What a year 2020 has been! In a challenging context for all, JVI and its partners have managed to continue supporting capacity building in public sector economic institutions in the countries of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Iran, and Turkey. JVI’s training program for 2021 is now ready; we will continue to work hard to help build strong economic institutions in the region, as we have done for almost three decades.
We are particularly grateful to the JVI’s Primary Members—the Austrian Federal Ministry of Finance (BMF), the Austrian National Bank (OeNB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—for their unwavering support to JVI, particularly in the past year. Our Contributing Members—the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization (WTO)—as well as the European Commission have also provided critical support to the JVI over many years. In addition, JVI has benefited from its increasing cooperation with several other partners, such as the Deutsche Bundesbank, Banque de France, Bank of England, European Central Bank, US Federal Reserve, National Bank of Poland, International Labor Organization, and others.
Looking back at 2020. JVI countries, like the rest of the world, have experienced an unprecedented health and economic crisis. The Covid-19 crisis also led to significant restrictions to international travel, which have deeply affected the JVI’s main mode of training delivery. Classroom training in Vienna was suspended from March 2020; virtual delivery started in June and has been in full swing since September.
Adaptations and innovations were required for a successful switch to virtual delivery by JVI and its partners. Content has been modified to suit virtual settings and to reflect the Covid-19 context. The number and duration of daily course sessions have been reduced to facilitate remote participation across time zones, and in many cases the number of participants has also been reduced, to facilitate interactive engagement. Webinars were introduced to reach out to larger audiences and to address nimbly emerging issues, such as policy responses to the Covid-19 crisis. New IT solutions have been required for delivery platforms. JVI staff rose up to the challenges of steep learning curves in many areas.
Feedback from stakeholders has been positive. A survey conducted by JVI showed significant interest in the provision of virtual training at least until classroom delivery can resume. Training directors in ministries of finance and central banks expressed appreciation at our (first ever) virtual meeting with them. Feedback of virtual course participants has also been favorable. While participants widely acknowledge the challenges of virtual training and realistically assess its limitations, they still find the training courses effective.
Given the circumstances, the number of courses and course participants inevitably decreased in 2020. However, webinars have been very well attended, with on average 94 participants per event. Austria and the IMF have provided about 80 percent of the training at the JVI, with many other contributions delivered by our other members and partners. Course participants come mostly from central banks and finance ministries, but also from other government institutions. The share of female participants remains close to 50 percent. Despite the challenging environment, we have been able to introduce new collaborative courses, such as the ones on the Future of Taxation, the Future of Work, as well as FinTech and Financial Stability.
Looking forward to 2021. Uncertainty is and will likely remain very high for a while as to when it is possible and safe to resume classroom training in Vienna. This uncertainty will continue to require agility, flexibility, and innovation from JVI and its partners to ensure the best possible support to the membership. The 2021 training program assumes that classroom delivery will resume in early 2021, at least for some of the JVI countries. JVI will stand ready to experiment with alternative delivery modalities to best address the needs of our clients and adapt to the quickly evolving circumstances.
JVI will continue to offer a wide variety of hands-on, policy-oriented training courses, workshops, and webinars covering general macroeconomic issues; monetary, fiscal, financial, and structural policies; and many other specialized topics. These offerings reflect the vast scope and depth of expertise contributed by JVI’s partners. Our curriculum also reflects emerging needs arising from the Covid-19 crisis, as well as other pertinent policy topics.
The IMF will continue to provide the bulk of our courses, including classics like Financial Programming and Policies and Macroeconomic Diagnostics. Given rising concerns with fiscal sustainability and mass bankruptcies in certain economic sectors, there will be an emphasis on general and specialized courses dealing with fiscal issues and restructuring.
The Austrian authorities will again deliver a substantial number of courses in 2021, many focusing on the particular challenges of European Union (EU) integration, especially those faced by candidate and potential candidate countries. Courses also cover sound fiscal institutions, lessons from Austria’s own experience with fiscal and administrative reform, and areas critical to enhancing potential growth, such as governance, foreign direct investment, and public-private partnerships. Planned new course offerings in 2021 include a course on Green Finance and a new workshop on Diversity and Inclusion.
Our Contributing Members—EBRD, EIB, OECD, World Bank, and WTO—as well as the European Commission will offer courses or contribute to joint courses in their areas of expertise.
We plan to offer again the JVI’s flagship course, Applied Economic Policy. This course, delivered with several JVI partners, provides promising young public officials with an overview of key economic issues. Structural Reforms will also rely on input from many of our Contributing Members and stakeholders. We plan new offerings on Climate Change Economics (which would complement Green Finance) and on Government Support to the Private Sector. As in the past, we will continue to join forces with partner central banks and other institutions.
Classroom training in Vienna will remain the core of the JVI’s activities once the situation normalizes, with virtual and online courses increasingly integrated into it. Successful completion of online courses (see www.jvi.org and the IMF’s Smart Catalog) already increases a participant’s selection chances for classroom courses in Vienna. Webinars will provide quick updates on emerging topics. The JVI faculty of economists will continue to contribute to several regional and in-country capacity development programs led by the IMF or in collaboration with JVI partners.
Director, Joint Vienna Institute