|The Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE) brings together academics, policy makers, representatives of multilateral and bilateral agencies, research institutes, civil society organizations, students, and journalists, and thus provides an excellent opportunity to foster exchange of knowledge and understanding of development issues. ABCDE 2007 took place in Bled, Slovenia, and was co-organized by the World Bank and the Ministry of Finance of Slovenia. It gathered together over 400 participants over two days to discuss the theme of Development and the Private Sector.
In the first plenary session, Ross Levine, Professor at Brown University, expressed two main messages: first, it is now a widely accepted view among economists that the operation of financial systems matters to economic development and growth in the long run. Stressing his second point, Levine explained how the financial sector has a potentially enormous role to play in reducing poverty and income inequality around the world and within countries. Asli Demirguc-Kunt, Senior Research Manager for the World Bank, discussed mechanisms in which finance works to reduce poverty and inequality – an area in which empirical data is still scarce, in particular focusing on the issue of access to financial services (barriers to access, measurement and impact).
Liliana Rojas-Suarez, Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development, USA, commented on both papers by saying that addressing the issue of access to finance actually requires attacking many fronts at the same time, the true challenge being to identify which ones are relevant for what countries. Victor Murinde from Birmingham Business School indicated a series of questions that could be addressed by further research on the subject: What are the common barriers across countries at similar stages of development and can financial policy or regulators break these barriers down? What is the role of financial sector innovations in: information and technology, financial instruments in shaping economic opportunities faced by individuals, and in affecting the dynamics of the transmission of poverty and relative incomes across generation? Pradeep Mitra, Chief Economist for Europe and Central Asia at the World Bank, raised the question of policy implications of research on access to finance.