Inviting You to Join the Debate: IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings Program of Seminars

By Siddharth Tiwari

The global economic crisis really shook things up. Policymakers came together and responded to the crisis with an unprecedented degree of policy coordination.

The crisis also focused the IMF’s attention on better equipping ourselves to meet the challenges of today’s world. A big part of that transformation is how we engage with our members and the outside world.

So, with the 2010 IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings, you’ll see some big changes. Our goal—for this year and future years—is to provide a forum for people to debate, to learn from each other (and us from them), and to be part of a global conversation.

At this critical juncture for the global economy there are many burning policy issues on the agenda. And, we are opening our doors and inviting you—the membership and the broader public—to be part of this discussion.

Front and center

Front and center on this year’s agenda is the state of the global economy and the policy priorities going forward. The recovery is proceeding, but it is uneven and fragile. So a key question is how to achieve a more balanced recovery. And with financial sector weaknesses seen as the Achilles’ heel of the recovery, another key issue is how to strengthen the financial sector. A big part of this is also how to ensure the IMF is equipped for, and representative of, today’s global economic realities.

So exactly how do we hope to facilitate this exchange of ideas?

Under the broader umbrella of our Annual Meetings, and in addition to the meeting of the International Monetary and Financial Committee, our governing body, there will be a host of meetings of different official groups. These include the Group of Twenty industrialized and emerging market economies, the Commonwealth Finance Ministers, the Intergovernmental Group of Twenty-Four developing and emerging market economies, and the Group of Seven major industrial countries. There will also be meetings with civil society, academics, and the private sector.

There will be numerous meetings and seminars in which these various groups will participate. In all, we expect more than 100 meetings, discussions, seminars, and fora—including the renowned Per Jacobsson lecture—to take place over the next 3‑4 days.

Inclusive discussion

A major part of the dialogue is an expanded Program of Seminars. The IMF will hold two flagship seminars, followed by three ‘breakout’ sessions for each of them. Across the street, at the World Bank, there will be a similar program. This is a way to engage participants at the Annual Meetings in discussing the issues that are at the center of the world economic policy debate. But it is also a way to include parts of the membership, and the broader public, in this discussion in a way they did not have an opportunity to do before.

The first of our two flagship seminars is the BBC World Debate, which will open discussions on the question of “Stimulate or Consolidate: How to Secure a Robust Recovery?” With the world still in uncharted economic waters, panelists will discuss the policies needed to achieve equitable, sustainable and job-friendly growth. Among these will be the hotly debated issue of whether (and when) to maintain or withdraw policy stimulus.

The three breakout sessions following the BBC World Debate discuss:

  • the structural reforms needed to secure strong and durable growth, reduce global imbalances on a sustainable basis, and reduce high unemployment;
  • the challenge of implementing fiscal adjustment strategies, without undermining the recovery, and in a way that supports long-term growth and employment; and
  • policies to strengthen the financial system, including the appropriate degree of risk, nature of regulation, and need for greater transparency.

Together with CNBC, we will host the second flagship seminar on the “Future of Global Economic Governance”. As I mentioned earlier, the crisis has highlighted the need for greater policy coordination at both the global and regional levels. It has also prompted a discussion of the need for institutional reforms in countries and regions, and in global institutions such as the IMF.

This broader discussion will be followed by three sessions in which panelists will debate:

  • the future of the global financial and monetary system, and the reforms and policies needed to secure global financial stability and strong, balanced, and durable growth;
  • how emerging market economies can increasingly become drivers of global growth, and the policy challenges they face in rebalancing global demand; and
  • the necessary conditions and policies that will help today’s low-income countries takeoff and become the emerging markets of tomorrow.

As these seminars take place over the next few days, we will be posting comments here with accounts of each of the discussions.

But don’t just watch this space to see how the debate unfolds. We invite you to add your voice to the discussion by posting a comment.

18 Responses

  1. A few summary bullets from the debate “How to manage Capital Flows”(Friday, October 7, 2010)

    • International imbalances, and related macro policies in advanced economies – low interest rates – are the driving force behind the flows at this time. Policy rates in advanced economies are also expected to stay low for foreseeable future, and emerging markets are being sideswiped by capital flows
    • The fiscal and monetary policy connection: fiscal policies in advanced countries are in trouble, and until they are brought back to some kind of sustainable trajectory, it will be a challenge for monetary policy officials
    • In managaing flows, EMs need to look at the following: 1) the composition of capital (portfolios v investment, for example) and 2) the level of the flows; and 3) the maturity of the flows (short term v long term).
    • Main policy goal for emerging markets is to maintain control of macro stability, the big picture. Macro prudential policies are the “new tool” being used, particularly in EMs; policies in recipient countries need to differentiate between domestic and international forces at play.
    • It is no longer simply an issue of imposing an administrative measures, such as a tax on capital inflows. That was the “old days” of capital control talk.
    • Cross border financing and the role of global financial groups must be tackled if we really want to level the international playing field.
    • Korea is circulating draft papers to G-20 on best prudential policies to deal with capital flows and the summit agenda for early November will include this issue.

  2. Some commentary from David Bosco (The Multilateralist) on the BBC World Debate:

    For the most part, the panel (even Stiglitz, who doesn’t shy away from scrapes) stuck resolutely to a sensible middle ground: austerity makes sense in some places, but not in countries with fiscal room to maneuver.

    Read his post at: http://bosco.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/10/08/the_bbc_does_the_imf

  3. Bullet points from seminar: Navigating the Road Ahead

    • Randall Kroszner of the University of Chicago noted that the problem is not so much that institutions too big to fail (TBTF) but rather too interconnected to fail where steps to mitigate this problem will involve reducing uncertainly about the enforcement of contracts among them that contributes to this interconnectedness.
    • Jose Vinals, economic counsellor of the IMF, commented that a better term than TBTF is too important to fail (TITF) since the concept applies to the financial infrastructure as well as financial institutions. This is the case with OTC derivative markets, which are subject to domino like effects. The solution involves creating Central Counter Parties (CCPs) but these institutions also can become TITF also; thus, a key issue is what kind of CCP do we want and how do we limit the systemic risk. One element can involve giving the CCP access to central bank liquidity.
    • Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz of Malaysia warned that regulation needs to find the right balance as overregulation that slows economic growth will not achieve its objective. This can be avoided by developing strong institutions, particularly in supervision. Regulation also needs to be comprehensive with an expanded perimeter as higher capital charges increases incentive to move financial activity beyond the parameter.
    • Rick Bookstaber said that overregulation was unlikely owing to strong lobbing pressure from the finance industry; and, rather, the risk was that regulation could become too complex and difficult to enforce. The contributes to incentives to game the system that may work at cross purposes to the objective of regulation. Thus, a goal of financial reform should be a simpler financial system.
    • Ms. Tett, the moderator and FT journalist, concluded the seminar by noting that the danger may be patchy regulation rather than overregulation of the financial sector.

    • And in this case, having no Q&A session, they all conveniently managed to pass over the fact that the only tool in the tool box of the Basel Committee, the capital requirements for banks based on perceived risk, is so embarrassingly counterfactual.

      As you know all financial bank crisis originate exclusively from excessive investments or lending to what is perceived as not risky, since what is perceived as risky never attracts sufficient large investments so as to pose a real systemic danger. (The regulators have indeed earned themselves having to wear their cones of shame)

  4. I don’t see the “Statement” of George Soros…
    of the Central European University…
    Please send me a copy of his “Statement”/speech…

  5. Hi, I trying to see the whole meeting, including the program of seminar, but can’t find anything. I’m pretty lost.

  6. Jacqueline reports from the “Fiscal policies: effective strategies for stability and growth” session:
    Good news for politicians worried about getting thrown out of office for making tough calls on government deficit cutting and debt reduction. Harvard University’s Alberto Alesina has recently conducted a study, which turns conventional wisdom on its head.

    The study mined the data on the top ten largest fiscal adjustments countries have had to make over the past 30 years and found that governments that have undertaken serious and even drastic fiscal adjustments have been reelected, not thrown out of office as many might think.

    “The view that people throw out the government that does fiscal adjustment is way overstated,” Alesina told the standing-room only crowd at the IMF’s seminar on effective strategies for fiscal policy held during the global lender’s annual meetings on October 8 in Washington, D.C.

    This will be welcome news for George Papaconstantinou, Greece’s Finance Minister, who earlier in the day told the audience at the BBC World Debate on the global recovery hosted by the IMF that he “hoped Professor Alesina is right.”

  7. The seminar on Low Income Countries: How to Become Tomorrow’s Emerging Economies saw policy practitioners and others discuss what’s needed to propel developing countries toward higher growth. The key ingredient is investment; in particular, private investment.

    Christina Duarte, Minister of Finance and Public Administration for Cape Verde, summed it up well reflecting on her own country’s experience—it is possible to develop sustainably, by maintaining consistent macroeconomic policies, and investing in people through health and education. Tanzania’s central bank governor, Beno Ndulu, underscored the importance of boosting productivity and investing in infrastructure.

  8. The call for structural reform is something we hear a lot these days in the quest for securing global growth. And this could easily be seen as an ‘empty mantra’ as Olivier Blanchard put it at the seminar on Structural Reforms: Effective Strategies for Growth and Jobs. But he and other panelists tried to make this debate a bit more concrete. For me, three things stood out.

    First, structural reforms are motivated, in large part, by the need to boost economic growth, reduce unemployment, and reduce income inequality (within and between countries).

    Second, when asked to name the two structural reforms most helpful in today’s climate, the five panelist came up with this list: (i) retirement and social security; (ii) tax reform; (iii) trade the Doha round (two mentions); (iv) social insurance/social safety nets (three mentions!); (v) education; (vi) a financial transactions tax; and (vii) financial sector reform.

    Third, structural reforms often involve a trade-off between short-term pain and long-term gain. Here, there was agreement. The silver lining of the crisis was that it provided a “political window” to push ahead with some of these reforms. The severity of the crisis enabled some matching of short- and long-term.

    But reformers seem to be running out of steam, just when the going gets tough. And I’d have liked to hear more about that.

  9. How can I have some input. Or is this just a PR thing conducted on the BBC and CNBC?

  10. BBC World Debate now on. Go to:

    http://www.imf.org/external/mmedia/index.aspx#

    Panelist(s): George Papaconstantinou, Minister of Finance of Greece;
    Christina Romer, Professor, University of California at Berkeley, United States;
    Joseph Stiglitz, Professor, Economics, Columbia University; Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund; ZHOU, Xiaochuan , Governor, People’s Bank of China, People’s Republic of China

    Moderator: Nik Gowing, Main Presenter, BBC World Debate

    Main themes: The policies of the world’s two largest economies have come under scrutiny at a public debate during this year’s World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings, with a Nobel-prize winning economist calling on the United States to pursue further stimulus, while a top Chinese finance official laid out the measures—including a gradual move to a floating exchange rate—which his country is pushing to help rebalance global growth.

  11. The small business or entrepreneur, by being asked to pay higher interest rates than a triple-A rated client, are already contributing to the capital of banks… call that the risk-weights of the market.

    What I object to is for the regulators to layer on their arbitrary and discriminating risk-weights on top of those market risk-weights.

    Coping with high interest rates is hard enough whnn being perceived as risky, so as to have the regulators ordering the markets to be extraordinarily careful with what the regulator considers as risky, while they at the same time allow the banks to lend to triple-A rated clients with very little capital.

  12. I did not realise there was a 5 times differential. There is an argument that business lending is much higher risk than consumer lending. However most small business lending nowadays is secured by consumer collateral and takes on a profile closer to that of consumer lending, adding weight to your argument particularly for small business lending.

  13. I had a great day!

    For someone who since 1997 has been opposing the regulatory paradigm used by the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision, even as an Executive Director of the World Bank 2002-2004, today was a great day.

    As a member of Civil Society, whatever that now means, at a City Society Town-hall Meeting during the 2010 Annual Meetings, I had the opportunity to pose the following question to Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, and to Robert B. Zoellick, the President of the World Bank:

    “Right now, when a bank lends money to a small business or an entrepreneur it needs to put up 5 TIMES more capital than when lending to a triple-A rated clients. When is the World Bank and the IMF speak out against such odious discrimination that affects development and job creation, for no good particular reason since bank and financial crisis have never occurred because of excessive investments or lending to clients perceived as risky?”

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn answered in no uncertain terms that “capital requirement discrimination has no reason to be” and Robert B. Zoellick agreed and pointed to what he has done in order to diminish the regulatory discrimination against trade finance.

    The question that now floats around there out in the open, is what the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, the supreme global regulatory authority, has to say about that, because bank capital requirement discriminations based on perceived risks is precisely the heart and soul of their regulatory paradigm… without that they have nothing!

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