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Out of the woods

Seen and heard in the corridors of the Annual Meetings

Dazed and confused

Global multilaterals once had such a simple life: lending money, recouping it, clocking off for the day. But development banks are having to learn new skills that leave them dizzy and out of breath. One finance minister said he felt plain sorry for them. “It isn’t easy to get nimble,” he sighed. “If you have size 12 feet, you’re never going to be good at ballet.”

Fade away to grey

But things could be worse for multilaterals. A former development bank official compared life at the World Bank to ‘greyscale’, a disease conjured up by the mind of Game of Thrones author George RR Martin, which turns victims’ skin to stone. “The last symptom of greyscale is total madness,” the official said knowingly. Cripes!

Yoda yadda 

Pacing around the World Bank headquarters in search of a coffee and a friendly face, OOTW spied a piece of A3 paper stapled to a partition wall, bearing the legend: ‘Enter You Shall Not’. It left us wondering if the bank had employed Grand Jedi Master Yoda to do all its literature. Good money to hear his speeches we would pay.

Fan club 

Grenada prime minister Keith Mitchell was a star turn at a meeting of Caribbean leaders. The former West Indian cricketer said recent extreme weather events presented a chance to push through reforms. “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste” he boomed, prompting several “Amens!” from the crowd, plus one “You tell ‘em!”.

Call to order 

BBC reporter Lerato Mbele sought to rouse a sleepy debate by encouraging delegates to engage with the panel. But it went too far when World Bank economist Albert Zeufa praised Nigeria and South Africa for exiting recession, and Mbele willed the audience to whoop and clap. Zeufa stopped them cold, snapping that sub-1% growth was “nothing to cheer about”. Quite.

Oh, the humanity 

Earlier this week, delegates at a panel on frontier markets were left bemused at the choice of background music: Jive Talkin’ by the Bee Gees. But yesterday the IMF’s in-house DJ was at it again, playing Rihanna’s SOS at a panel on political risk in emerging markets. The lyrics? This time please someone come and rescue me/I second guess my sanity.

Green neighbours 

These meetings are a great chance for sovereign borrowers to explain why investors should stuff themselves silly with bonds. One nation doing a spot of IR is Ireland, whose funding officials found that their suite at the Dupont Circle hotel was located next to GlobalMarkets’ journalistic war room. Of course, they found us so charming, they mandated us for their next sovereign bond. We are advising a green bond denominated in good old pound sterling!

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