Mr. Chairman, Governors, honored guests, it is a pleasure to welcome you to these meetings on behalf of the International Monetary Fund. I would like to extend a special welcome to my new colleague Paul Wolfowitz. Paul’s qualifications are strong. His distinguished career as a diplomat and public servant were very well known. What was less well known in some circles when he took office was his deep commitment to development, which was again so evident in his excellent speech today. Welcome, Paul.
Let me welcome all of you to the Czech Republic and to Prague. My welcome extends to the official participants in the Annual Meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group, to all business people, bankers, economists, political scientists, environmentalists, thinkers, journalists, and, indeed, to all people of good will who have come here because this is an occasion to discuss and possibly also to help determine our common future. This country and its capital city are greatly honored to be the venue of this major assembly, which brings together thousands of people from all countries and continents—including persons wielding a far-reaching influence—in the very year that the commonly used chronology views as a turn of ages. For us it means an honor, a joy, as well as a great challenge, and a major commitment. I trust that Prague—hosting such a gathering of a truly global significance for the first time in more than a thousand years of its history—will offer a good environment for the deliberations and will be reflected favorably both in the memory of its participants and in the history of global cooperation. Surely this city possesses certain historical prerequisites. Over the course of centuries—among other things because of its geographical position in the center of Europe—it has witnessed not only confrontations and conflicts but also creative encounters, mutual respect, reciprocal influence, and cooperation among various cultures; various peoples and ethnic groups; and various spiritual currents and social movements. This pluralism has helped to shape its visage. It would be good if, after decades of oppression, of life without freedom, of bent backs, and of imposed isolation, we succeeded in rediscovering this ancient tradition and offered this city as a congenial setting for the world’s open debate about itself.
Thank you very much, Secretary Summers, President Wolfensohn, Chairman Acharya, Director Camdessus, Vice President Fall, Secretary Anjaria. Let me begin by saying how very grateful I am to be here with all of you. I appreciate the generous introduction. Some of you may have heard me say this before, but the introduction that Secretary Summers just gave me is an illustration of one of my unbending laws of political life: whenever possible, be introduced by someone you have appointed to high office. It is much easier, because he has done such a superb job, and I thank him.