- Alassane Ouattara
- Published Date:
- September 1999
Cover design: Luisa Menjivar-Macdonald Composition: Julio R. Prego
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For countries the world over, development is taking place in a new context. Globalized and integrated financial markets are now the norm, complete with their tremendous opportunities—the chance to quicken the pace of investment, job creation, and growth—and, of course, some inevitable risks. As the 1997-98 financial crisis in Asia brought home, countries can no longer operate in isolation; those with good economic policies stand to be rewarded by the markets, but those with poor policies must bear the consequences.
How should countries navigate these new uncharted waters? That is the question that lies at the heart of the new policy debate—a debate that is punctuated with terms such as transparency, accountability, good governance, consensus, participation, and above all, solidarity. At the global level, the international community is working hard to shape a new financial system that can better weather future onslaughts. Now with the crisis of the last few years abating, another key question arises: What does all this debate and activity mean for developing countries, especially those in Africa, who have yet to truly realize the benefits of globalization?
In this collection of commentaries, Alassane D. Ouattara—who recently stepped down from his position as IMF Deputy Managing Director—explores these questions with the insight of someone who has spent his professional life at the intersections of economics, public policy, and national and international diplomacy.
Africa has known him as the Governor of the Central Bank of West African States (1988–90), during which time he played a major role in resolving a serious banking crisis and in creating an effective regional banking sector commission. This experience would serve him well when the IMF was called upon in 1997 to help Asia weather its financial crisis. Africa has also known him as the Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire (1990–93), during which time he instituted a transition toward a more open and transparent political regime and made major strides toward strengthening the economic and social position of the country.
The IMF has known him for 14 years, as he has moved, in various incarnations, from Economist to Director of the African Department, to Counsellor, to Deputy Managing Director. I, personally, have had the privilege of knowing him as a trusted counsellor and friend. He leaves a major legacy of accomplishment that has deeply improved the IMF and no doubt touched the lives of innumerable people.
What is his counsel for developing countries, and in particular Africa, at the dawn of a new millennium? Let me offer a few highlights from this collection.
In his speech to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), he reminds us that sound macroeconomic policies must be a top priority, and that these policies must be supported by transparency and accountability. He also reminds us that policies at the country and global level must be mutually reinforcing; industrial countries meeting the more outward-oriented policies of developing countries with greater openness around the world.
In his commentary in the Brown Journal of World Affairs, he describes Africa as at a crossroads: either the continent takes its destiny squarely into its own hands, or it leaves the shaping of its future to chance or to special interests. Africa has much to be proud of, as the past 10 years have seen a great deal of economic progress. But there is still much to be done if Africa is to raise living standards and make a real dent in poverty. The agenda must include adopting bold structural reforms, and building a social consensus for reform through economic security, good governance, and a better dialogue with civil society.
In his Berlin address, he suggests that development rests on three pillars: good economic policy; a conducive legal and political environment; and attention to equitable social development. He focuses on the political dimensions of economic reform, exploring answers to the proper role of the state in the modern world; the necessary institutional framework for proper policy formulation and implementation; the needed capacity to formulate and implement policy; and the proper role of other groups in the society.
Finally, in his speech to the First Conference of Ministers of Economy and Finance of French-Speaking Countries, he argues that developing countries cannot escape globalization, and indeed, that they should embrace it. He also supports regional integration as a stepping stone toward full integration, highlighting the experiences of French-speaking countries, a path he has personally traveled.
Alassane Ouattara has invariably argued that the decisive changes for the better—for any country—must come from within. In the end, a country holds its destiny in its own hands, whatever the importance of international solidarity and whatever the contribution of international organizations. Through its own efforts, it makes the decisive difference. For that reason, he now leaves the IMF to once again serve his own country. We wish him well.