On 3 June 2011, World Bank Managing Director Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala addressed an audience of 100 academics, students, civil servants and representatives of international organizations as part of the University of Central Asia Public Lecture Series.
She spoke on the challenges of restoring economic growth in Kyrgyzstan after the crises of 2010. Dr Okonjo-Iweala discussed the possible sources of renewed growth, such as agriculture, mining and international trade.
She noted, “The Kyrgyz Republic took the wise decision soon after independence to pursue World Trade Organization membership and the path of commercial liberalization. With hindsight, it is now obvious that a country with few natural and industrial resources has to trade to survive. But at the time, it took courage and vision to make such a decisive break with the dirigiste past.”
She argued that the country stands at a crossroad of opportunity, with the potential to re-launch economic growth from a platform of transparent institutions and the fight against corruption.
“A lesson from our recent World Development Report on ‘Conflict, Security, and Development’ is about the central role of institutional development. Strong institutions absorb internal and external stresses on the society; on the contrary, weak institutions break under stress and the breakdown leads to conflict and violence,” she observed.
She ended her presentation saying, “From my own experience, I am mindful that tackling this agenda takes time and is difficult. I was proud to attend the ceremony of the ‘Women of Courage’ Award at the United States State Department a couple of months ago and see President Roza Otunbayeva being honored in that ceremony. It will certainly take courage to build governance and institutions. But even in just two days, I have been moved by the passion, patriotism of many, many Kyrgyz citizens, in their determination to rebuild a stronger and fairer Republic.”
Dr Okonjo-Iweala was on a two-day visit to the Kyrgyz Republic as part of her trip to Central Asia, to discuss ways to ease the economic and social fragility that has become the Kyrgyz Republic’s main development challenge, and to reiterate the Bank’s support for stabilization in the context of its new Strategy. She met with the President, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, parliamentarians, civil society organizations, and students, and visited World Bank project sites.
Launched in 2009, the University of Central Asia’s Public Lecture Series in Bishkek provides a forum for regional and international scholars as well as leaders to present on a wide range of topics including cultural traditions, education, labour migration, and natural resource management.