On October 5th 2020, we had the honour to welcome David Malpass, President of the World Bank and Dr. Jens Weidmann, President of the Bundesbank, virtually at Frankfurt School. The purpose of the event was to discuss the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people and the challenge of building a resilient and inclusive global recovery.
As every autumn in Frankfurt, it was getting cooler and there was a continuous rain. That day however, there was a little bit of sunshine though as we heard the friendly voice of our moderator from Trinidad and Tobago. Ms. Asiya Mohammed, the founder and CEO of Conflict Women, Ltd. and a Frankfurt School Alum was sharing Caribbean rays of sunshine through her smile and warm words, while we made the last preparations. We took our places behind the scenes of the studio set up in the AI-Lab.
Mr. Malpass and Dr. Weidmann joined the Zoom session. Seeing two world leaders greet each other with warm words like old friends, gave me a better feeling in this crazy world. I was keen to hear what they had to say about the topic which has captured our attention over the last months. Together with Mr. Malpass, Dr. Weidmann, and Professor Stieglitz we were trying to better understand the impact of the crisis, especially on lesser-developed countries. Most importantly though we had come together to talk about innovative solutions and to set the stage for the World Bank Groups Annual Meeting, starting on October 12th.
Dr. Weidmann opened with a reference to a statement by Mr. Malpass.
“As everyone here knows, addressing inequalities and realizing an inclusive and sustainable world requires jobs, education, healthcare, attention to the environment, and robust commerce – trade among neighbors and nations.”
Dr. Weidmann talked about jobs, education and environmentalism. He stressed the lifeliong disadvantage many people, who have missed months of education, might now have.
Mr. Malpass set the focus of his speech on health systems, education systems, and excessive debt. He describes the alarming rise of poverty and the threat it poses to social and political stability, especially to democracy. For me, the most striking aspect of his speech was the approach to the debt crisis. The excessive debt that countries face now will lead to never ending inequality. The people of the world’s poorest countries will have to pay their government’s debts as long as the creditors pursue claims. A “modern equivalent of debtor’s prison“ is created through inhumane financial behavior such as acquiring debt claims on secondary markets.
Mr. Malpass highlighted how the World Bank plans to reach extensive debt relief:
Mr. Malpass stressed the need for greater international cooperation and collective responsibility.
Covid-19 also made change more rapid. Trends that were prominent before came about in a faster manner than anyone ever imagined. In chaos, new things can be created. As a society, and seize opportunities from the disruption of Covid-19 and create a new normal that is fair for everyone. There is still a long way to go. Often it feels overwhelming. I think about how I, as an individual, could never effectively fight any of the challenges facing our world. However, on this day I heard from three people who rise to those challenges every day. I can’t wait to one day meet Mr. Malpass, Dr. Weidmann, and Ms. Mohammed in person to have longer and more detailed discussions with them
I am reminded that I study with people just like them. Those who will be the leaders of tomorrow and maybe I am even one of them.
Embrace the change.