I travel light. Usually a carry-on is all I need for business related travel. Attending the Government Debt Management Strategy Design and Implementation Workshops, organized by World Bank Treasury, was no different affair. The month was July, the location was JVI Facilities in Vienna, I thought I didn’t need more luggage!
I attended the workshop wearing two different hats: as a former senior economic advisor to the Angolan government and a macro economist, I was eager to find out what I could add to my information portfolio in terms of debt management know-how; as a World Bank Group Advisor to Executive Director, I was curious about how the Bank builds capacity through training for member countries.
There were two one-week workshops back-to-back, one on Designing Debt Management Strategies, especially for middle office staff (July 17-21) and the other on Implementing Debt Management Strategies, especially for front office staff (July 24-28). The courses aimed at capacitating finance ministry and central bank technical and management level staff directly involved in designing and implementing debt management strategies.
One of the good practices of these workshops was to force participants to get all the relevant information on their debt management units by preparing brief pre-workshop presentations of the broad framework for debt management strategy design and implementation in their respective countries. This approach prepared the participants with critical thinking and gave the workshops a good start.
And the participants? Wow, it looked like a rainbow composition, bringing together all continents with all sort of experiences: from people like me – with macroeconomic backgrounds, to senior debt management practitioners with years of expertise under their belt, to junior civil servants who recently joined the debt management offices (DMOs) in their countries. Also, when I mention DMOs, that included front office, middle office and back office practitioners; a composition which enriched the quality and authenticity of the discussions. Additional country experience presentations generated a fruitful debate throughout the workshop.
I familiarized myself about topics such as the concepts and objectives of government debt management, choices about risk exposure, cost, refinancing, interest rate, foreign currency and contingent liabilities, the advantages of developing local debt markets, issuance mechanisms for government securities, buybacks and exchanges, developing investor base for government securities, use of derivatives, funding mechanisms of external debt and insights on external bond issuance. But not only that, I had the opportunity to discuss the issuance calendar problems with Peru, reaching capital markets with Serbia, contingent liabilities with South Africa. The list goes on… Besides the everyday spicy debates where all participants’ experience showed how internal and external financing challenges were dealt in participants’ realities. Maybe one of the most important lessons were: developing and implementing Debt Management Strategies should be tailor made to the country context. With each passing day, my virtual suitcase became heavier with the know-how I accumulated.
Both workshops were led by debt management experts from the World Bank Treasury with long experience from their home debt management units, which gave the event the right flavor. Their approach was to incentivize debates and to make it very practical. They intermixed risk management challenges with debt management implementation using presentations, case studies and interactive exercises. Both workshops were filled with hands-on exercises focusing on the quantitative and qualitative tools needed to facilitate debt management decisions.
There was one other ingredient to the spirit of the course: the city. The JVI showed to participants how easy they deal with organizational issues to enable participants to take full advantage of the course. The hotel, very accommodative, was a 5-minute walk from JVI and in the emblematic street of Mariahilfer Strasse that takes to Vienna city center where its genius loci was omnipresent.
All these aspects, the course, the participants, the experts and facilitators and the city enabled the creation of an amazing atmosphere for professionals dealing with challenging debt management realities. We all went home with a heavier knowledge suitcase.