June 11, 2021: My productive discussions abroad in Helsinki, Moscow, and London; our Global Economic Prospects Report; and action on vaccines

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I would like to quickly summarize some of my recent activities, and preview a few events yet to come.

My first trip since the start of the pandemic was both productive and informative in equal measure. Ahead of the in-person G7 Finance Meetings in London, I first stopped in Helsinki and Moscow for a series of good meetings.

Helsinki

I first traveled to Helsinki for a hybrid version of my annual meeting with Nordic and Baltic Governors - one of our most dedicated, ambitious, and generous groups. It was good to visit Finland between IDA19’s replenishment meeting in Stockholm and the upcoming IDA20 conclusion scheduled for December in Japan.

Upon arrival, I met with President Niinistö of Finland and thanked him for his hospitality and support for IDA20. We discussed various development challenges, including climate action, Arctic cooperation, debt sustainability, COVID-19, and digitalization.

I also enjoyed engaging and wide-ranging conversations with Governor of the Bank of Finland Olli Rehn, Minister of Finance Annika Saarikko, and Minister of Development Ville Skinnari, during which we addressed shared development priorities, including education, digital development, and gender.

At my meeting with the Nordic and Baltic Governors of the World Bank Group, I was pleased to discuss with them COVID-19, financing needs in low-income countries, vaccines, climate change, debt, digitalization, FCV, gender, human capital & more. You can read my opening remarks to the group here.

Moscow

Next, I traveled to Moscow following an invitation to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), to discuss with Russian authorities their ambitions for climate action.

I provided pre-recorded remarks to the SPIEF recalling nearly 30 years of WBG-Russian relations, urging international cooperation, emphasizing the importance of rule of law, and calling for stepped up action on climate and support for low-income countries. You can read my remarks here.

Throughout my stay, I held productive meetings, including a phone call with President Vladimir Putin, and in-person meetings with Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk, Anatoly Chubais, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabuillina, and former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin.

President Putin committed that Russia will begin contributing to IDA20, and will fund Russia’s 2018 IBRD capital subscription. During each of these meetings, we discussed the World Bank Group's COVID-19 response, Russia’s green transition, partnership on one of the first CCDRs, and commitment to IDA20. A full readout of my trip can be found in this Twitter thread.

I also enjoyed a virtual/in-person meeting with our Moscow staff. The hard work of our country office staff is the cornerstone of our operations, and I was glad to answer their well-considered questions, as well as thank them for their tireless efforts.

London – G7 Finance Ministers Meeting

I concluded my trip in London, attending the G7 Finance Meetings alongside our Managing Director for Operations, Axel van Trotsenburg. We participated in each official session and held several bilateral meetings and pull-asides. I intervened in sessions on key economic challenges facing the world, climate, health finance, and support for low-income countries. In my remarks, I highlighted the WBG’s surge in financing and work on inequality, debt, transparency, climate, energy, and vaccines. I welcomed the G7’s support for a strong IDA20 replenishment.

Among my bilateral meetings, I first met with Canadian Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland and discussed climate action, vaccines, and gender.

I was happy to sit down with Japanese Deputy Prime Minister & Finance Minister Taro Aso, who signaled strong support for IDA20 and its focus on preparedness.

It was also good to speak with Italian Minister of Economy & Finance Daniele Franco to discuss the upcoming G20 meetings in Venice, climate action, and energy subsidies. I look forward to seeing him again in Venice soon.

In addition to the above bilateral meetings, I was glad to informally throughout the weekend with Secretary Janet Yellen, Ministers Olaf Scholz and Bruno Le Maire, OECD Secretary General Mathias Cormann, representatives from the European Union, and - of course - Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and the IMF delegation. 

Last Saturday, I concluded the session on providing support to low income countries (LICs) with a strong intervention in support of IDA, the WBG’s leveraging of donor resources, and the importance of social safety nets. I expressed our intention to help countries expand digital infrastructure and social registries. These investments allow for a vital response during crises, and also benefit financial inclusion while helping to lower the cost of digital transactions.

Global Economic Prospects Report

This week saw the launch of the World Bank Group’s 2021 Global Economic Prospects Report, in which we project that that the global economy is expected to expand 5.6% in 2021, largely on strong rebounds from a few major economies.

In my foreword to GEP 2021, I highlighted the need for expanded vaccine distribution and deployment, attention to debt and debt transparency, addressing rapidly rising food prices, and integrated climate and development policies as key policy areas that must be addressed as the world works to return to growth.

Action on Vaccines

I welcome the decision by President Joe Biden to donate 500 million Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries – an important step. Rapid deployment of these vaccines will be of central importance, and the World Bank Group is ready to help.

Last Tuesday, I published a joint op-ed with the heads of the IMF, WHO and WTO on scaling up access to COVID-19 vaccines - you can view my remarks from our joint press conference here.

Kristalina and I also issued a joint call to action to the G7 to release excess doses to countries with deployment plans.

Over the past week, I was pleased to hold several productive meetings. I first met with African Union Envoy Strive Masiyiwa, Africa CDC’s John Nkengasong, and the UN Economic Commission for Africa Executive Secretary Vera Songwe for great talks on the World Bank Group’s partnership with African Union Countries and Africa CDC. We are working in close collaboration to finance AVATT COVID-19 vaccine operations, and to administer doses.

I also met with Gavi Chair José Manuel Barroso and CEO Seth Berkley for a positive discussion regarding the World Bank Group’s ongoing close collaboration with COVAX. We are working hard with partner countries to unlock COVID19 vaccine options, and to rapidly deploy doses.

Today, I issued a statement welcoming the G7’s vital work on helping to accelerate an end to the pandemic and restoring broad-based growth and sustainable development.

In my statement, I was pleased to share that the World Bank Group is convening a COVID-19 pandemic task force, with the IMF and other partners, to further increase supply, especially in 2021, and to track, coordinate and advance delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries, as called for by the G7 Finance Ministers & Central Bank Governors communiqué. In this context, the World Bank is maintaining a website that provides detailed information on all of our COVID vaccination programs.

We welcome the announcements from G7 leaders to provide hundreds of millions of doses to developing countries, and we stand ready to support deployment and help countries access further vaccines. We encourage countries with surplus doses to release those for countries with deployment plans in place.

This coming weekend, I look forward to participating in the G7 Leaders’ Summit, with interventions on health finance and climate action.

My thanks to all who helped to facilitate my travels and meetings, and as always, to all of our staff and partners.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn

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