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.