Zambian Finance Minister Hon. Alexander Chikwanda recently returned home after a hectic five days of “back to back” 2013 IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings held in Washington DC.
The Minister dubbed the meetings as “highly successful and fruitful”. He had joined other Finance Ministers from around the world in order to discuss global economic developments and ways to boost recovery. The meetings were held between 15th-22nd April, 2013.
The Spring Meetings were also attended by Secretary to the Treasury Mr. Fredson Yamba, Permanent Secretary (Economic Management and Finance), Mr. Felix Nkulukusa, Governor of the Bank of Zambia (BOZ), Mr. Michael Gondwe, other officials from the Ministry of Finance and Bank of Zambia. From the Embassy of the Republic of Zambia in Washington DC was His Excellency Palan Mulonda and his staff.
Others included thousands of government officials from around the world, the private sector, civil society organizations, participants from the academia and journalists.
They all gathered for the joint IMF/World Bank Development Committee and the IMF’s International Monetary and Financial Committee meetings that discussed progress on the work of the World Bank and the IMF.
As Chair of the World Bank Africa Group 1 Constituency, Hon. Chikwanda started his busy schedule with a meeting whose Constituency comprises twenty-two (22) countries – Botswana, Burundi, Eretria, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe to prepare for his participation in the Development Committee meeting of which he is a Member representative.
As is tradition, the meeting started with a welcome address to the Development Committee by the President of the World Bank Group, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, and later stressed the World Banks goal to end extreme global poverty in poor and developing nations by 2030.
In his address, he emphasized the World Bank’s focus should be to ensure that the poorest benefitted from strong growth and rising prosperity arising in developing nations.
“For the first time in history, we have committed to setting a target to end poverty. We are no longer dreaming of a world free of poverty; we have set an expiration date for extreme poverty,” he said.
Dr. Jim Yong Kim further said the new World Bank’s target was aimed to guide the work of the institution and coincided with efforts by the United Nations to draw up a post-2015 poverty strategy to replace existing goals.
The IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde added her voice to the address and said there was no better opportunity for developing countries that were growing strong to tackle extreme poverty.
According to her, the timing was everything and the global economic recovery was proceeding at what she termed ‘a three-speed recovery’ with strong growth in emerging and developing countries.
Ms. Lagarde added that the IMF would step up its policy advice to developing countries on managing natural resources, on how to create jobs and on financial sector development and subsidies.
And later,speaking on behalf of the Africa Group 1 Constituency, Finance Minister, Hon. Chikwanda started by thanking the World Bank President for his leadership in spearheading an ambitious but important reform initiative. He also stated that the Constituency Group 1 looked forward to working with Dr.Jim Yong Kim to strengthen the collaboration with the World Bank Group.
He pointed out that the Constituency Group 1 welcomed the Bank’s vision that was aimed at transforming the Bank from a ‘Knowledge Bank’ to a ‘Solution Bank’ adding, “We find the Bank’s Modernization Agenda very timely and look forward to the forthcoming World Bank Group Strategy.”
Hon. Chikwanda further reiterated the call for the Bank to embrace large transformational infrastructure projects in the energy, agriculture and nutrition, transportation and other related sectors. He observed that the projects had great potential for substantive job creation, better living conditions and general human development.
Referring to the 2013 Global Monitoring Report, the Finance Minister noted that many of the member countries would not meet most of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and called for the continued and enhanced support from the World Bank and other development partners.
He noted the ongoing consultations on the Post-2015 Agenda that focused on education, with emphasis on learning outcomes rather than mere access to education stressing that for some of the member, education remained critical and therefore deserved equal attention.
The Hon Minister also said member countries strongly support the maintenance of the International Development Association (IDA) regional window for transformational investments in Sub-Saharan Africa and called for a strong IDA 17 replenishment for the realization of the Bank’s mission of reducing extreme poverty.
In March 2013, the World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved an IDA credit of US$89.4 million to support efforts to boost food and farm productivity in Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. Of this amount, Zambia received US$29.8 million (KR150 million)
It was in this regard that the Hon. Minister reiterated his call for the setting up of a Project Preparation Fund to support the transformative regional solutions needed to sustain the development drive in member countries and urged development partners to honor their previous pledges while IDA was looking for new resources.
Against this background, much more needs to be done to realize significant reduction in unemployment and poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa, he said, adding, “Thus we need to work together more responsively, timely and effectively to achieve our common vision of ending poverty and promoting shared prosperity. This is consistent with our call for a strong IDA 17 replenishment.”
The writer Ben Kangwa is Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of the Republic of Zambia in Washington DC