World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick unveiled a new research plan and slogan for the World Bank in Gaston Hall on Wednesday morning before an audience of students and faculty.
School of Foreign Service Dean Carol Lancaster introduced Zoellick to a less-than-full Gaston, though more students trickled in throughout the lecture.
In her introduction, Lancaster noted the importance of Zoellick’s role in world affairs, especially in the buildup to the World Bank meetings set to take place in Washington, D.C., Oct. 8 to 10.
The World Bank, according to its mission statement, seeks to reduce poverty worldwide by furthering what their website characterizes as sustainable and inclusive globalization.
Zoellick invoked George Bernard Shaw, playwright and co-founder of the London School of Economics, at the outset of his speech. “If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion,” he quipped.
“Economics has contributed significantly to how we understand our world,” Zoellick said. “But economics doesn’t always get it right.”
Zoellick emphasized the need for a global economic dialogue.
“One of the things we’re trying to do more broadly at the [World] Bank is capture [much] of the knowledge and experiences we have from people in the developed world but broaden the set of people asking these questions and how we think about them,” Zoellick said.
He added that he believed the need for an economic agenda that includes the input of people from across the globe was accentuated by the pressures of today’s economic crises.
“Indeed, [economics] can get things spectacularly wrong,” he said, pointing to the 2007 subprime mortgage crisis as an example of just how flawed economics with a limited scope can be.
Zoellick framed his argument and the basis of the World Bank’s new strategy in the history of development economics and its recent failures, which he attributed to too narrow a focus in the field.
For example, he said, in the 1950s,
economists believed that all emerging markets needed was an injection of capital and even today, China and India have serious concerns regarding agriculture and infrastructure even though they are becoming market leaders. He also cited the likely failure to meet many of the Millennium Development Goals, quantitative measures adopted by world leaders in 2000 to eradicate world poverty by 2015.
These shortcomings, Zoellick said, require a radical re-examination of some of the most basic principles of development economics, including a better understanding of “economic transformation,” a push for inclusive development, and a comprehensive plan to deal with economic risks.
The speech also revealed a new slogan for the World Bank’s research: “Open Data, Open Knowledge, Open Solutions.”
The bespectacled Zoellick became markedly more animated after he had finished his prepared remarks, and he responded first to a question from Lancaster about the “revolutionary” nature of his speech, which advocated a fundamentally different and ostensibly controversial open-source approach to developmental economics.”