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  • James D. Wolfensohn: ''If you have courage, you can do what you want in life!''

James D. Wolfensohn: ''If you have courage, you can do what you want in life!''

A few years ago, the United States, Europe and Japan felt perfectly comfortable about having between them 80% of world GDP. We felt that the world belonged to us, and little thought was given to Asia. But the great, the immense change is what will happen between now and 2050, and we in the West are still not ready.

  • James D.Wolfensohn

 That block of the United States, Europe and Japan will fall from 80% to 35% of the global income, and our population will rise by some 200 or 300 million people.


 Asia, on the other hand, will grow by 3,000 million people, and will hold 65% of the world income! And its people will be much better educated than today in science and technology.


 We now have a global flow of information. Everybody has access to the same information, and that means that a new approach has to be adopted by all the international institutions created since the Second World War.


 Cristine Lagarde surmised a short while ago that the IMF may one day move to China, as the country which has the largest part of world reserves, while there was no longer anything special about Washington!


 It is difficult for people of my generation to adapt, but you young people have no choice other than to adapt.


This year, 400,000 Chinese students will be going to overseas universities, 200,000 of them to the United States, while 120,000 Indian students will also be going to study in the United States.


 On the other hand, we have only 13,000 North American students studying in China. That is out of proportion, and something has to be done to compensate this scenario.


 You in Spain have an opportunity to multiply initiatives that promote going out and having an influence in those parts of the world that have taken the bull by the horns!


 At the moment, the instinct of our leaders is to think in terms of the West, although for your future it is critical to think about Asia.


 Africa, too, will have a role over the coming decades. 53 African countries will add up 2,000 million inhabitants by 2050, even though the continent is not a very stable one.


 All these geographical and demographic changes, the role of women, the scarcity of resources, the environment, are challenges that you have to face and for which you will have to work. At the moment, governments are still thinking short-term, while the planet is set on a different course.


Your generation will no longer be able to ignore issues such as the environment.


What will we find in the future? It will not be a world of isolated compartments, but a world that communicates globally and instantaneously. That is your world.


 We at the World Bank have found a framework for thinking about the planet from the viewpoint of what will make a difference in each country, from political structure through to access to the most basic services, to culture.


Civil society must be included in the decisions of the World Bank, as must the private sector and local communities. We are in a new world in which the local communities must be listened to, and we must not just give lectures. And that is a necessary readjustment.


If you have courage, you can do what you want in life!


Education alone is not sufficient. We must take an active part in the society that surrounds us. Business must be integrated with service to the community.


 

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