By Susan Deng, UNSW Co-op Scholar
As of now, we are officially past the half way point of this Washington D.C. whirlwind!
We started off the day with our first meeting at the World Bank with Mr Jason Allford. Jason is the Alternate Executive Director to the World Bank and represents the interests of Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Cambodia, Mongolia and ten other small Pacific nations. We were also joined by Jason's advisor, Mark Tattersall, and Nick Plummer from Treasury. Together they provided fascinating insight into a wide range of topics, and it was nice to relax amongst Australian company.
Jason cited challenges in representing such a large constituency, giving the example of climate change and the need to represent Australia's domestic view of the issue, as well as the interests of Pacific Islands in the adaptation stage of climate change. It was interesting to hear Jason’s views on some issues we’d discussed throughout the week and in Canberra. Jason spoke about the importance of developing a pipeline of women equipped to succeed leadership positions in the future, echoing a sentiment expressed by the Australian executive to the World Bank, as well as our Gender meetings in Canberra. He also agreed upon the need to innovate and the power of new ideas. However, he gave us an economist’s perspective, citing the immediate economic development benefits from investing in physical capital (e.g. schools and roads), and suggesting the private sector as a better channel for innovation.
Another noteworthy event of the day was attending the Technology, Innovation and Inclusive Growth panel discussion, moderated by Christine Lagarde. Lagarde proved to be a dynamic and vibrant moderator, and the panel of successful innovators and social entrepreneurs gave much practical insight into the role of technology in economic development. The discussion culminated in the panelists offering advice to the IMF on the issue. They cited the value of shifting investment focus from the private sector into social entrepreneurship and creating jobs for communities at the lowest levels of poverty. They also advocated for investing in youth, and the need to recognise digital finance as the lifeblood of powering local economies.
The day culminated in the Civil Society Organisation (CSO) town hall with Christine Lagarde and Dr. Jim Yong Kim. My favourite quote from the event was by Dr Kim who said, "You do not end extreme poverty by being ideological.” After three days of policy discussion, I felt there was an occasional tendency towards lengthy discussion about the magnitude of the issue of poverty, rather than tangible implementable solutions. This is why I appreciated the assertiveness shown by Dr Kim in emphasising the need to develop the best solutions for poverty, even if that involves engaging the private sector in traditional public sector domains such as funding infrastructure.
It was a busy day all up, but I felt that we gained a lot from our meetings and sessions. Stay tuned for our adventures on the last two days of D.C. meetings!