I spent the weekend in DC at the Armenian International Policy Research Group
third annual conference at the World Bank. The conference had far fewer academics than my normal conference schedule and more World Bank, IMF and government types. The quality of the paper was good. But there were some other moments that I found quite interesting:
- The conference included videoconferencing to the World Bank's office in Armenia. The governor of the central bank was there for the first day, and he was the only one who spoke from that office. The next day the vice governor of the bank was in the room and he was the only one to speak. So Soviet! The conference organizers, wanting a wider discussion, were quite displeased. Someone suggested to me today that we should have looked to see who sat next to the governor to determine who was in favor and who as not.
- The conference organizers invited William Easterly to give the keynote luncheon address. There were actually three keynote addresses at this conference -- isn't there some limit on the number of keynotes one conference can have? Isn't that keynote inflation? Easterly, who was ushered out of the World Bank after showing that its policies had been ineffective, proceeded to be, in the immortal words of Jerry Jeff Walker, "standing with his friends, pissing into the wind, hoping not to lose a few." He ripped into the Fund and the Bank for having policies that didn't help the countries they were asked to help. I can be quite acidic at times but nothing like the presentation he made.
- Had dinner with some friends Friday night, all developing economy types. Big discussion of Andrei Shleifer ensued. There's a lot of resentment. Someone needs to do a book on the HIID collapse some day, something better than Wedel.
- The Bank faces Pennsylvania Avenue, and Sunday morning I am sitting in the back row hoping to not be noticed if I make a face during someone's talk. (This is a very bad habit and why I can never be a diplomat or a dean.) I hear drums behind me and look out. The Army and Marine bands are marching up Pennsylvania, practicing for the inaugural parade. I look over and all the young Armenians brought into the conference are looking out the window too, pointing and smiling and whispering to each other. I have no idea why, at that moment, I was proud to be an American. But I was.