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Singapore’s skyline: IMF training for government officials is continuously evolving to keep pace with changes in the global economy (photo: Marc Dozier/Corbis)

Singapore’s skyline: IMF training for government officials is continuously evolving to keep pace with changes in the global economy (photo: Marc Dozier/Corbis)

IMF CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT

Regional Trainers Meet to Discuss Priorities for Asia-Pacific Countries

IMF Survey

February 9, 2016

  • Regular training heads meeting aims to keep IMF regional courses relevant
  • Region’s evolving challenges put a premium on economic, financial expertise
  • Training institute allows institutions to share best practices across countries

Countries with strong institutions and skilled civil servants can formulate more effective and robust policies, which contributes to economic development, stability, and ultimately more sustainable growth, the audience at a recent meeting on training and capacity development heard.

But capacity development does not happen overnight—successful institution and skill building requires sustained commitment over the long term.

The IMF-Singapore Regional Training Institute’s (STI) Fourth Directors of Training Meeting—co-hosted by the Singapore government on February 1-2—brought together senior officials in charge of training at central banks and finance ministries in 33 countries across the Asia-Pacific. The meeting, held every three years, is part of the effort to maintain the quality and relevance of training provided to IMF member countries in the region.

“The Directors of Training Meeting is a useful platform for all heads of training institutions to discuss pertinent issues related to capacity building, and to review how the STI can better meet the demand for specialized economic and financial courses in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Heng Aik Yeow, Director-General of Singapore’s Technical Cooperation Directorate in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

More complex global environment

The STI is the flagship regional training center in the Asia-Pacific, serving 37 IMF member countries. It was established in 1998 to help the region build stronger institutions for more sustainable growth through training of their staff on the formulation and implementation of macroeconomic and financial policies.

The meeting featured panel discussions led by directors of training, presentations by IMF staff, and reflections by STI’s donors.

Participants debated a broad array of issues, including country experience with IMF capacity development, the IMF’s new training curriculum for member countries, how best to coordinate technical assistance and training, and the challenges of accurately evaluating the impact of training and technical assistance activities.

Ha Hai An, Deputy Director General in the State Bank of Vietnam’s Department of International Cooperation, pointed to the “essential and fundamental” character of STI training. He noted that when his staff return from training, they try to impart the knowledge gained to colleagues in order to maximize the value of the training to the institution.

Throughout the meeting, participants stressed the importance of keeping pace with the region’s evolving training needs. Following the global financial crisis, for example, countries in the region found themselves confronted with a series of financial regulatory and supervisory reforms, which required an entirely new set of skills to implement. Training programs in the region therefore need to keep up to speed with a changing external environment, which can be challenging.

“Old schools of thought should not be thrown away, but we need to keep abreast of new developments,” noted Naomi Kedea, Director of the Human Resources Department at the Bank of Papua New Guinea.

Donor perspective

The meeting was also attended by representatives of the countries that provide financing to the STI. Senior officials from Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the Japanese Ministry of Finance, and the Australian High Commission shared their perspectives in a session highlighting the donors’ view of capacity building.

Tsutomu Kameda, Section Chief in the International Organizations Division of Japan’s Ministry of Finance, observed that the Japanese approach to capacity development favored concrete, hands-on experience. Other donor representatives praised the IMF’s move toward a “results-based management” system for assessing the impact of training and technical assistance.

Participants also discussed how best to take advantage of advances in technology such as online learning and integrate them into their institutions’ training programs. The IMF offers free online courses available to anyone in the world.

Regional diversity

The Asia-Pacific region encompasses economies from across the development and population spectra. It includes high-income economies like Hong Kong SAR and the Republic of Korea, emerging economies like Malaysia and Thailand, and low-income countries like Cambodia and Nepal. And global giants such as China and India—with populations exceeding one billion—sit alongside small states such as Palau and Tuvalu, with populations of less than 25,000. The STI must take into account all their policy challenges.

The uncertain economic environment also underscores the need for continued capacity building—including through training—in the Asia-Pacific region. While Asia has shown resilience and policy frameworks are generally sound, the recent episodes of global volatility have demonstrated that policy tradeoffs can worsen quickly. These new challenges put a premium on the expertise in assessing macroeconomic and financial vulnerabilities.

“Policymaking has become more complex and multifaceted, so policymakers need to have the requisite skills, knowledge, and judgment to be able to deal with this complex global environment,” said Leong Sing Chiong, Assistant Managing Director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore. “Hence the importance of capacity development in the region.”



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