The 2009 Spring Meetings have now come to a close. We hope that you enjoyed getting a quick look at some of the events and announcements coming out of this year's Meetings, and that this blog was a useful way to get quick snippets of information and insight from this past weekend's proceedings.
This blog will stay live in its current state (as will the Spanish version) until the next round of World Bank meetings, most probably the Annual Meetings taking place this fall. Until then, feel free to go through the archives, or click through the daily highlights (in the sidebar to your right) to get targeted information about some of the big events and announcements that took place.
I also encourage you to visit our Videos section on the blog, where you'll be able to find all the short interviews we did with some of the people attending the Spring Meetings, asking them about the Bank's role in the current financial crisis. Feel free to embed those videos on your own sites if you find them interesting — and if you can, let us know when you do!
I'll sign off now, but if you have any questions or feedback about the blog and why we decided to pilot it for this set of Meetings, feel free to use the contact form or leave us a comment. Thanks!
At a recent press conference, three African finance chiefs chastised international credit rating agencies for failing to forecast the global financial crisis and challenged international financial institutions to do a better job of monitoring the global economy and of holding rich and developing countries accountable in the same way.
The Ministers from Zambia, Cote d’Ivoire and Tanzania spoke about the crisis and its effect on Africa. Mustafa Mkulo, Tanzania’s Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs, said:
"This crisis has come when African governments have taken broad based measures to reform their economies, followed by significant achievements. It is now threatening to wipe out our gains of the past ten years and disrupt all our plans for further progress."
- Press Release: African Ministers Outline Impact of Crisis on their Countries
- Website: The Financial Crisis in Africa
- Blog: Africa Can End Poverty
At the Development Committee closing press conference, Bank President Bob Zoellick together with Agustín Carstens, who is Mexico's Finance Minister as well as Development Committee Chair, announced that the Bank is giving Mexico more than $205 million to help the country fight the Swine Flu virus.
“We're extremely grateful for the prompt response by the World Bank -- such promptness is always very, very appreciated,” said Carstens. “But beyond resources, what is also important is all the experience that the World Bank has accumulated in precisely having assisted other countries in this type of situation."
The project will be fast-tracked so that funds can be disbursed within 3-5 weeks.
“We are here to listen—tell us how we can better assist you. And please, be frank,” said Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank Africa Region Vice President.
Ezekwesili asked the ministers from Liberia, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to discuss capacity development efforts in their countries, and to identify what has and has not worked, and how donors can provide more effective support for human development, infrastructure, and public sector reforms.
Several common themes emerged from the ministers’ interventions, including:
- Donors prioritizing support for primary and secondary education, and not higher education
- Donors pressing a “one size fits all” approach on countries, trying to replicate programs that were successful elsewhere
- The failure by expatriate advisors in civil service posts to transfer their knowledge and skills to local counterparts
- Tension among returning members of the Diaspora and local populations that stayed behind, partly around incentive structures for civil service
- An urgent need to deliver skills-training and create job opportunities for young ex-combatants
Augustine Ngafaun, Minister of Finance for Liberia, outlined the enormity of the challenges facing his country, which has “75 percent of the educational facilities destroyed” combined with a “massive brain drain” as a result of professionals fleeing during Liberia’s recent conflict.
“We have very few doctors, teachers and hardly any engineers,” said Ngafaun, Liberia's Minister of Finance.
He also noted that, despite the importance of the mining sector for Liberia’s growth, there are not even five geologists in the entire country.
Rwanda’s Finance Minister James Musoni noted that even though the reconstruction challenges were daunting, his country has made significant progress since the 1994 genocide. He said it is crucial for the donor community to understand the context in which each country operates, as in some cases the political leadership may not be ready.
Ezekwesili stressed the need to build confidence in all sectors, pointing out that “development solutions work only to the extent that the capacities of the nation-state, the private sector, and civil society are strong.”
“The lack of capacity is magnified by the stress of the post conflict environment,” Ezekwesili said.
G24 Discusses Financial Crisis
The Ministers of the Intergovernmental Group of Twenty-Four (G24) met in Washington yesterday to discuss the global financial crisis and its widespread impact.
Following the meeting, they released a communique that highlighted, among other issues, the fact that the current crisis was having a "disproportionate effect on developing countries through various channels, including falling prices of primary commodities, sharply contracting exports, declining remittances, negative net private capital flows, and credit crunch affecting many countries"
G7 Addresses Recession and Downturn
The G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors met in Washington DC yesterday, amidst what they claim is "the the deepest and most widespread economic downturn and financial stress witnessed in decades."
Yesterday, the IMF and the World Bank released the 2009 Global Monitoring Report, saying that the global financial crisis is imperiling attainment of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and creating an emergency for development.
Justin Lin, World Bank Chief Economist, spoke about the crisis at the launch of the report:
"Worldwide, we have an enormous loss of wealth and financial stability. Millions more people will lose their jobs in 2009, and urgent funding must be provided for social safety nets, infrastructure, and small businesses in poor countries, for a sustainable recovery."
For more information:
This past Wednesday, leading development banks joined efforts to provide as much as US$90 billion during the next two years in a joint effort to spur economic growth in the Latin America and Caribbean region.
The Inter-American Development Bank and the Inter-American Investment Corporation, the World Bank Group (IBRD, IFC and MIGA), Corporacion Andina de Fomento, the Caribbean Development Bank and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration are all working together to explore new opportunities to protect the economic and social gains achieved in the region during the last five years.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick spoke about the importance of this joint effort:
"Latin America and the Caribbean have achieved substantial economic and social progress over the last five years and we must ensure that this is not lost because of the external shock of the global crisis. We need to avoid a social and human crisis."
For more information:
- Press Release: Development Banks Join Efforts to Provide US$90 Billion For Latin America & The Caribbean
- Upcoming Event: Latin America and the Global Crisis, Towards a Rapid Regional Recovery
- VOICES Video Interview: Augusto de la Torre, Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean at the World Bank
Today, we had the pleasure of launching our Spanish version of the World Bank Meetings Center, El blog de las reuniones del Banco Mundial.
The Spanish version of the site, like the English, will feature links to press releases and stories, and also include commentary and short video interviews.
You can access the Spanish site by clicking on the "Espanol" on the top right of any page.