Inaugural UN Lead Economists’ Meeting

Opening statement by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs to the Inaugural UN Lead Economists’ Meeting

Thank you for joining this initiative of EC-ESA.

We are here because we all support the Secretary General in his efforts to bring the UN system together – to act as one – in countering threats, and meeting the challenges of the 21st century. And to achieve greater coherence within the UN system’s analytical work and policy advice.

This is also what Member States want.

But our challenges are great. Within the first decade of the new Millennium, we have been hit by multiple crises – food, energy, and global finance. These have worsened the development crisis. And, the greatest long-term challenge facing us is climate change.

Many of the development policies and practices of the past decades are now seriously questioned. New ideas and proposals are being debated in various fora.

The UN system should not only lead such rethinking. It must also facilitate its transformation into new institutional arrangements and policies, at national and international levels.

Ultimately, the litmus test of the effectiveness of our work lies in the transformation of our ideas and proposals into policy on the ground.

Today’s inaugural UN lead economists’ meeting is the first step to initiate regular consultations among lead economists from across the UN system. In the weeks and months ahead, you will better familiarize yourselves with one another’s work, which, collectively, we hope will:

As you can see, we have high expectations for you.

When I was appointed to my current position, I told everyone: I am not an economist.

I am getting old. However hard I try, I will not become an economist in this life.

But I can count on you. I have great admiration for you. You have all been working hard all these years.

You were able to predict the onset of the financial crisis. This is a stellar achievement.

Now thanks to the crisis, everyone is paying more attention to our analytical products. I want to congratulate you on your achievement and I want to thank you.

As the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, I take pride in your success.

I also want to take this opportunity to share with you some advice from my perspective as a policy-maker.

First, in your research on economic issues, you should take into account political factors but you should not have any political agenda.

Our analysis has been considered closer and more relevant to reality. Why? Because we have been impartial, objective; we do not have any other agenda. Second, economics is an academic discipline but the economy is a reality. It is practice.

Economists must scrutinize current trends, and develop projections and forecasts and provide policy advice.

It is unlikely that you will be either 100% right or totally off track. You have different perspectives and viewpoints.

There is also a risk that your thinking may lag behind reality but you may still stick to it.

No one and for that matter, no single institution can claim a monopoly of truth.

I therefore urge all economists and the institutions they represent to accept disagreements and diverse views.

As you all know, Deng Xiaoping was the chief architect of China’s reform and opening up policy.

He led the most populous country in the world on a journey of development – with great successes and accomplishments.

He was not an economist. But he must have consulted economists like you.

You have helped change the world.

I wish you a fruitful and successful session.

Thank you.

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