Women lead IMF debate on equality

16 May 19
The world’s most senior women economists took centre stage in a discussion about inequality at a unique event during the IMF’s Spring Meetings. 

Gita Gopinath, Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg and Laurence Boone were speaking during a roundtable in Washington introduced by IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

Gopinath is the IMF’s chief economist and Goldberg and Boone are her counterparts in the World Bank and OECD, respectively.

It is the first time that all three leading multilateral institutions have chief economists who are women, which Lagarde said was a notable achievement illustrating the value of inclusive policies.

“Inclusive growth is one of the critical challenges of our time,” Lagarde said.

“The bitter-sweet reality is that despite economic growth there are still far too many people who are left out.”

Gopinath noted that although global income inequality has decreased considerably in recent decades, it has risen dramatically within countries – with the top 1% of the income range owning half the world’s wealth.

“If you look at advanced economies there’s certainly a trend towards an increase in inequality between 1990 and now,” she said. “But then when you look at emerging and developing economies, it’s more mixed.”

She added that another way “to better address income and inequality is through women” and said work done by the IMF has demonstrated that this helps.

Goldberg argued that people’s potential to contribute to society lies at the heart of equity.

“The reason you want to reduce inequity is to give everyone a chance to have the potential to do good work; to actually deploy their potential,” she said.

Goldberg asked: “We are three women in multilateral institutions, what is it we could do differently compared to what has been done in the past?”

Boone noted that the critical issue is not just inequality of income, but also inequality of opportunity, and advocated improving access to technology and education for rural populations.

She added that there is scope to level the playing field among large multinational corporations.

“At the global level, we must ensure that firms pay their fair share of taxes to create value and employ people,” she said.

  • Gavin O'Toole, expert on Latin America
    Gavin O'Toole

    A freelance journalist. He has written six books about Latin America and taught the politics of the region at Queen Mary, University of London.

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