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EBRD Annual Meeting 2016: the future

By Volker Ahlemeyer

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The World in the Next 25 Years

The changes that the world has experienced since the fall of the Berlin Wall have been much more rapid than ever before, stressed Ian Goldin, Professor of Globalisation and Development and Director of the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford.

At the EBRD Annual Meeting and Business Forum, he spoke about the challenges ahead for both the EBRD’s countries and the world in general. As the Bank celebrates its 25th anniversary, this year’s Business Forum focuses on future challenges under the theme of “Influencing Change – the next 25 years”.

"We live in the best time in human history to be alive,” Professor Goldin said. People live longer than ever before, illiteracy rates have significantly decreased over the last few decades and income levels increased," he explained.

But what exactly are the benefits and risks of globalisation and rapid change? What do these changes mean for individuals in advanced economies and emerging markets? What are the implications for businesses, governments and international organisations?

“The idea that you can disconnect from change, from the future, is a myth,” Professor Goldin said. He identified the socio-economic trends that will affect us in the future. Among them are a fast-evolving economic and political environment, accelerated technological progress as well as demographic changes, such as rapidly growing urban centres and an ageing population.

This will have a tangible impact on society. Increased life expectancy and a decline in fertility rates will put unprecedented strain on pension systems, he pointed out. The former is mainly due to medical progress which is rapidly advancing. Stem-cell research is starting to have the potential to heal many illnesses and disabilities and is expected to increase the impact of the demographic changes that are already under way across the globe.

Migration will play a vital role to counteract this factor, especially in advanced economies. “Migration is absolutely essential to growth. In 20 years our question about keeping people out of our countries will seem very strange,” Professor Goldin highlighted.

The ability to adapt successfully and quickly to the new circumstances is key to spur economic growth and support sustainable development in the long run, he stressed.

“There will be an explosion of a new middle class in Asia,” he said. This will be the result of further convergence between developing and advanced economies that is set to continue over the next 25 years and encourage global growth.

While these trends will bring many benefits, they may also come with some drawbacks. There will be a constant need to innovate and adapt to changes. This means those who cannot keep up with them will feel that they have been left behind.

The financial crisis has already shown that the notion of risk is changing in our globalised world. The risks that affect the world are various in nature: they are economic, health and technological ones that can spread quickly, such as pandemics, cyber attacks and the effects of climate change.

Lastly, Professor Goldin advocated change in global governance at the international level and saw the EBRD “as a model for a new institution to deal with the real challenges of the time.”

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