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Initiative will help small countries respond to financial crisis 27 August 2009

The World Bank, the Small States Network for Economic Development, the University of Oxford, and the Government of the Isle of Man are launching a major initiative which will help small countries respond to the global financial crisis.

Early next month, senior officials of central banks, finance ministries and regulatory bodies will travel from 30 small countries around the world to the Isle of Man to join the inaugural session of The Small Countries Financial Management Programme, an innovative annual two-week executive education programme designed and run by Oxford University’s Saïd Business School.

The first ten days of the programme, which will run from 6 through 18 September, will take place at the International Business School at the University Centre in the Isle of Man, with the last three days being taught at the Saïd Business School in Oxford. The topics to be covered include: new approaches to risk management and regulation; regulatory collaboration; tax policy and transparency; debt and cash management; budgeting and medium-term expenditure frameworks; and anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism.

The global financial crisis has highlighted the vulnerability of small countries to external shocks and there has also been international concern that some small countries – especially those that have developed an offshore financial services sector – are points of vulnerability for the flows of illicit funds. The Small Countries Financial Management Programme is designed to address these challenges by strengthening the skills of government officials to foster a well-governed and regulated financial sector, conducive to the effective use of public funds, private sector investment and equitable economic growth.

Given the small size of their financial sectors and the challenges they face, up to five places on the programme have been allocated to 'conflict countries'. The Government of the Isle of Man has played a key role in developing the programme and has provided the initial major funding.

Isle of Man Treasury Minister, Allan Bell commented:

'The Isle of Man Government is proud to have taken the lead in making this programme possible. For almost a decade, the Isle of Man has been at the leading edge in developing forms of collaboration between small and large countries in the global economic community, and in supporting international standards of financial regulation and transparency. As a centre of financial excellence, we are very pleased to have the opportunity to share our experience and resources in hosting this innovative education programme. Events in the financial markets over the past year have brought into stark relief the need for all countries to have well-run banking and financial sectors and to embrace sound regulation, so we believe this programme will be very timely.'

Programme Director and Associate Fellow of the Saïd Business School, Ron Emerson, notes that, in addition to highly interactive teaching by outstanding academics and practitioners, participants have been asked to bring with them a significant current challenge on which they are working and, using insights from the programme, develop new and more effective ways of tackling it.

He said:

'Above all, we want to ensure that what is taught is immediately operationally useful after participants return home.'

An important component of the curriculum will be a customised three-day version of the Saïd Business School’s acclaimed “Oxford Programme on Negotiation.”

Treasury Minister Bell pointed out:

'Small countries are all familiar with how difficult it to negotiate with larger neighbours and standards-setting bodies, so this part of the programme will be of particular value.'

The Isle of Man Government and its international partners have also established the Small Countries Financial Management Centre, which, in addition to conducting capacity-building programmes, such as this, will commission research and disseminate knowledge products on small countries financial management and regulatory issues.

Its first Executive Director, Tim Cullen, a former senior World Bank official and an Associate Fellow of the Saïd Business School, played a key role in bringing the various partners together to create the new programme.

He said:

'The response from the international community has been very gratifying, with the World Bank, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the IMF, the OECD and the European Commission welcoming the initiative. We are grateful to those donor countries that have expressed their willingness to provide financial support to the Centre and its capacity-building programmes. The private sector has also been supportive, with KPMG giving its time to administer the donor funding and the financial side of the Centre. We are delighted that prominent professors from Oxford and from the Kennedy School at Harvard have agreed to join leading practitioners from a wide variety of backgrounds to teach the programme.'

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