A New Approach to Multilateralism During the Financial Crisis (By Invitation Only) |

A New Approach to Multilateralism During the Financial Crisis (By Invitation Only)

World Bank President Supports Greater Voice for Developing Nations, Fewer Conditions for Loans

by Natalia Olynec World Bank president Robert Zoellick said that Singapore’s unique development experience can be of great value to the developing world. Developing countries, most notably China and India, are facing large-scale challenges as millions of people move from rural areas to the cities.18dec08_09 “Countries across the world are struggling with the sheer scale of the urban challenge before them,” said Mr Zoellick. “The challenge is for governments to find sensible solutions to managing the increased demand for land, water, and jobs while ensuring that the cities remain livable and socially cohesive,” he added. Zoellick spoke to a packed audience of more than 300 people at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy on 18th December. Responding to a rapid volley of questions from a panel of students who shared the stage with him along with the Dean of the LKY School, Kishore Mahbubani in a dialogue, Zoellick said the Bank is addressing key criticisms it faces such as the underrepresentation of developing countries. The World Bank is giving representatives of developing countries a greater voice in decision making, he said. “I’ve appointed eight officers, seven of which are from the developing world,” he said, highlighting the appointment of Justin Lin from China as chief economist. He also mentioned that the Bank has reduced the number of conditions countries must fulfill to receive loans. The recent global financial crisis has increased the demand for quick economic solutions, he said. “We have a faster paced demand,” Zoellick said. “We have an economic crisis whose depth and scope are very difficult to assess.” Commenting on the food crisis, he said that although grain prices have fallen recently, the problem of malnutrition due to high food costs is still acute. “The world food problem is one that will come back and be with us,” he said. “When growth resumes, prices will rise. We must focus more on safety net systems for those in need.” Innovations such as giving developing countries access to long-range weather forecasting are possible tools to reduce malnutrition, he said. Zoellick said he is “deeply disappointed” the Doha round of trade talks has run aground. He said he’s concerned the current economic recession will lead to new waves of protectionism. Zoellick said he doesn’t believe in “decoupling logic” regarding world growth patterns. As recently as 1992, no one would have thought China and India would be growth drivers, he said. “Until September or October we saw multiple poles of growth in the international system,” he said. “One of the challenges in the World Bank is, can we help Africa become a pole of growth?” Zoellick signed a new agreement with Foreign Minister George Yeo to set up an urban hub in Singapore that would provide advice and technical assistance to developing countries on urban management, water and resource management, city financing and urban design. 18dec08_08 “You could not think of a better partner for the World Bank than Singapore,” Zoellick said. “Singapore has the ability to be an interconnecting point in the region. It is a wonderful testimony to the ongoing process of building a stronger international system. ” Zoellick also praised the Lee Kuan Yew School for providing leadership in the region. “This school really is a fantastic idea,” he said. “You have to have blinders on not to realize that Asia Pacific will be a critical part of world development and opportunities. The hardest challenges are the ones in public policy.” Multimedia Webcast | Photo Gallery

The global financial crisis and recent food and fuel price increases have prompted world leaders to rethink approaches to economic multilateralism. World Bank President Robert Zoellick will explore these new perspectives during a dialogue with faculty, students and invited guests at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy on Thursday, 18th December 2008.

The dialogue will be chaired and moderated by Prof. Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and Mr. Zoellick will address such issues as:
  • Did the recent G20 Washington Summit go far enough in identifying the causes of the current financial crisis and providing effective solutions?
  • How should we address the structural deficiencies, such as the under-representation of emerging economies, in the global financial architecture?
  • Should the Group of Seven be expanded and transformed into a steering group for the world economy?
  • Should economic multilateralism be redefined beyond its traditional focus on finance and trade to also include energy, climate change, and stabilising fragile and post-conflict states?
  • How will the World Bank Group’s package of reforms adopted at the Annual Meeting in October strengthen the influence of developing countries?
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Robert B. Zoellick, 11th President of the World Bank Group

Thursday, 18 December 2008
2.00 p.m. - 3.30 p.m.
Auditorium, Level 3, Block B, Faculty of Law, NUS Bukit Timah Campus, 469G Bukit Timah Road Singapore 259772

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