No earthquakes at this year’s Annual Meetings


Written by Christina Chang

I just sat through a very minor earthquake. But only literally, setting the set furniture for the BBC Global Debate wobbling gently. Metaphorical earthquakes are sadly thin on the ground at these Tokyo 2012 Annual Meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

In light of the rather depressing report of the latest IMF report on the state of the world economy, the BBC was looking for answers particularly from Christine Lagarde (IMF President) and Wolfgang Schauble (German Finance Minister).

New ideas were pretty thin on the ground, and most of the debate centred around what kind of austerity was best. Austerity was the only option, the argument ran, because markets didn’t have confidence otherwise and the public purse couldn’t afford stimulus measures. Nobody questioned whether the public purse – or better put, taxpayers – should always pay the price.  Whatever happened to questions about mechanisms for a fairer workout mechanism for sovereign debt (surely some of those creditors to Greece understood the risks?) or making the financial sector pay a fairer share?

But new directions from these old institutions are hard won. Take the World Bank. CAFOD held a discussion this morning with the Bank and several critics of its pet publication – the Doing Business Report – where the Bank did listen to concerns about proving development impacts and one-size-fits-all policies, but didn’t really question the assumptions of a framework for regulatory reform that might have delivered some growth, but hadn’t created enough decent jobs or done much to ensure companies had positive impacts on human rights or paying fair taxes.

As Geoffrey Chongo economic analyst at CAFOD partner, JCTR explained, in Zambia, a decade and a half of growth has not dented high poverty rates and has been accompanied by companies exporting most of their profits and abusing workers.

Those are all issues that preoccupy most politicians and serious thinkers since the 2008 financial crisis. The World Bank has taken them on to an extent in the latest World Development Report (on the subject of jobs) and in last night’s address by new President Jim Yong Kim to civil society – but the Bank is a large ship to turn around, and parts of it have some catching up to do.

For more reading see Tina’s latest article in the Huffington Post:

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