WASHINGTON, USA – In his inaugural address Friday, the president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Ilan Goldfajn, laid out his vision and priorities to make the IDB the most trusted, agile and important development partner for Latin America and the Caribbean.
“My vision is to build on the bank’s legacy to ensure that the IDB is the most important multilateral development institution for Latin America and the Caribbean,” Goldfajn said. “We must be the region’s most trusted partner. A center for expertise and knowledge. A beacon of innovative solutions to our region’s challenges.”
Government representatives and members of the diplomatic community, multilateral financial institutions, academia, think tanks and the private sector were in attendance for the address at Bank headquarters in Washington.
He identified social issues, climate change and investing more in sustainable physical and digital infrastructure that will boost regional integration and productivity, as the priority areas of his administration.
He pledged to “seize all opportunities for dialogue” and collaboration to build consensus among governments, private-sector partners, think tanks and civil society to help tackle pressing problems in Latin America and the Caribbean, and attract private capital.
“At this time of global polarization and uncertainty,” Goldfajn said, “our future depends not on being confrontational, but on being more collaborative.”
The people of Latin America and the Caribbean “deserve better jobs, safer streets, quality healthcare, faster internet, better public services, better infrastructure and other essential elements of life that they rightly aspire to,” he said. “And yes – a sense of hope in the future.”
“I can’t think of any institution that can better help the region fulfill that hope than the IDB,” he added.
Goldfajn sees Latin America and the Caribbean as contributing to help solve some of the biggest global challenges, including food insecurity and the need for clean energy.
Producing more clean energy would not only benefit the region but help the world meet the Paris climate goals. The IDB’s Amazon Initiative will help the world protect biodiversity and address global warming, he said.
“When we help countries lower trade and transportation costs,” he noted, “we reduce the price of food and alleviate food insecurity in the region and globally.”
Priority areas for the IDB
Goldfajn said social issues would be a priority area for the Bank’s work, including poverty, inequality in several dimensions, health needs and food insecurity.
The top and bottom ten percent of income levels in Latin America and the Caribbean were twice as unequal as similarly developed countries before the pandemic. Two hundred million people are poor and 60 million face hunger, he said.
In addressing climate change, Goldfajn said the IDB would strive to make it easier to invest in climate mitigation and adaptation, and more ambitiously help countries meet their Paris Agreement goals.
The region currently experiences three times more destructive climate events per decade than 50 years ago. Those events cause about 10 times as much economic damage. “We must be more responsive, agile and creative to deal with them,” he said.
A third priority is investing more in sustainable physical and digital infrastructure to boost regional integration. Between 2008 and 2017, Latin America and the Caribbean put just 2.8 percent of GDP into infrastructure, half the percentage of East Asian and Pacific countries.
Goldfajn also said he would strive to ensure IDB projects deliver more effective results, with its work driven by data and evidence. In 2021, just 53 percent of IDB projects with project completion reports received a positive rating from the IDB’s Office of Evaluation and Oversight. “We can do better,” he said.
“In the end, what truly matters is not only how many loans we approve or even how much we lend,” Goldfajn said. “What is paramount is tangible, measurable development impact.”
Another key to achieving the vision is continuing to grow on private-sector operations at IDB Invest and IDB Lab with plans that would unlock their great potential. They would effectively impact development and provide public goods across the region, he said.
He pledged to promote a new approach, making the IDB more cooperative, both within the IDB Group and among partners and stakeholders.
Staff should “feel encouraged and enabled to co-create a better bank that exceeds our development-effectiveness targets,” he said.
“The IDB’s challenges and the region’s biggest problems weren’t created overnight. We won’t solve them in a day. I ask for your patience and persistence. But we have an incredible opportunity to uplift expectations for the future and to create hope at the outset,” Goldfajn said.
Earlier in the day, the president laid out his priorities in a closed-door speech to IDB employees, where he pledged to foster an environment of openness and trust. “I will appeal to our people’s hopes and aspirations, not to their fears,” he said.