This year’s World Bank Group-IMF Annual Meetings took place against the backdrop of a series of overlapping crises threatening catastrophic consequences for the poor. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and conflict were the focus for delegates who gathered at the World Bank Group headquarters in Washington DC.
In this special edition of The Development Podcast we’ll bring you some of the key moments from this year’s sessions. Leaders, experts, and activists discussed how best to respond to the multiple overlapping crises facing developing countries and how to work together to build a resilient future.
- Anne Tvinnereim, Norway's Minister of International Development.
- Augustine Mayabi, Deputy Director in Kenya's Ministry of ICT Innovation and Youth Affairs.
- David Malpass, President, World Bank Group.
- Janet Yellen, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.
- Karima Ola, LeapFrog Investments Partner.
- Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund.
- Lawrence Summers, President Emeritus and Professor of Harvard University.
- Makhtar Diop, IFC Managing Director.
- Mostafa Terrab, OCP Group Chairman and CEO.
- Rania Al-Mashat, Egypt's Minister of International Cooperation.
- Samuel D. Tweah Jr, Liberia's Minister of Finance and Development Planning.
- Seedy K. M. Keita, Gambia's Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs.
- Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine.
[00:00] Paul Blake: Hello and welcome to a special edition of The Development Podcast, coming to you from the World Bank Group here in Washington, DC and beyond. I'm Paul Blake, and in this episode we'll be hearing some of the highlights from this year's World Bank Group-IMF Annual Meetings. There are of course, huge and urgent issues dominating the conversations this year, increased poverty, food shortages, inflation, energy shocks and debt crises. We're also impacted by climate change, the COVID pandemic and of course, conflict. So how can we move forward and how can the poor and vulnerable be supported? Let's get a taste of some of the discussions that took place.
David Malpass: We have to work so fast now to create space for the climate problems that are facing many of the developing countries most.
Kristalina Georgieva: I actually am heartbroken to see the world again, witnessing increasing poverty, increasing hunger and malnutrition.
Karima Ola: There has to be a just transition that enables development to happen, at the same time that we can have an investment in clean technology.
Samuel D. Tweah Jr: In the post COVID era, we need to develop strategies to bring policy makers to that awareness, that human capital today is as fundamentally important as electricity infrastructure. We are still not there.
Paul Blake: That's all coming up in the next few minutes here on this special Annual Meetings edition of The Development Podcast.
Well, the global backdrop for this year's Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund doesn't make for comfortable reading, overlapping crises, the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate shocks and conflict have caused reversals in poverty reduction and a rise in inequality. But the meetings provided an opportunity to raise these challenges with the development community and discuss how to move forward. There were so many fantastic conversations during these meetings and they're all available on the World Bank Live website. But here's a sample of some of the events.
[02:12] Let's start by hearing from David Malpass, President of the World Bank Group, in conversation with Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, in an event called The Way Forward: Addressing Multiple Crises in an Era of Volatility. The two discuss the urgency with which policymakers, international organizations and the private sector need to coordinate and take decisive action to build resilience in the face of current volatility. We join the conversation with David Malpass, outlining some of the biggest issues facing the global economy today.
David Malpass: The risk and the real danger of a world recession next year. The advanced economies are slowing in Europe, and so we'll see where it goes into next year. The currency depreciation means that the debt levels for the developing countries are getting more and more burdensome. The rise in interest rates puts added weight on it, and inflation is still a major problem for everyone, but especially for the poor. So those are all issues.
World Bank has a lot of data coming out. We did our poverty report. It shows 70 million more in poverty and also very concerning, a 4% reduction in median income. So as we think about our goal of shared prosperity, it's not happening. There's reversals going on in development. I call it a crisis facing development. One of the things is the advanced economies are taking a lot of the world's capital. That comes in the form of the fiscal deficits, the heavy borrowing by big corporations and the central banks themselves buying only the bonds of the very advanced countries. And so that puts a strain on development from the macro side. And then of course, from the individual side, we see the problems of education and energy shortages of fertilizer and of food crops. So it's a vast array of problems. We always talk about solutions. So that's one of the things.
I wanted to ask you too, one of our core desires is to see more resources flowing into the developing world. What do you think?
Kristalina Georgieva: Well, I very much agree with you that the risk of recession has gone up. We have calculated that about one third equivalent of the world economy would have at least two consecutive quarters of negative growth this year, next year. And that the total amount that would be wiped out by the slowdown of the world economy is going to be between now and 2026, $4 trillion, this is the size of Germany, GDP gone. And when we look at the picture, we are asking what are the drivers, and of course, what can be done? What are the drivers? The impact of COVID on supply chains, the senseless war that is causing a push of prices, especially energy and food prices and major disruptions as a result in how economies function. The price is going up, inflation that is stubbornly high and necessitates tightening of financial conditions that has gone faster than originally anticipated.
So when we look at these drivers, then what are the consequences? We are seeing slow down in all three key economies of the world, Eurozone, because primarily of gas prices shooting up, China, because of COVID disruptions. And the volatility of the housing sector, we see a very significant problem in China dragging down growth. And in the United States still very strong labor market, but also losing a bit of momentum because interest rates are starting to bite.
And so when we are in this environment, the question for us this week is, what can be done? What we are advocating for, David, are actions in three areas. First, contain inflation. We cannot afford inflation to be a runaway train, and we are risking if we don't have strong action for this to happen. But it is a very, very difficult route to navigate because if you don't do enough, we are in trouble. And of course, inflation is a dramatic tax, especially on the poor people. But if you tighten too much, then the fear of recession will materialize on a large scale. We have to think of the strong dollar that comes with tightening of financial conditions and how it impacts developing countries, and maybe you have some thoughts around that.
Secondly, it is painful for people. So some support is necessary. But that support has to be well targeted because if it is not, then we are adding fuel to the flames of inflation. And that, working together, monetary policy, fiscal policy this year is absolutely paramount. Otherwise, for anybody who is a driver, we would have monetary policy stepping on the brakes and fiscal policy stepping on the accelerator.
And three, and this is where I really want to hear more from you. We have to join forces to help emerging markets in developing economies that are particularly hard hit by tightening of financial conditions. You spoke about capital not being available to help them through. And also, to get the big scary danger of debt crisis under control because otherwise not only countries affected by it would suffer, the whole world would suffer.
David Malpass: That's right. It's a global community effort. One of the issues is how to get more production, how to get more growth. And that. I think, starts normally with advanced economies. They have more capital and the ability to really apply it to various sectors. That will help with inflation. And you're exactly right, that's super important. I think markets look ahead. So one of the things is if there can be a concerted effort to describe growth policies going forward, ones that add to supply, then that immediately begins to address some of the concerns about inflation expectations, which are so important to get down. We have to face the starting point that interest rates were probably too low at the beginning of the cycle, substantially too low. So some parts of the world are still getting back to what might be a neutral spot.
And then as we think about then the capital flows, I do think there needs to be a rethinking by the advanced economies of some of the basics. One would be to have debt limits you. It's very hard to think of a world growth environment where a certain small group of countries have unlimited amounts of debt that they can issue even during a crisis or apart from a crisis. Because as the governments do that, it takes up the available capital. And then we also have this issue that I mentioned of central banks buying the bonds, which had never been done prior to 2009, the bonds, but only of the advanced economies. And so that creates this bias. There's both a regulatory and a capital bias within the world that works against the developing countries. So that takes me to the... You're exactly right about the need to keep, if you have subsidies, have them be targeted because there's only so much fiscal space, fiscal availability. There can't be a subsidy for everybody because then you quickly run out of money.
So as World Bank works hard on individual developing countries, what a primary concept that we're doing is both supporting the emergency situation, for example, we're doing that now with big food programs. But then also trying to help the countries have better policies that have fewer subsidies for the upper end and more availability of both financing, inclusive financing for women, for new businesses and for small businesses within their economies. And then we have to work so fast now to create space for the climate problems that are facing many of the developing countries most.
Kristalina Georgieva: Yeah. I want to compliment you and your staff at the bank for two things. One, how quickly you brought forward resources to address the food crisis. The 30 billion that you are making available is going to go a long way to help countries, there are about 48 that are severely impacted by foot insecurity. I actually am heartbroken to see the world again, witnessing increasing poverty, increasing hunger and malnutrition.
[12:02] Paul Blake: The point made there about food shortages is something that was discussed in another event called A Shortage of Life's Essentials: The Human Cost of the Food and Fuel Crises. Food and energy prices have been an urgent and increasing issue in 2022. Hunger is on the rise, and this was evidenced even before the shocks to global supply chains caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The discussions at this event focused in on futures for both energy and food supply. Transitioning to renewable energy was one theme, as was the need for climate smart agriculture and innovation in the vital fertilizer sector.
Here's the view of Mostafa Terrab, chairman and CEO of the OCP group, a global leader in crop nutrition solutions headquartered in Morocco. He was asked to explain some of the problems with current supplies of mineral fertilizers and how that relates to global food production needs in a panel that also included Anne Tvinnereim, Minister of international development for Norway, that was hosted by World Bank Group President David Malpass.
Mostafa Terrab: There is a visible crisis today, a shortfall of fertilizer. But we should recognize that what's visible today has been revealed by a crisis, but it's based on a long-term situation that we have to address. And the long term situation is a great imbalance between production of fertilizer and what the world needs, in terms of fertilizer. One half of food production today is due to the use of fertilizers, of mineral fertilizers. So it is really critical that we have availability of those fertilizers. And if you recall, prices of fertilizers started increasing before the war, before the present war. Two, three years ago, already we saw this imbalance between supply and demand impact heavily prices. Where, as an African producer of fertilizer, doing our part in making next year available four million tons of fertilizer for the African farmer, at the right price because we are also customizing fertilizer for the plant and the soil in Africa.
David Malpass: I'll come back to Anne. And yeah, thoughts on food in particular and how do we get more food in Africa? Obviously, fertilizer is part of it, but also the financing that you mentioned.
Anne Tvinnereim: In Norway, we've been facing, well, not a drought, but we rely on hydroelectric power in Norway. And we have reservoirs, water reservoirs that are really below the minimal level. At the same time, we export gas to Europe as much as we can due to the current situation. Gas in Europe is traditionally used a lot for producing energy. Obviously, with those prices, we end up exporting hydroelectric power instead from Norway. So it really is a combined, really difficult situation. And then, with the gas prices we see, for example, Yara, which is a big Norwegian based fertilizer producer, has shut down several factories in Europe because it's simply not enough. It's simply not possible to push that extra cost to the customer. Now, what is deeply disturbing is that at the moment we are facing a food price crisis. That can be fixed with money, with logistics. However, due to the fertilizer crisis, in one season, we will not produce enough food in the world to feed everyone. Now, that's an unprecedented situation.
Paul Blake: While staying with this event, but moving to a discussion around climate change and resilience, we heard from Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation in Egypt, which of course, hosted this year's COP27 summit.
Rania Al-Mashat: One very important message is that climate and development should not be seen as separate objectives. They need to come hand in hand. And if there's that realization, we will be able to avail financing for development projects which have climate action at their heart, be it water treatment projects, be it solar or wind farms, agriculture projects, etcetera. So it's very important that this notion become more mainstream because private companies, when they're trying to look for places to invest, we also need to make sure that the projects which are presented to them have this synergy and this interlinkage is more clear.
Paul Blake: We also heard about Gambia's challenges and its investments in an alternative energy roadmap, from Seedy K. M. Keita, Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs.
Seedy K. M. Keita: Gambia is a net energy importer. We import all our energy needs and the spike in the price of energy as well as food had left an untold challenge on both the government and the population of Gambia. With the intervention of the World Bank, we have been able to invest in a mix of energy that support the energy roadmap, which overall, will consist of the alternative energy production. We also have the original power supply from Senegal as well as the existing hydrocarbon power production that, on completion, will reduce the overall energy mix and the subsequent price reduction.
The shock has not been very easy on the population and the government treasury for that matter. We were obliged to subsidize the price of oil to the tune of 1.5 billion in the last seven months, which translates to about 30 million to cushion the impact of the society. That, not withstanding, it left a big gap in our fiscal space. But we felt it was necessary as a government in order to ameliorate the shock or the pressure and the population.
The other areas of interventions that we have done as a government is to partner with the World Bank to subsidize the cost of living or the most vulnerable segment through cash transfers that came in very handy and supported the most vulnerable segment of society in the rural community. But overall, we can say that the intervention of partners like the World Bank has supported a large investment in energy sector, which we believe, upon completion, we will attain global energy sufficiency by 2035. That is the energy roadmap. It is a challenge. We are not out of the woods yet, and we still believe that we need to partner more with development partners in order to weather the storm.
[19:09] Paul Blake: You're listening to a special Annual Meetings edition of The Development Podcast, from the World Bank Group. Now, some of the big economic issues posed by inflation and other global economic pressures were discussed in another event, this time on financial inclusion and the alarming increases in poverty rates seen since the COVID-19 pandemic. The event, Inclusive Growth: The Key to a Lasting Recovery, explored the setbacks in poverty reduction and how the World Bank and others can reverse the trend. Let's hear from Karima Ola, partner at LeapFrog Investments. Karima leads LeapFrog's African financial services investment team where she's driven landmark investments including into one of the largest pension providers in Nigeria.
Karima Ola: A big part of the reason, for example, that we've seen digital use come off a bit is actually because there's also an affordability crisis going on at the same time. High interest rates are happening in countries that are actually high import countries when it comes to their essential goods. And so what you're seeing is that when you've got the conversion and you've got, especially for small micro-businesses or low income consumers who are LeapFrog's sort of target consumer, their basket of goods just now cost 20 to 30, in some cases 50%, higher than they did a year ago. So what you've got is you've got COVID, you've got the impact of the Ukraine War, and in terms of the cost of wheat, which is a staple amongst many countries in Africa. And then in addition to that, you've then got conversion. Debt levels went up post COVID, and with that debt levels going up, you've got inflation.
So one is you've got your Eurobond or your foreign currency debt as a country is basically now costing substantially more. And that's using up the Forex preserves. And that's basically putting some pressure on FX, which if you are in a country like Nigeria where a lot of food and essential goods get imported, it's impacting. And so what we're seeing is as a result of that, while digital has been crucial to financial inclusion, data usage is expensive. So the data infrastructure is still very expensive. And so we carried out a survey of some of the customers of some of our portfolio companies recently, and what we found is people, they use it once a day. They turn it off for most of the days.
And then on the climate side, we can't talk about inclusive growth without talking about climate, because then path to net zero is one which impacts different people differently. And in Africa, which is currently, I think it's about 3% its global carbon footprint, and that compares to 17% of the world population. What you're seeing is that in Africa is where we're at the core face as it were when it comes to the impact. So extreme weather conditions which impact agriculture. And as we all know, agriculture touches the lives of 70% of the population across the board. So what we are seeing is that there is an element of climate impacting and agriculture and agricultural yields and that's impacting income. And I think as we look to the future as well, I think there is an element that we have to think through how, when we think about climate, there has to be a just transition that enables development to happen at the same time that we can have an investment in clean technology.
Paul Blake: Well, moving forward from the pandemic and focusing on sustainability and speed of a response were two of the points made by Lawrence Summers, former US Treasury Secretary and President emeritus of Harvard University, in the same event on inclusive growth. He's also a former World Bank chief economist.
Lawrence Summers: I think the needs of this moment compel us, over the next decade, to think not in the billions but in the trillions. And I think we need to hold ourselves to a standard not of asking whether we're doing good things and more good things than we used to, but whether we're doing enough good things relative to the immense global challenge and the immense global opportunity. There has not been a moment with the revolutions in what's happened to the price of solar energy, with the revolutions that artificial intelligence and information technology are making possible. That's what all your digital work has been about, David. There has not been a moment when there was so great an opportunity to invest resources on a large scale in promoting the development of the countries where the vast majority of the world's population lived.
[24:07] Paul Blake: Lawrence Summers there in conversation with David Malpass. Now, Makhtar Diop, managing director at the IFC, sat down with Slawomir Krupa, future CEO at Societe Generale, to hone in on the potential to crowd in private finance for green transitions in developing countries during a session titled, Investing in People and Planet: Financing the Low-carbon, Resilient Transition. This event looked in depth at how in this time of strange resources and overlapping crises, countries can get the financing they need to tackle climate change.
Makhtar Diop: We, first of all, think in terms of the emerging country's transition, energy transition about the size of the challenge. You have, in terms of existing emissions, obviously a very low proportion in emerging countries, 25% roughly if we compare that to the average per capita emission in developed countries. But in terms of the growth over the next two decades, you have an expectation at current policies and current projections of a growth of five gigatons of emissions when developed countries will probably go down by two and China and the rest of the world will remain flat. Meaning there's no way we reach our goals for sustainable development and energy transition for the world if we don't do more in emerging countries. And this creates a need for multiplying by seven, the investments and the financing that goes with it in emerging countries to reach over a trillion dollars annually.
And so this creates a massive need for capital. And the main roadblocks is how do we make sure that we bridge the funds that are available in the private market, the private capital, with the investment needs? Today, it's difficult because the financing gap, in terms of some of the specific risk that the private capital is not willing to take, is too wide to really address that kind of need.
And so I think one of the biggest roadblocks is, how do we bridge the specific risks that you have in emerging countries, the political risk, the credit enhancements that are needed for the various projects, how do you make that happen? And then there's a whole list of regulatory issues, improvements in terms of the PPP framework, improvements in terms of the non-recourse financing frameworks, etcetera. But at the heart of it, how do we make sure that blended finance and your role there is potentially key, helps fund all these needs?
[27:01] Paul Blake: Well, another focus at the meetings was the loss of human capital, and in particular, the loss of schooling and training available for young people. Participants in an event called, At the Heart of a Resilient Future: Investing in Education for Our Children and Youth, discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has led to shocking learning losses following prolonged school closures and disruption. Over a billion young people have had their education and training opportunities interrupted while literacy rates have plunged in many developing countries. Samuel D. Tweah Jr is Liberia's Minister of Finance and Development Planning, and he gave his view on the urgency of this problem.
Samuel D. Tweah Jr: Education has a challenge that I can term as an invisibility challenge, and I think that's the same debate amongst economists, the role of human capital. Quite lengthily, I think in the 1950s, economists recognized that human capital is critical for transformation. So we think about land, physical capital machines. It's the same kind of thing happening in political economies. People see roads, people see transmission lines, there is no tangible quantifiable way to say, "Oh, students are not performing, I see that." People have to be made aware of that constantly. And so that's a visibility challenge, that's a communications challenge. In the post COVID era, we need to develop strategies to bring policy makers to that awareness that human capital today is as fundamentally important as electricity infrastructure. We are still not there. So finance ministers are thinking more in terms of things that they see, and less about things that they really don't see because returns on capital will not happen in one year. That's a challenge.
Return on education is going to happen in a decade, you're going to see that, but a lot slower. It obtrudes beyond political cycles. Governments are elected for two year term. They may not be in office to see the return. So to get them to think generationally requires an innovative approach. And I think that's where we are going. In terms of teachers, look, teachers are indispensable. We have a large teacher gap right now in Liberia. We need about 6,000 more teachers in our schools. To fund them requires extraordinary amount of money, 45, $40 million a year.
Now I've just committed, not committed, I'm just proposing to commit through, because I want to be careful how I speak, but let's say Liberia comes over $50 million additional. Are we going to spend that on closing the teacher gap? Is that where the return is going to happen, or are we going to find a way and solve some of that problem?
So you see the challenge. So the teacher scaling problem, girls education, I think has to be prioritized more than it is currently. About half of the girls before COVID, this is before COVID, were dropping out a secondary school in Liberia. And that's a scary statistic. We want to turn that around. COVID has exacerbated that enrollment rate. All right?
And so it's just for me, an opportunity to really bring this to legislators and to policy makers in a way. Now, coming out of here, at least I have the pedigree to go to my legislators and say, "Look, I was on the panel with the World Bank President and I made a case for Liberia." The argument is that we have to invest more, and the President's already willing to do that. I can tell you one thing, I don't know about next year where we are spending a lot. But take a look at 2024 numbers in Liberia, you're going to see a dramatic difference in the size of the investment in education.
Paul Blake: Augustine Mayabi, the deputy director at the ministry of ICT Innovation and Youth Affairs in Kenya, explained how skills and re-skilling should be central to the conversation when discussing how to invest in human capital.
Augustine Mayabi: Quite a big segment of our youth find themselves in the informal self-employment. And as we speak today, the issue of employment is as old as mankind. And unless we sort it out in a proper way, we are bound to have the same problems that we are having in the world today. So I want to say one of the initiatives, basically because of time, one of the initiatives that we can put in place is investing in skills development. What do I mean here? We ensure that the formal training we do, the classroom training, work hand in hand with the skills so that when a trainee or a learner finishes school, he already has the skills. I'm talking about creative skills, critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, skills which can enable any learner, even if he drops out along the way, he's able to get employment. That's one of the initiatives.
The second initiative is inclusivity of all stakeholders. And here, I mean the private sector, the public, the employers, the educational planners, and even those in tertiary institutions, must come together to forecast skills. We forecast weather, we say it'll rain, it will be dry, it will be windy, and therefore, we plan. So we also need to plan for education, which skills will we require in the coming three or four years? We had COVID, it's gone. We might have another pandemic. Have we planned for that pandemic? So we need to do, like weathermen, forecast the skills we require. Those who are employed have certain skills, but as the world keeps on changing, do we give them new skills? So there is need to reskill. Even the youth who are informal and self-employment, some of them could not have gone to school. They have no formal training. They need skills because they end up in vulnerable jobs. So we have to reskill and give them skills that will enable them run their businesses and wherever they're employed to make those skills, make them more employable. So there is need to reskill.
The other issue that we'll handle is the issue of productivity. How do we increase productivity among those youth who are informal in self-employment? We need to have affirmative programs. In Kenya, we have a program known as AGPO, which is Access to Government Procurement Opportunities, which means trading with the government, 30% is set aside for youth, women and person living with disabilities. This enables them to do business with government. They can do tendering. They've trained how to get the tenders, how to form companies, and how to be able to tender for those businesses and run them.
[33:30] Paul Blake: The War in Ukraine was an ever present issue throughout the Annual Meetings. The impact of the Russian invasion has reached every corner of the globe in some way. In this event, the Second Ministerial Roundtable Discussion for Support to Ukraine, a panel including Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelensky, discussed the economic commitments of the international community to ensure continuity of vital services such as healthcare and education. Here's President Zelensky.
Volodymyr Zelensky: At this time, we have two key financial needs of the country. That's $38 billion to make up for the deficit of our budget for next year. That includes salaries of doctors and teachers, social payments and pensions. That's guarantees of Ukrainian people survival. And other $17 billion that were verified by the World Bank and needed to rebuild the critical infrastructure in the RDNA framework. Those are schools, hospitals, critical transport and energy infrastructure, also damaged housing. In fact, all that became Russia's priority targets for their strikes.
We need also targeted credits in the amount of $2 billion to rebuild the electric energy infrastructure after the destruction and to expand our export to Europe. Also, taken into account the crisis situation created by Russia all across the continent, we need credit limits to purchase gas and coal for the future heating season. The scope of this year's support should be not less than $5 billion. Perhaps we will not have to use those limits, but they need to be made in order to guarantee stability.
Paul Blake: And Janet Yellen, US Treasury Secretary, spoke of the importance of a coordinated response.
Janet Yellen: As Russia's shameful actions continue, we must continue our joint efforts and begin planning for Ukraine's needs in 2023. To this point, we welcome the World Bank's rapid damage and needs assessment and the upcoming IMF validation of Ukraine's budget to help anchor donor coordination. Meeting Ukraine's needs will require a unified and coordinated effort, but together the G7, the international financial institutions and all of Ukraine's partners can help Ukraine win this war and rebuild to become the prosperous and secure democracy that the Ukrainian people have fought so hard for.
[36:21] Paul Blake: Well, that was only a snapshot of the important discussions available on World Bank Live. I do hope you enjoyed them. I'm Paul Blake. This was The Development Podcast from the World Bank Group. We'll be back soon. And in our next episode, we'll be focusing on those poverty numbers mentioned in this edition, and asking why has the world seen an alarming uptick in poverty rates? What can be done to reverse the trend? Do join us then.
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