IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde at the Joint Vienna Institute

Friday, June 17

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), visited the Joint Vienna Institute (JVI) on June 17, 2016, during her official trip to Austria. Ms. Lagarde, joined by Oesterreichische Nationalbank (OeNB) Governor Ewald Nowotny, met with current course participants, representing some 20 countries in Central, Eastern, Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Representatives of the Austrian authorities and JVI staff also took part in the event.

Norbert Funke, JVI Director, welcomed Ms. Lagarde, Governor Nowotny, and participants by thanking Austria and the IMF for their committed support, which has allowed the JVI to build capacity and foster effective cooperation across the region. Mr. Funke introduced participants of the current courses on Applied Economic Policy and on Financial Markets and New Financial Instruments. He emphasized that many JVI alumni hold senior government positions in the region, 19 of whom currently serve as central bank governors or finance ministers and one as president. 

Ms. Lagarde highlighted that building economic policymaking capacity in member countries is one of the IMF's most critical tasks and a vital means of preventing crises. This role comes in addition to the IMF’s two traditional and better-known activities; lending to countries in difficulties and surveillance. She wholeheartedly thanked the Austrian Ministry of Finance, the OeNB, and other international partners for their generous financial and intellectual support of JVI activities. In her view, the JVI is a role model for a successful partnership in building economic and financial capacity in the region it covers, underpinned by the range of common objectives across countries and subject areas.  

Ms. Lagarde stressed that innovation in training is important because the skills that country officials need evolve over time. This is reflected in the ongoing revamp of the IMF’s Institute for Capacity Development teaching curriculum and the decision to make online courses an integral part of capacity development. These online courses complement traditional face-to-face training, allowing training to reach a broader audience and enabling participants to advance at a pace suited to their individual needs. Face-to-face training will remain an important element, including as a means for officials to build networks across countries. She also emphasized the role of the IMF’s country-specific technical assistance, highlighting its strong complementarity with training.

In the lively discussion that followed, Ms. Lagarde was interested to hear directly from current course participants how JVI training helps them in their countries. Highlighting the high value of training at the JVI, participants were interested in the scope for conditionality in IMF-supported programs, which focuses on capacity development, and what lessons the global financial crisis had brought for all three areas of IMF work. Ms. Lagarde explained that the IMF was directing more attention to preventive policies to help contain crises from spreading. But she noted that it is not clear where the next crisis will come from.

The participants, many of whom represented emerging markets, also asked about advice for their countries on how to build resilience against future crises. Ms. Lagarde noted that countries with good economic fundamentals would weather future crises better, emphasizing the role of policies that ensure macroeconomic and financial stability. The discussion closed with a question on work-life balance and career advice for women, which Ms. Lagarde answered by bringing up the challenges from her own experience.

Adam Gersl, Senior Economist, JVI

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