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CGD in the News

April 8, 2019

Opinion: 5 priorities for the World Bank's new leader (Devex)

From the article:

Despite critical commentary about his professional credentials and commitment to the multilateral system, David Malpass has been elected unopposed as the next president of the World Bank. Complaints about the outdated gentlemen’s agreement that led to this appointment will soon be overshadowed by Malpass’ initial signals on where he wants to lead this still globally important development institution.

During his campaign, Malpass said some of the right things but was silent on other priorities for the World Bank. To win the support of all his 189 members, Malpass must now unambiguously endorse the bank’s role in helping the world meet five challenges.

First, he must prioritize support for Africa’s development and integration into the world economy. The central development challenge for the next two decades is to help Africa deal with its demographic, environmental, and developmental challenges. The success or failure of this endeavor will determine the future of the 2.5 billion people who will inhabit the continent by 2050 — with major spillovers for every other region.

The World Bank is already the largest multilateral financier of Africa’s development, but it can play an even stronger role to facilitate a more coherent approach by Africa’s other large development partners — including the European Union and China.

Second, he must help middle-income countries make the right development choices. Emerging markets and middle-income countries will increasingly drive global growth. Their new infrastructure’s sustainability will define how livable our planet will be for the next century. Their economic success will provide expanded markets for global exports and jobs around the globe. And they are home to women, minorities, and other vulnerable groups who struggle with basic numeracy and literacy, lack human security, and live in fear of slipping back into absolute poverty. It would be a missed opportunity of historic proportions for the World Bank to watch these developments from the sidelines.

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February 26, 2019

The Future of Work in the Developing World (Institute for Social Science Research)

Center for Global Development President, Masood Ahmed, delivered a public lecture at The University of Queensland, hosted by the Institute for Social Science Research, together with the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, School of Social Science, and the Sustainable Minerals Institute.

Click here to watch!

February 5, 2019

World Bank leadership search likely to end with US candidate -- again (AFP)

From the article:

The search for a new leader for one of the most high-profile global organizations begins Thursday and seems likely to end again with selection of the US candidate.

The Washington-based World Bank has been led by an American ever since it was founded in the aftermath of World War II, while its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund, has always been led by a European.

Growing emerging market countries have challenged this unwritten arrangement in recent years, demanding a more open, merit-based selection process, and a greater voice in the institutions themselves. But it is unlikely they can build sufficient opposition to the candidate put forward by US President Donald Trump, nor is Trump likely to cede a prominent position on the global stage.

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Masood Ahmed, who had a long career at the World Bank and IMF, was more diplomatic, saying that a controversial candidate with well-known views would have a harder time getting support of the members.

Ahmed, president of the Center for Global Development in Washington, said "whoever it is, it's important that it is a person who can forge that consensus and get the confidence of all the shareholders."

But he warned the continued adherence to the decades-old hold on the leadership of the World Bank and IMF, rather than relying on a "truly merit-based" process, "ends up eroding a little further the legitimacy and credibility of the organization."

Picked up by France24

October 11, 2018

Fragile state: World Bank poverty target rests on weakest economies (GlobalCapital)

By Phil Thornton

From the article:

In the quarter century from 1990 to 2015 more than 1.1bn people were pulled out of poverty. While almost half of this was down to the Chinese government’s economic revolution that pushed 500m people above the basic poverty level of $1.25 a day, it is still hailed as a victory for the development finance industry.

While this still leaves 14.5% of the population in poverty, it is huge progress compared with 1949 when US President Harry S Truman lamented that more than half the people in the world were living in “conditions approaching misery”.

Yet as senior World Bank executives and development ministers from around the world gather in Bali, they will be aware that they have a long way to go to achieve the Bank’s goal of reducing extreme poverty in the world to less than 3% by 2030.

Masood Ahmed, president of the Center for Global Development (CGDev) think tank and a former IMF director, says that the international financial community has not been able to make the progress people would expect.

He says there are good reasons for this. For one, fragile states are inherently much harder to engage with. Allied to this is the tendency of big institutions to talk to each other rather than to the other actors on the ground. “The international community does not have any framework for coordination among the range of actors that are engaged in different ways in a fragile state context.”

Ahmed also says that institutions find it hard not to apply the processes that work in more stable countries, which is especially hard for large institutions that are structured around having a uniform approach.

Read the full article here.

 

September 26, 2018

"Debt is not a Chinese problem, it is an African problem" (Le Monde Afrique)

By Jean-Louis Billon 

Note: Translated from French using Google Translate 

From the article:

How often when we talk about China in Africa, the clichés, the shortcuts and the lawsuits of intention are never far under cover of a legitimate debate on this new Sino-African situation. Debt is no exception. The announcement at the end of the 7th edition of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Beijing by a promise of 60 billion dollars (51 billion euros) for the development of Africa has much welcomed future recipients that worried the most skeptical about China's growing economic influence in Africa. A thorny subject both for its technical complexity and its very sensitive political dimension. 

According to Masood Ahmed, chairman of the think-tank Center for Global Development, China's share has now exceeded the total of the Paris Club, the World Bank and all regional development banks in the debt of poor countries between 2013 and 2016. According to the China Africa Research Initiative, a research laboratory hosted by Johns Hopkins University, at least $ 132 billion has been borrowed by African states since 2000. 

Read the full article here.

 

September 20, 2018

Interview - Christine Lagarde, Managing director, International Monetary Fund (Africa Report)

By Patrick Smith 

From the article: 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) cannot win – it is either doing too much or too little for critics’ liking. Once the world’s most powerful financial institution, by the 1970s and 1980s it had become the key arbiter of developing countries’ economic continence. Those governments that defied its precepts were ordered, discreetly or otherwise, to rethink their policies – on pain of exclusion from the league of financially responsible countries. 

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Against that backdrop, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde speaks to The Africa Report,  defending her institution’s role and explaining how it was trying to stop the debt crisis from spreading. She acknowledges the need for a sharp improvement in data collection and working more closely with civil society to feed into more effective national surveillance and lending programmes. 

Resolving this new crisis, and stopping more countries from being dragged into its vortex, will draw in many more players than the HIPC scheme. For example, between 2013 and 2016, China’s share of the debt owed by poor countries surpassed the total held by the Paris Club, the World Bank and all the regional development banks, according to Masood Ahmed, president of the Center for Global Development think tank. 

Read the full article here.

July 23, 2018

From Day One: Malawi President Joyce Banda on Girls Ages 0-10 (New Security Beat)

By Yuval Cohen

“Over 130 million girls around the world are not in school through no fault of their own,” said Her Excellency Joyce Banda, former president of the Republic of Malawi, at the launch of her new book, From Day One: Why Supporting Girls Aged O to 10 Is Critical to Change Africa’s Path, at the Center for Global Development.

“Girls and women are one of our continent’s most valuable assets,” said Banda, who was a Wilson Center Distinguished Fellow, “yet there are still many…bright, ambitious, village girls full of potential ready to become the kind of leaders that Africa needs so badly and does not get.” 

Read the full article here.

 

May 2, 2018

African Nations Slipping Into New Debt Crisis (Financial Times)

From the article:
 
Sub-Saharan Africa is slipping into a new debt crisis, with 40 per cent of the region’s countries now at high risk of debt distress — double the proportion of five years ago.
 
With the number of countries already unable to service their debts doubling in the past year to eight, officials at the IMF are urging all African countries to raise taxes to provide more scope for paying interest, which has increased to levels last experienced at the start of the century. 
 
The officials caution that any debt relief required in future is set to be much more difficult than in the past because most recent lending has come from commercial sources less amenable to debt forgiveness than are national governments. 
 
Masood Ahmed, president of the Center for Global Development, a development think-tank, said the region’s increased debt had been facilitated by commercial lenders searching for higher-yielding assets. Mr. Ahmed led the World Bank’s Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative in the 1990s — a programme that significantly reduced debt burdens. 
 
“While debt ratios are still below the levels that led to HIPC, the risks are higher because much more of the debt is on commercial terms with higher interest rates, shorter maturities and more unpredictable lender behaviour than the traditional multilaterals,” he said.
 
April 20, 2018

A Debt Crisis Seems To Have Come Out Of Nowhere (NPR)

 

From the article:

It's a problem that has come seemingly out of nowhere. Over the last five years a worrisome number of low income countries have racked up so much debt they are now at high risk of being unable to pay it back — with potentially devastating consequences not just for their economies but for their citizens, many of whom are already living in extreme poverty.
 
That's the sobering finding of a report by the IMF. And it's got some prominent experts calling for urgent action. Among them is Masood Ahmed. Twenty years ago, as a top official at the International Monetary Fund, he spearheaded a historic agreement to wipe the slate clean for 36 poor countries that were being crushed by their loan interest and repayment bills. NPR spoke with Ahmed — who is now president of the Washington-DC think tank Center for Global Development — to find out how this latest debt debacle was set in motion, why it has him so alarmed, and what can be done to avert it. (This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.)
 
Just how far and how fast has this problem spread?
 
To get a sense, says Ahmed, consider that of the 59 countries the IMF classifies as "low-income developing countries," 24 are now either in a debt crisis or at high risk of tipping into one. "That's 40 percent of poor countries," says Ahmed, "and it's nearly double the number five years ago."
 
Those in most trouble include two countries that have already defaulted on some of their loans: the Republic of Congo and Mozambique. Ahmed notes that these are not loans taken out by individual citizens. "This is money borrowed by governments," he says. "So the definition of a debt crisis is that they are not able to meet their obligations. They are already unable to pay the interest on their debt or to keep to the repayment schedule they had agreed to."
 
Four more countries are also already considered in "debt distress" because even though they haven't outright defaulted they've reached a point where they are making only intermittent loan payments or cutting deep into their operations budget to pay off their debt. These are Chad, Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Zimbabwe. The remaining 16 are considered at high risk of falling into debt distress soon based on the IMF's analysis of the amount of debt they've taken on compared to how much income their economies can actually be expected to generate in the near future. These too are mostly countries in sub-Saharan Africa such as Ghana, Zambia and the Central African Republic. But the list also includes seven nations from other regions, such as Afghanistan, Haiti, Tajikistan and Yemen.
 

Read the full article here.

January 18, 2018

Sturgeon Joins International Health Policy Taskforce (BBC)

From the article:

Nicola Sturgeon has been invited to join an international health taskforce which aims to save "millions of lives".
 
The 13-strong group was set up by billionaire Michael Bloomberg to promote policies to tackle obesity and alcohol and tobacco consumption.
 
...other members include President Tabaré Vázquez of Uruguay, Norwegian health minister Bent Høie, Masood Ahmed, president of the Centre for Global Development, former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark, and former WHO director general Margaret Chan.
 

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