At the outset, let me take a moment to express my heartfelt sympathy to the victims of the horrific terror attack in Vienna on November 2 and to their families.
It is a pleasure for me to join today’s distinguished panelists to talk about building a better tomorrow even as we fight the pandemic today.
These are exceptional times that call for exceptional action. Since the start of the pandemic, the IMF has moved at an unprecedented speed to approve over $100 billion in financing, helping 81 countries ramp up emergency spending. We have also provided closely-integrated capacity development assistance to help strengthen institutions that can more effectively tackle the challenges brought by the pandemic. In fact, over 90 percent of countries that benefitted from emergency financing in recent months have received capacity development support through hands-on technical assistance, practical tools, and training.
As countries move to recovery, building strong institutions and enhancing capacity will remain paramount.
The focus will shift to polices that are necessary to boost growth, while maintaining macroeconomic stability. But the crisis also offers an opportunity to build forward better by tackling cross-cutting challenges such as inequality and climate change, while leveraging digitalization.
The crisis has without question put great demand on fiscal resources; and many countries confront rapidly rising debt levels and declining fiscal space.
Yet, generating stronger, more resilient and inclusive growth requires us to invest in the future. This means investing in people, by strengthening health systems and social protection systems, but also by boosting human capital and economic opportunity. And the latter requires investing in education and training, especially as we look ahead to advances in technology and what that means for the future of employment.
Similarly, with the right mix of green investment and higher carbon prices, we can steer toward zero emissions by 2050 and help create millions of new jobs.
Finally, investing in digital transformation is important to unlock greater economic potential.
Strong economic institutions and technical know-how are central to designing and implementing such policies. Which is why, in addition to financial support, the IMF is providing real-time policy advice and capacity development support.
For instance, we work with countries to tackle debt problems and rebuild fiscal space by modernizing tax systems and administrations and by increasing spending efficiency. We also support their efforts to address equity concerns, for example through advice on taxation and gender responsive budgeting.
Recent analysis shows that many countries covered by the JVI have large infrastructure needs, and that addressing them could have a significant growth impact. But this entails more efficient investment —and this is where the IMF can provide technical advice and the JVI training can empower officials in charge of these reforms.
Together with the JVI, we are also developing an integrated approach to inclusive growth, which draws on best practices across several themes—such as jobs, gender, inequality, trade, governance and climate change. This will include training to policymakers and the public, including through a new online course and a guidebook of policy recommendations.
On this topic, as with others, we look forward to continuing our partnership with the JVI and the Austrian authorities to build capacity in the countries of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia.
Let me close by reiterating my main message: At the current juncture—as we chart policies to help us climb back out of the depths of this crisis—we have a once-in-a-century opportunity to build forward better. In fact, it is more than a historic opportunity; it is an imperative—a prerequisite to making our economies smarter, greener and more inclusive.
Let me stop there. Thanks for your attention.
Joint Vienna Institute Virtual Annual Lecture