Ms. Susan George; Home Country: Singapore; Position: Economist

Name: Ms. Susan George
Home Country: Singapore
Position: Economist

Hello, I'm Susan George, a Fund country economist working in the European II department. I started off at the Institute where I taught courses in Washington and at the Joint Vienna Institute in Austria, as well as in countries such as Ukraine. Before I joined the Fund, I taught economics at George Washington University. Even though my original idea was to be an academic and do academic research, I am very pleased that I am able to use what I studied in such a practical way.

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It is amazing how much of what I have studied forms the basis of the solutions that we propose to help countries. It's even more amazing that these solutions are the ones that work most of the time!

Many people outside the Fund have the impression that we impose policies on governments and that we don't pay enough attention to the politics of a country. I feel that often this is a misunderstanding. Without the country inviting us and saying, "We want a program," there is no program.

We work together to arrive at a solution. And the Fund is helping government officials of member countries gain the expertise to be able to make their own choices. So it's not just Fund economists sitting on one side of the table, telling them what to do. Instead both sides have a dialogue. Perhaps in the past when country officials weren't as well trained in economics, there was more of a black-box approach. But we've really gone away from that at the Fund.

In my work at the Institute, I helped to train government officials in economics and economic policy. We used a well-rounded approach and tried to be as objective as possible. Some of the questions we dealt with did not have clear-cut answers one way or the other. So we taught more of an approach to solve the problems countries face, rather than reciting clear cut and dry answers.

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"We want participants to be able to use what they learn to solve their dilemmas back home."

We wanted participants to be able to use what they learn to solve their dilemmas back home. For example, governments in pre-market times in Soviet days had a very different role than they do now. It's important for officials now to know the role of government in a market economy, which is mainly to deal with market failures, and to provide support for the poor. Developing and transition countries have a whole host of problems and we try to help them design solutions.

Our main teaching tool is the case study. We use a case study of Turkey. We use actual data from the Turkish economy to understand what the give all the properties of Turkey's economy, and we use real data. The officials have to design a reform program for Turkey. They actually have a hands-on experience with making decisions about how you would solve a problem such as bringing inflation down.

Groups of participants come up with their own programs. Often they will come up with quite different programs in terms of the policy choices they have made such as how quickly should inflation be brought down. This teaches them the valuable lesson that you can make different choices within a political process. The countries have to decide the path they want to take.

One thing that I have found challenging is when I get participants from countries where they're not even close to being able to do macroeconomic stabilization. I had a participant from a war-torn country. He had not been paid for three years, and was surviving on the kindness of his family abroad. To try and make the course relevant for him was a real challenge. Since we get a varied group of officials, we give people from more advanced countries the opportunity to help people who are starting the process.

When the participants come, they don't know each other. They come from different cultures and countries with a very different mode of working together. But by the end of the course, most of them have formed a very strong bond.

It's quite rewarding to be able to interact with these officials and listen to them and see where they are in terms of progress in their country - the reality that we sometimes don't hear in the news.

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