identified, preparedness in the face of potential natural disaster, would save one-tenth of the cost of post disaster expenditure.

Ms Barron and Ms Preston also stressed the relevance of our respective policy papers, including Artificial Intelligence, Crypto-Currencies, International Taxation and Refugees as being key areas of focus for the IMF. We discussed the impact of mobile banking and increased penetration of internet in the pacific islands which has allowed individuals to access banking services and pay-by-phone. The advent of mobile phone credit accounts has assisted in the free flow of funds between citizens and business however policy and government has struggled to keep up with this advancing technology.

Following our private meetings, we continued on the macro economy theme and attended a seminar on the role of the IMF in domestic and international taxation. The panel included Nicholas Mombrial, the IMF Senior Communications Officer in Fiscal Affairs, Victoria Perry, the IMF Assistant Director in Fiscal Affairs Department and Nicholas Lusiani, the Director of Human Rights in Economic Policy (Centre for Economic and Social Rights). The panel presented their findings which evaluated the distortion and inequities in the international taxation space and the underdeveloped tax administration systems of developing countries. They emphasised how systemic cooperation on these issues can expedite the development and standard of living of developing countries. Technical assistance required to build consistent, robust and attractive tax administrations, can ensure tax revenues from multinational are reinvested in the economy.

Our final seminar for the day was the ‘New Economy Forum Future of Work’ which was moderated by IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, the CEO of Gallup, Jim Clifton, Deborah Greenfield, ILO Deputy Director-General for Policy, Sara Horowitz, the Founder of Freelancer’s Union, Jeremy Johnson, the CEO of Andela and James Manyika, the Chair of the McKinsey Global Institute. The discussion touched on automation, work life balance and embracing new ideas of work. A few interesting facts from the panel, we are currently experiencing a stagnation in new start-ups and only 15% of management are committed to developing their younger employee’s skills.

The day ended with our exclusive attendance at the launch of the New York Cyber Task Force report on Building a Defensible Cyberspace, an Atlantic Council joint venture with Columbia University. The session was driven by the expert panel who presented and explained their findings and recommendations. The presentation was beyond the scope of all of our qualifications but extremely relevant to our careers and an insightful educational session on the new emerging cyber security risks.

Fortune favours the prepared mind and day two provided further experience to build our future career tool-kit.  

World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings: Tuesday Wrap-up

By Michael Evans, QUT Business School Scholar. 

Tuesday marked the official start to the World Bank, IMF and CSO Annual Meetings in Washington DC. Greeted by 29 degree temperatures and intense humidity, we made our way to the first event of the day, an orientation to the World Bank Group hosted by the Civil Society Organisations. Here we received an overview from Oscar Avalie, Manager for Policy & Operations within the Corporate Secretariat, and Edith Jibunoh, Manager for Stakeholder Engagement within External & Corporate Relations, about the history of the World Bank, its adaptive and changing agenda, priorities and functions. It was great to see the importance of CSO’s underscored in the discussion, with a frank overview of CSO/World Bank experiences and lessons from Ghana and Tanzania, highlighting the challenges that exist. It was interesting to grasp the growth and change in scope of the bank, with staff representing 174 nationalities. One of the challenges discussed was the need to show the human face of the bank, and in communicating its visions, projects and priorities.

Our first seminar ‘How to Measure Economic Success: Welfare v GDP” was insightful and thought-provoking. The talk was given by Geoffrey Bannister from the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department, posing the question “What about the people”. From highlighting the limited accuracy of traditional measures such as GDP Per Capita, to a discussion on what is welfare, the talk challenged traditional views of economic success and provided a tool to evaluate policy impacts. The relevance of this was illustrated by an example of health pandemics – while the demand for medical devices and services may increase, leading to a higher GDP, this does not mean welfare or quality of life has equally increased. 

Our next seminar, ‘Interconnectedness of Global Systemically-Important Banks & Insurers’ was presented by TengTeng Xu and Sheheryar Malik who evaluated the interconnectedness of global financial institutions and insurers. They underscored the importance of monitoring evolving risks and ensuring the consideration of a variety of quantitative and qualitative risk factors.

Our final analytical corner seminar for the day was on trade liberalisation, named ‘Trade & Income, is there really gains and are they widely shared?’. An increasingly relevant topic for the current climate. The presentation touched on protectionist attitudes, income inequality, the economic impact of trade and open economies, wealth distribution, shared prosperity, knowledge spill overs, and upstream versus downstream tech innovation in global value chains. 

Hosted by the CSO, ‘Promoting Responsible Agricultural Investments’ looked at how the global needs of agriculture are shifting and the role of the World Bank and other entities in supporting improved agricultural processes, projects and scalability. From 2010 to 2025 the demand for food will increase 45%, and currently 1 in 9 people are still in chronic hunger, yet in the same nations there is both malnutrition and obesity with 1.3bn tonnes in food wasted per year. I was surprised to learn agriculture currently uses 70% of earth’s fresh water supplies, clearly highlighting the issue of scalability to meet upcoming food requirements. While 2/3rd of social impact investors state they invest in agriculture, it only makes up 7% of their portfolio, emphasising a funding issue, with investors commenting on the need to de-risk the agricultural sector.

The final, and flagship event, was a CSO Roundtable with the World Bank Executive Directors. Spanning over an hour and a half, the panel discussed topics and answered questions across several key themes: Education, Climate Change, Conflict & Human Rights, Inclusivity & Diversity and Accountability, Transparency & Citizen Engagement.

2017 World bank and imf annual meetings delegates (l - R) Katie Zhang (University of melbourne faculty of business and economics), SONIA Parulekar (UNSW Co-op Program), michael evans (quT Business SCHOOL), Arlen Dabinett (university of south australia business school)

2017 World bank and imf annual meetings delegates (l - R) Katie Zhang (University of melbourne faculty of business and economics), SONIA Parulekar (UNSW Co-op Program), michael evans (quT Business SCHOOL), Arlen Dabinett (university of south australia business school)

 

OECD Delegate Alasdair Cannon featured in the Australian Institute for International Affairs Fresh Perspectives

Alasdair Cannon attended the OECD Forum in Paris, representing QUT Business School and his article entitled, 'Fair and Free: The future of trade liberalisation,' was featured in the Australian Institute for International Affairs Fresh Perspectives. Read it here or copy the following URL into your browser: http://www.internationalaffairs.org.au/australian_outlook/fair-and-free-the-future-of-trade-liberalisation/