IMF & World Bank Annual Meetings, Day 4: Fintech is an opportunity, not a threat, and other key takeaways

When I first viewed the agenda for the IMF & World Bank Annual Meetings, I knew that day four would be one to look forward to. Digital was the theme of the day, and I was extremely excited by three flagship events that would discuss the disruptive impact technology is having on achieving development goals and financial stability: Harnessing Technology for Inclusive Growth, the Bali FinTech Agenda, and the Human Capital Index.

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World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings: Friday Wrap-up

By Sonia Parulekar, UNSW Co-op Program Scholar

Sonia snapped a selfie with IMF Managing Director, Madame Christine Lagarde. 

Sonia snapped a selfie with IMF Managing Director, Madame Christine Lagarde. 

Our final two days in Washington D.C. were a perfect end to an amazing week. We began Friday with the 2017 Annual Meetings Plenary session. The plenary session is the flagship event of the meetings, bringing together participants and official delegations from all participating countries. Held in the striking DAR Constitution Hall, we heard from the President of the World Bank Dr Jim Yong Kim and Managing Director of the IMF Madame Christine Lagarde on the achievements and visions of the World Bank group and the IMF and their visions. It was inspiring to hear the hope encapsulated in their words as they detailed the road ahead to true prosperity and economic equality. In particular, Dr Kim’s proclamation “I believe we can be the first generation in history to end poverty” inspired me to become more engaged in this realisation as the world becomes increasingly globalised and intrinsically connected. 

After the Plenary session, with coffee’s and bagels in hand, we headed to our first seminar ‘The Disaster That Never Happened – Can Resilient Infrastructure Help Save the World?’. This was particularly exciting as Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, was the key note speaker. Branson’s message drove home the urgency of local and global action to plan and build infrastructure that will withstand natural disasters and inevitable environmental and climatic shifts. 

After the seminar we headed to a lunch put on by the WB/IMF and watched the ‘Angklung Performance’, an Indonesian Cultural Show put on in anticipation of the 2018 WB/IMF annual meetings which are to be held in Bali, Indonesia. As our time at the meetings and in Washington D.C. began to wrap up, we spent the afternoon touring the WB/IMF buildings and the city including a visit to the Lincoln and National World War II Memorials.

We ended our day with a group dinner with the New Zealand and Canadian Youth Delegations. The night was spent sharing stories of our time at the meetings, discussing politics, learning what tater tots were (they’re yum!) and most importantly creating global networks with other fantastic young like-minded individuals.

Since our flights back home to Australia were booked for late Saturday afternoon, we made the most of Saturday morning by attending one last World Bank seminar ‘Taking Women-Owned Business to the Next Level’. This was one of my favourite sessions. We heard from three inspiring female entrepreneurs from Myanmar, Jordan and Africa who, in spite of their extremely limited resources and geographical, social and cultural barriers, have gone on to build successful business ventures. Each spoke about their ability to believe in themselves and persevere, allowing them to break free from what traditional societal norms for women dictated and see their visions come to life. The session concluded with a panel discussion involving Dr Jim Yong Kim (President of the WB), Ivanka Trump (Senior Adviser to the President of the USA), Reem Bint Ebrahim Al Hashimy (Minister of State for International Cooperation, United Arab Emirates) and Steven Puig (CEO of Banco BHD).

We had an absolutely incredible time at the World Bank and IMF annual meetings. The opportunity to hear from some of the greatest thinkers, participate in issue defining debates and discuss the topics we’re passionate about on a global scale was phenomenal. We cannot thank Global Voices and each of our respective universities enough for this truly invaluable experience. 

OECD Forum Wrap Up: Day 2

Sophie Levy, UNSW Co-op Program scholar

As we finished our croissants and walked to day two of the OECD Forum, we reflected on the previous day and how much we had learnt and gained from the meetings, talks and debates.

The first talk of the day was a fascinating presentation by Bruce Stokes, Director at the Pew Research Centre. His presentation covered the opinions of OECD attendees on the current and future state of global economies, comparing these views to surveys from the public. This session provided a valuable insight into the views of different countries when asked the question, ‘Do you think your children, when they grow up, will be worse off financially than their parents?’ An overwhelming response of ‘yes’ was shared amongst the audience attendees, many of whom attributed this to housing affordability, job security, an uncertain digital economy, poor wage growth and the question of a reliable social safety net.

With this great start to the day, we were engaged, excited and (with a little bit of coffee) fully prepared for the day ahead. We then attended the Ministerial Council Meeting Chair Keynote speech where we heard from Angel Gurria, Secretary General of the OECD, and Prime Minister Rasmussen of Denmark. Both speakers discussed the changing attitudes towards globalisation and free trade, stressing the importance of ‘making globalisation work, better lives for all’. Secretary General Gurria acknowledged that this rise of protectionism has resulted from many middle-income citizens being ‘left behind’, and focused on inclusive growth and putting wellbeing at front and centre of economic objectives.

The 2017 Economic Outlook, presented by OECD Chief Economist, Catherine L Mann provided valuable insights into increasing income inequality and poor real wage growth despite increasing confidence and global trade stimulus from China. The outlook reinforced the need for an integrated policy approach to making globalisation work for all.

A great morning was followed by an even better afternoon where we had meeting Andreas Schall, Global Relations Secretariat at the OECD and Tim Costello. Andreas provided an overview of his role as Global Relations Secretariat and gave us an insight into the way in which the OECD manages relations with non-OECD countries. We learnt about the challenges that face all countries and about the structure of the OECD and the way in which countries are accepted into the OECD body. We had a great opportunity to ask questions about the relationship between the OECD and the G20 and the way in which the OECD engages in discussion with various countries

Our final meeting of the day was with Tim Costello. In an intimate conversation amidst the gardens of the OECD, we discussed Australia’s position in the OECD context and focused on our core Australian values. Our conversation involved globalisation, multiculturalism and the effects of the digital economy on our position as Australians and our values. This new perspective was extremely valuable as it enhanced our understanding of where we stand, as Australians, among the EU, US and Asia, amidst this changing global economy.

DELEGATES MEET WITH TIM COSTELLO

DELEGATES MEET WITH TIM COSTELLO

The last session of the day involved a discussion about the UN Sustainable Development Goals and whether they could be financed, as desired by the 2030 agenda. This conversation was particularly relevant to my policy paper which looks at the use of public private partnerships in emerging economies. Ulla Tornaes, Denmark’s Minister for Cooperation and Development, stressed the importance of involving the private sector in achieving the SDGs. Other panellists commented on the importance of a strategic guidance of the private sector in achieving many of the SDGs.

Following some networking, we made our way back to the hotel and then onto dinner. After having met the Canadian and New Zealand youth delegates at the forum, we decided to catch up with them under the Eiffel Tour – a truly wonderful way to end the incredible and insightful day. 

IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings: Day 3 Wrap Up

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!

Y20 Delegate Sam Johnson ABC Interview

UNSW Co-op Scholar and Global Voices delegate Sam Johnson was recently interviewed by the ABC about his upcoming trip to the Y20 Summit in China. We think Sam might just have a future in broadcasting. 

Listen to the interview on Soundcloud.

The UNSW Co-op Program are a valued partner of Global Voices and support us in our mission to provide opportunities for young Australians to engage with global issues and foreign policy. 

Y20 Delegate Sam Johnson: Probono Australia

2016 Y20 delegate Sam Johnson is a contributor to Probono Australia this month. His article 'Catalysing Australia’s Social Enterprise Sector' discusses the commercial viability and impact social enterprise schemes have on our community. Sam's analysis flows from his research under the Global Voices Research Fellowship.

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