For the first time, a delegation from the Isle of Man has attended the annual meetings of both the IMF and World Bank in Washington. The invitation followed the Island's election as the first Associate Member of the Small States Network for Economic Development.

In his first statement to the Small States Forum, Treasury Minister Allan Bell announced a major new initiative that will see the expertise of the Isle of Man's finance sector benefit other small countries – many of which are among the poorest in the world.

An innovative education programme run by Oxford University Business School will enable 25 officials a year from the central banks, finance ministries and regulatory bodies of small states to improve their ability to manage their financial sectors and engage more effectively with the global financial system.

Oxford and Harvard professors

The initiative will bring together leading professors from Oxford, Harvard, and other universities, along with practitioners from throughout the world, including several from the Isle of Man, to engage with the delegates for a two week participatory programme using the facilities of the Isle of Man International Business School.

Unveiling the initiative, Mr Bell said: 'Events in the financial markets over the past few months 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.'

He highlighted a particular challenge for small states that the initiative seeks to address: 'As small states, we are all familiar with how difficult it is for us to negotiate with larger nations. To respond to this need, which was stressed in discussions with the Commonwealth Secretariat over the past year, the programme will include a three-day customized version of the Oxford Programme on Negotiation.'

Scope for collaboration

The programme will include topics such as sound regulatory practices, risk-based banking supervision, financial legislation, the scope for central bank collaboration among small states, and improving the performance of government agencies in the financial sector.

'We will also include anti money laundering and the Stolen Assets Recovery or StAR initiative of the World Bank and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime,' Mr Bell added.

The programme is being funded by the Isle of Man Government together with several international organisations and bilateral donors. This will enable officials from some of the world's poorest countries to benefit from the programme. The World Bank and the Commonwealth Secretariat have played a major role in helping the Island to develop the initiative and it was widely welcomed by ministers and officials attending the forum.

The Small States Forum takes place at the IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings, and brings together more than 20 countries with populations of 1.5 million or less. The World Bank, Commonwealth Secretariat, EU, IMF, UNCTAD and WTO sponsor the forum.

'It was fortuitous that this long planned trip to respond to the invitation to address the Small States Forum, should have come at this particular time. It has enabled us to hear directly from the people who are seeking solutions to the global financial crisis and to exchange views on addressing our own immediate challenges with fellow ministers and officials,' Mr Bell added.

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