Introduction to the Special Edition of the JVI Newsletter

June 22, 2017

This is a Special Edition of the JVI Newsletter, one that we decided to put out to celebrate our 25th Anniversary, and the Conference that we will hold in late June to mark the occasion.

The Joint Vienna Institute was founded in 1992, and the process of its birth had many midwives. I am therefore deeply grateful to Edi Hochreiter, one of my predecessors as Director of the Institute, who took the time to speak with Newsletter Editor Adam Gersl about the history of the JVI’s founding, the key players, and some of the tricky issues that were handled by those who left us this legacy. The founders of the JVI did something unprecedented by creating a truly collaborative training program in Vienna, bringing together the collective wisdom of many international institutions, as well as our Austrian hosts. 

Indeed, Austria’s Federal Ministry of Finance and Oesterreichische Nationalbank have long provided an irreplaceable intellectual and financial anchor to the work of the JVI. As noted by Doris Ritzberger-Grünwald and Harald Waiglein, Austria has a tradition of supporting its neighbors, and that commitment is well-exemplified by their 25-year long record of generous support to the JVI, which they point out has resulted in literally thousands of friends of Austria throughout the JVI region.

A hallmark of JVI training is adaptability to change. I open every course at the Institute by saying that we strive to ensure that JVI is itself a “learning organization.” In this regard, the IMF’s Institute for Capacity Development (ICD) sets a fine example. Andy Berg explains in the next piece that the Fund’s capacity development architecture emphasizes continuous monitoring, evaluation, and course-correction (pun intended!). The new ICD curriculum, developed in partnership with all the IMF’s capacity development units, is bringing focus on up-to-date economic thinking in the context of quality-control and accountability. JVI is already benefiting from the new course offerings in the ICD curriculum.

Many of our Contributing Member partners also took some time to spell out how JVI fits into their institutional work programs:

Helena Schweiger, Peter Sanfey, and Angela Thompson of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) highlight the slowdown in the pace of convergence between at least part of the JVI region and Western Europe. Avoiding a middle income trap requires a boost to productivity, and that can come from strengthening managerial quality, with clear implications for training at the JVI. 

As Aron Gereben and Debora Revoltella of the European Investment Bank (EIB) note, a key role of international institutions is to facilitate learning from cross-country, policy-oriented experience. Econometrics training can be found in many universities. But the use of quantitative models to predict macroeconomic crises, or to enhance financial sector stability analysis, is not in the typical university curriculum.

Abha Prasad and Lada Strelkova of the World Bank see training as part in parcel of the Bank’s development agenda. They note that the World Bank has been a key stakeholder of the JVI since its founding, and they are rightly proud of the fact that the Bank has offered more than 170 courses, touching more than 4000 participants, at the JVI in our 25 years of partnership. (Currently, across all providers, the JVI counts more than 40,000 alumni.)

Paul Samuelson, the first economics Nobel prizewinner, once quipped that the theory of comparative advantage (which lies at the heart of all efforts to promote global trade and integration) is one social science proposition that is neither obvious nor trivial. One needs to learn it. In this vein, Maarten Smeets of the World Trade Organization (WTO) rightly emphasizes the crucial role of training public officials to combat protectionist pressures. The WTO and the JVI therefore have long been partners in providing high quality training opportunities to officials from countries in this region.

After 25 years of the JVI’s existence, there are still many capacity building challenges in the JVI region. We strongly hope that we can tackle those in the near future through continuously updating and improving the courses offered by our main stakeholders (including the OECD and the European Commission), joint courses by the JVI and cooperating central banks (Banque de France, Bank of England, Deutsche Bundesbank), and other collaborative courses such as those on Applied Economic Policy or Structural Reforms. Do check our curriculum on the JVI website and do not hesitate to contact us in case of questions!

I mentioned at the outset that the birth of JVI had many midwives. It then grew up under the influence of many parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, so I would be remiss if I neglected to acknowledge my enormous debt to previous JVI Directors: Andrew Beith†, Horst Struckmeyer, Lindsay Wolf, Pamela Bradley, Eduard Hochreiter, and Norbert Funke.

Finally, I hope that you enjoy this issue of the JVI Newsletter, which owes much to the efforts of Adam Gersl and Carina Wurzinger. As always, we would love to hear what you think, so drop us a line at jvi@remove-this.jvi.org. And on June 29-30 please do tune in to the JVI website, or to our Facebook page, to watch a live webcast of the proceedings of our 25th Anniversary Conference, entitled “Globalization, Technological Change, and Lifelong Learning.”

Thomas Richardson, Director, JVI

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