At the dawn of the twenty-first century, Africa is at a crossroads. It must quickly select the path it wishes to follow. 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 does indeed have a choice. On one hand, it can allow the forces of implosion and ethnic warfare to become the masters of its fate, to the advantage of a few potentates lacking in vision or warlords with transient alliances. Thus, history would repeat itself, with all the suffering that this entails, and this old continent will be at the mercy of all types of corruption. Africa would be stripped of the wealth of its soil and the promise of its youth and left marginalized, adrift in the wake of history.
It is great to be here today among friends and kindred spirits. The National Democratic Institute is a passionate advocate for the full participation of women in the life of nations. I admire you…I salute you…I am with you.
Well, friends, you can imagine that I am a bit overwhelmed by what I have just heard. I had the impression that you were talking about somebody else, Christine. But let me thank you for this kind introduction and, also, for the pleasure of being back here at the Fund. It’s like coming home, a very warm and welcome home.
It is a great honor to be here to deliver this year’s Stavros Niarchos Lecture. I would like to thank Adam Posen and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation for so kindly inviting me— and a special thanks to Larry Summers for his warm words of introduction.
This paper explores how poor countries might take advantage of globalization to raise their living standards and converge toward the advanced economies. The poor country, which has cheap labor and inadequate capital, acquires the supe¬rior technology that the rich country has. With everyone rationally expecting greater things in the poor country, investment there takes off. People in the rich country save more to invest and take advantage of the new higher returns in the poor country. The poor country runs a substantial current account deficit and imports needed capital that the rich country happily, and profit¬ably, provides. The developing countries showed limited willingness and capacity to open up to competition. They had only a limited ability to attract foreign investment. The IMF ended up studying why some members failed to progress despite prolonged use of IMF resources. The Philippines, for example, had about 20 nearly consecutive IMF lending programs.
The Group of Seven/Group of Eight Summit will be held in Birmingham next week. High on the Summit agenda will be the issue of how to renovate the architecture of the international financial system in the face of the tremendous changes under way in the global economy. The Asian crisis has been so unexpected in many of its aspects, so broad, so cruel in its human consequences that—even before the crisis has run its full course—the leaders of the world want to embark on the design of a new architecture. This is certainly the right thing to do, and the venue of this meeting could hardly be more fitting. Like many other cities in advanced countries, Birmingham has experienced the forces of change in the global economy firsthand—from the loss of traditional industries to the challenge of finding new employment opportunities. Moreover, two centuries ago, this city was at the heart of the Industrial Revolution, an era that, like our own, was a time of extremely rapid change. At that time, intellectuals of all schools of thought used to meet frequently in Birmingham—every full moon, I understand—and bring their reflections to bear on the challenges of their new world. This was the so-called Lunar Society, which included such personalities as Matthew Boulton, James Watt, Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles), and William Small—a friend of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, all with wide-ranging interests, all sharing a sense of optimism and responsibility for building a better world. Imagine what a blessing it would be if the G-7/G-8—our new Birmingham group—were to be inspired by such an example when dealing with their pressing agenda!
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak to you, the business leaders of Southeast Asia, at this critical moment in the region’s economy. The crisis that began in Thailand has now shaken a number of other economies in the region, and its aftershocks have been felt as far away as Latin America and eastern Europe. Countries that have been accustomed to, in some cases, decades of high growth now face the prospect of a marked slowdown in economic activity. This has prompted some observers to suggest that perhaps the so-called Asian miracle was only a “mirage.”